Thursday, October 22, 2015

"The Good Life" in Nebraska: Celebrating an Example

Todd Joseph Doane
"The Good Life"
Feb 16, 1963 - Dec 6, 2014

Life is a mystery! How is it possible that we should be allowed to inhabit human form for even a brief moment? Life is indeed precious and all too short. Those of us who yet remain must count each day a blessing and give thanks to those who have gone before. We are obviously indebted to our ancestors--we are a product of their choices. My brother Todd was a proud Son of Nebraska. Throughout his life he continually paid respect to those who had gone on before. And so it was natural for him to express his love of family by asking to have a portion of his ashes laid to rest among many of his ancestors in a family cemetery in Custer County, Nebraska. This is the story of our attempt to honor my brother's wishes and celebrate "The Good Life."

Map of Nebraska and surrounding states with Custer County highlighted

Nebraska's motto is "The Good Life." That slogan means different things to different people, but I suppose one common denominator would be the connection Nebraskans feel to the very land beneath their feet. Besides its people, the land itself is Nebraska's greatest asset. Varied geographical features reflect the surrounding states. Southern Nebraska is as flat as is its neighbor to the south. Eastern Nebraska is as fertile as its neighbor to the east. The topography of western Nebraska includes the bluffs and foothills that lead to the Rockies. Northern Nebraska is all about the badlands that it shares with its neighbor to the north. Central Nebraska is a mix of rolling hills, streams and rivers, and land that is well-suited for raising crops and grazing livestock. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln offered 160 acres to any head of household who had never taken up arms against the United States and who was willing to live on the land for at least 5 years.

My brother Todd was born in the great state of Nebraska, six generations removed from the sod-busting, corn-husking, "bug-eating" pioneers who settled Custer County over 150 years ago. He graduated from Norfolk High School with the class of 1981. He went to college in Kansas and settled in Texas to start his career and family. As his time on earth drew to a close, his heart remained with his family: this included the family he made with Vanessa, the family he joined with the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and the family of his birth and lineage.

We recognized each of these families in three separate services that each celebrated Todd's life in slightly different ways. There was a memorial service in Dallas in December for family, neighbors, and friends. There was a scattering of ashes at Marble Falls in June with the fraternity brothers. For the third service, we returned to the land of Todd's birth. Todd requested to physically rejoin generations of fore-bearers in a family plot in the corner of the Ansley cemetery, once part of the original Eggleston homestead.

Detail of Custer County showing the locations of Eggleston and Doane homesteads

Not only was Todd a native Nebraskan, but our parents were born and raised on family farms only seven miles apart from each other as the crow flies. Our mother's great-great grandfather migrated from Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England via Wisconsin in 1862 with the Homestead Act and settled the town of Ansley. A couple generations later, our father's grandfather migrated--also from Wisconsin--to nearby Mason City, Nebraska. As it happens, the first Doanes in America arrived in about 1629 and, with four other families, settled the town of Eastham, Massachusetts. Todd's paternal ancestors moved from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania to Wisconsin and on to discover "The Good Life" on a 160-acre homestead in Nebraska.

Todd was in the 11th generation of Doanes in America and, via the Eggleston clan, was a 6th generation Nebraskan. These were facts about which he was justifiably proud. Few people in this turbulent modern world can claim such deep roots.

Todd had many accomplishments as a graphic artist. Among his achievements, Todd won a 2010 design competition for the Doane Family Association of America's logo.

Todd's winning design for the DFA logo is a tribute to his talent--and his love of family

In November, 2012, Todd was diagnosed with cancer--a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme tumor in his brain. Todd's brave battle with brain cancer and the tremendous outpouring of support that he garnered through his Caring Bridge site have been described elsewhere in the pages of PhilosFX. Please search for "Todd" and review the previous posts. A few selected posts are offered for your convenience.
The common theme to many comments people shared about Todd on his CaringBridge site and at each of the memorial services was Todd's sterling example of love and faith. Todd was so brave and so selfless. He tried every imaginable treatment option in his battle. Ever the compliant patient, he showed discipline for the rigors of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He continually affirmed his priories: faith and family. Through it all, he maintained his signature sense of humor and positive outlook. His example of love and grace touched many lives. Three memorial services cannot express the love that is reflected in many fond memories.

In accordance with his wishes, Todd's family made arrangements for his inurnment. On Saturday, September 26th, 2015, the church where my parents were married served as the meeting place for a service of celebration and remembrance.

In remembrance...

Then after a short ride from the church to the town cemetery, friends and family in attendance were able to see the beautiful family heritage stone Todd's parents designed. They commissioned a nearby monument maker to produce the beautiful stone.

The Family Heritage Stone is adjacent to James Ferdinand Eggleston's grave
The Family Heritage Stone sits adjacent to the final resting place of our progenitor, James Ferdinand Eggleston--the man who was born in England and migrated to America for a chance at "The Good Life" in Nebraska.


The front side of the Family Heritage Stone
The front side of the Family Heritage Stone features Todd's design for the Doane Family Association of America's logo.


The back side of the stone lists the vital information for Todd, his parents, and his siblings

There is obviously room in the plot for other members of the family, should they choose to be inurned there with Todd. Regardless, the shiny black stone shines like a mirror. Looking at the stone we see ourselves--a portrait of mortality. For me, personally, seeing not just my name but also my birthday followed by a dash and then a blank space, the message is even more plain. Someday that blank space will be carved with the date that I left this mortal coil. The stone reminds us that we will all be remembered by what we do in the space between the date on the left and the date on the right. Our whole life is "the dash" between those dates of birth and death.  Todd can be very proud of the things we all said about him when we recalled his dash.

Some additional photos show the headstones of Todd's ancestors that fill the northeast corner of the community cemetery--the corner nearest to the Eggleston homestead.

A view of the marker for James Ferdinand Eggleston

Todd's mother's father's parents, Adaline and Garfield Eggleston

Todd's mother's parents, Donna and Clarence Eggleston

A moment of reflection at the family plot. Todd's son Alex is flanked by uncles Dave and Kyle. (photo: C. Edward Eggleston)

Todd said he would be "comfortable with the people in this neighborhood."  (photo: C. Edward Eggleston)
Todd, his bride Vanessa, and their son Alex (photo: Leslie Kadane)
Todd Doane lived "The Good Life" 
and was an example to us all. 
We love you, brother
and miss you.