As I continue to declutter and scan items from my mother's scrapbooks, I come across a fragile, yellowed newspaper clipping. Even though the accident had happened almost sixty-nine years ago, I remember as though it were yesterday.
On May 6, 1944, thirteen years old and suffering from German measles, I lay in bed, feverish, headachy, and itchy, unable to sleep. Around 11:00 p.m., I heard the phone ring and my dad answer. He woke my mother; they whispered; she stifled a cry of anguish. More phone calls. After thirty minutes or so, they came to my room to tell me that my beloved Grandpa Nikkel was dead. The next day they traveled to Colorado to attend the funeral; I was left to care for my nine-year-old brother and five-year-old sister (with help from a neighbor). It was the first time that death had come close to me and I was exceedingly sad.
But I had never seen that clipping until today:
Funeral services will be conducted tomorrow for Bernhard Nikkel who was killed Saturday evening by the compeller of an airplane soon after his son, William Nikkel, had landed the machine near the farm home.
The tragic accident occurred as preparations were being made to moor the plane near the Nikkel house for the night. A landing was made at the Nikkel farm and after an exchange of greetings it was decided to taxi the plane across a fence to place it near the house for the night. The elder Nikkel and the passenger of the plane were holding down the wires to allow the pilot to take the machine to the parking spot and some rocks interfered with the movement of the wheels.
Mr. Nikkel removed one rock and threw it aside and had picked up another. No one saw what happened, but it is presumed that as the man straightened up he probably lost his balance and pitched forward into the whirling propeller. He was struck on the head, the blow severing the top of the skull. A doctor was summoned as soon as someone could get to a telephone, however he had died instantly….
I had always known more or less how it had occurred, but, oh, my God…
My Uncle Bill never fully recovered from the event. Who could?
He tried to find peace. In my next post I will share the poem I found with the clipping.