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I returned to Albuquerque late last night from my most recent trip, three days in New Jersey to attend the funeral of my cousin Doug and to get reaquainted with Mom's side of the family.

There were actually three funerals for Doug — the first was held Friday night in Bayonne but I didn't attend that one because of my late afternoon arrival in Atlantic City.  Instead, I had dinner with my Uncle Ron, Aunt Edwina, and cousins Carol and Ken (and their three sons).  Edwina, Ron, and I were staying at my Uncle George and Aunt Marge's home nearby; that first night, we all turned in fairly early before George and Marge returned from Bayonne.  We had a nice breakfast before getting ready for the first of Saturday's services.

Doug had been active in his Presbryterian parish and the first funeral was held at his church (which had been built in the 1860's).  Approximately 50 members of the family attended that one.  I cried much more than I thought I would.  I was very impressed by Christopher (Doug's youngest son) and how he held his composure; the service ended with Christopher and the priest ringing the church bell.  A luncheon followed at the church.

The next service was held in the auditorium of Pilgrim Academy, a private school attended by several of the family's children.  This one was a very large funeral with full police honors and ceremony, including the riderless horse, police guards, trooping of the colors, and the haunting sounds of the bagpipers.  And, of course, "Danny Boy" was sung.  Many, many family and friends took the pulpit to talk about Doug.  The receiving line wrapped from the school's main entrance, through the lobby and halfway across the gymnasium.  Dignitaries who attended included at least one senator and several very high-up New Jersey State Police officials.  One thing that I found out about Doug that I hadn't know previously was how much he loved politics; he had even been on the police detail for President Bush's Inauguration.  I found the first service very moving, and this second one very impressive.

I don't know how long Doug's obituary will be available on the Press Of Atlantic City's site, so I think I'll reprint it here for future reference:

JABLONSKI, DOUGLAS A., 48 - of Galloway, peacefully passed away Saturday, December 3, 2005 surrounded by his loving family after a courageous battle with cancer. Doug was raised in Bayonne, but has been a resident of Galloway for many years. He was a devoted husband of Terri (Chapman) and loving father to Christopher, Jessica, and Jason. He was the beloved son of Barbara and Jay Jablonski, and treasured son-in-law of George and Margaret Chapman. A dear brother to Kenneth Jablonski (Dolores), Susanne Biancamano (James), the late Lori Jean Weaver (James) and brother-in-law to Carol Kisby (Kenneth). He was a fabulous uncle to Emily, Angelica, and Kimberly Jablonski, David, Lyra, Amelia, and the late Halley Biancamano, Meredith, Alyssa, Andrea, and James Weaver, and Kenneth Jr, Colin, and Kurtis Kisby. Doug was a retired Sergeant First Class in the State Police with 25 years of dedicated service. Prior to his retirement he was the representative for the NCO and STFA unions. After his retirement, he continued on as the Business Manager for the NCO and as a member of the Former Trooper Association. He was an active member of the Absecon Presbyterian Church, served as an Elder and a member of the men's club. He was an avid sports fan and was very involved with coaching and supporting GTAA, PAL, Atlantic United, and AAU baseball. He loved fishing, traveling, fine dining, karaoke, friends, and life. We will always celebrate his love of life that only he could bring to the world. He will be sadly missed by his loving family and many, many good friends. A memorial service will be held at The Pilgrim Academy, 301 West Moss Mill Road Galloway on Saturday December 10, 2005. Friends may call from 1 to 2pm with the service beginning at 3:00pm. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the Douglas A. Jablonski Memorial Trust Fund, 433 6th Avenue, Galloway, NJ 08205.

Published in The Press of Atlantic City from 12/6/2005 - 12/10/2005.
There's also a very nice review of the a service held in Doug's honor, shortly before he passed away, on the New Jersey State Police NCO Association website.

After the second service (which lasted close to two hours), a huge buffet dinner was held at an exclusive golf resort.  In addition to visiting with the immediate family, I enjoyed talking to Lynn (Marge's sister, which I suppose makes her my Great Aunt) and Jim from Virginia Beach.  I believe the last time I'd seen them was probably in the late 1970's or early 1980's.  Lynn was interested to hear of my travels and I discussed the state of the music industry with Jim (he was involved with commercial radio for many years).

Sunday saw another round of family visiting, this time hosted by my cousin Terri (Doug's wife) at her home.  More good food (and deserts!) with insightful conversation ruled the day.  I particularly enjoyed playing with Curtis (Carol & Ken's 3-year-old) who seemed to enjoy me as well.  Ron and Edwina left Terri's in the afternoon to begin driving back to Washington, DC (Ron lives there and Edwina had a 6a.m. flight back to California).  After I returned to the "bunkhouse" with Marge and Lynn (Jim and George had returned sometime before), we had some wine and continued our conversations.  George also had me scrub clean the hard drive of his old computer so he could donate it to the school.  The long day ended with Marge and I struggling to stay awake for the end of the "Survivor" finale and then hitting the sack.

Monday morning, Marge and I had breakfast with Carol, Ken, and Curtis.  We then walked around the local mall for a short time before they dropped me off at the airport.  The flight to Cincinnati was on-time (it was on one of those tiny Canadair Regional Jets) and I had a two-and-a-half-hour wait before my flight to Albuquerque was due to depart.  I had been worried about weather delays; what we got were comic delays — first the plane arrived at the wrong gate.  The girls at our gate saw the plane taxi to the wrong jetway through the big windows, knowing nothing was due to be arriving there for hours.  They got on the phone and one ran down the jetway to let them know.  They had to back the plane up and taxi it over to our gate.  Once the passengers had disembarked and they loaded us onboard (it was less than a third full), it was discovered that an oxygen bottle in the cockpit had an unaccectible pressure level.  So, they ordered a new oxygen bottle from the stock room.  A half-hour went by with still no sign of a replacement bottle.  The pilot called over to maintenance and found out they had simply refilled the old bottle only to discover it had a leak.  At that point, they had to retrieve a bottle from a maintenance hanger located on the other side of the airport.  When that one finally arrived, the pilot had all of us applaud the maintenance worker who installed it.  In the end, we were almost two hours late taking off!  It was snowing when we arrived in Albuquerque.

It is good to be back home, but it seems like I have a million things I need to get done in the next three days.  I leave for Portland on Friday and won't return to Albuquerque again until January 11th.  I need to wash my clothes from this last trip and repack for the long one (difficult because I won't need my cold-weather clothes after next Tuesday).  I'm also trying to upload my London and New Jersey photos today as well as updating my financial accounts, etc.  All this after staying up all night editing the DVD of the Marillion concert in London so I can send out copies as Christmas presents before I leave.