Ed, Westie and the Schlitz can

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 2:00pm

In a recent Southport column of the Register, in a very nice mention of our father’s funeral, a certain amount of curiosity regarding the presence of a beer can on a Methodist altar was raised and we, the sons of Ed Furber, would like to provide an explanation beyond simply saying that our mother Liz Furber thought it a good idea, even though all might agree that after 61 years of marriage her opinion alone would be sufficient.

Their last weekend before heading off to basic training with the Army down at Fort Benning, Georgia, Pop and his best friend, Bob West, went to a small lake up in New Hampshire together. By Sunday morning there remained a single can of Schlitz beer and a big block of ice, so they put the full can on top of the ice and departed for calisthenics in the Georgia sun.

Every time they passed each other in the blazing heat they would pant to one another, “How deep in the ice do you suppose that can of Schlitz is now?”

When Westie passed away a few years ago, his son asked our father to say something at the funeral as he was the oldest of his father’s friends that he knew. Pop was concerned beforehand as he felt that he didn’t know most of the people who would be in attendance, nor they him, and that his message might suffer as a result. Win, the youngest of the three of us, suggested wisely to him that he needn’t worry about saying a word if he brought along a particular prop and was prepared to answer questions about it.

When it was his turn to speak at the funeral, Pop walked wordlessly over to the headstone placed a block of ice next to it. He then placed a can of Schlitz on top of the block, said good-bye to his buddy Westie, and went back to the place he’d been standing amongst the other mourners.

Naturally, Pop waited around for the opportunity to explain himself and was not disappointed. Westie’s son was the first of many to ask for the story, and before long a group was assembled. To general appreciation Pop told the story about Westie and him, the gritty, humid, sun-baked southern military training ground and the beautiful New England sunny weekend at the lake that preceded it.

Our father wanted his ashes split up among some of the places he loved. Some have been interred here on Southport, some will go to the family plot not far from that lake in New Hampshire, and some will be sprinkled into Love’s Cove on an outgoing tide in a northwest breeze. Since this required multiple urns, it was decided that a Schlitz can would make a fitting choice for one of them, and that is the story of the Schlitz can.

There are a couple of nice side stories that go along with this one.

The first is that of the very can that sat on the altar at Pop’s funeral. We had decided a period piece, akin to the one the two friends had put in the ice long ago, would be appropriate. Win knew a guy named Chet down in Portland who had a Schlitz memorabilia collection in his store, so he stopped by and asked an attendant at the store if Chet was around and he said no. When Win told him that he needed to see if he could buy an old can from him, he was told that Chet always refused such offers, but that he’d ask Chet to give him a call. A couple hours later Chet, who’d heard the story from Win years ago, called Win while driving back from a visit to his own elderly and ailing father, and upon hearing of Pop’s passing, told him to walk back in and take whatever could find that he wanted and refused payment. Win took the oldest single Schlitz can he could find, and we remain grateful to Chet, as we do to the many other members of this area and others who have been so kind to us.

The other story has to do with my parents and our families’ friendship with our neighbors on Southport, the Winslows. When Captain Eliot Winslow, and his wife Marjorie Winslow, our “Aunt Marge,” passed away, their ashes were spread upon the waters of Love’s Cove. Each time, rose petals were added to their ashes, and each time, those rose petals formed a line and drifted slowly, against the wind, out towards the mouth of the cove and the Ebenecook. My father requested that rose petals be similarly distributed with his ashes so that he could see whether God might treat them the same way He did the Winslows!