Our earthly realm lost a good man on Tuesday. My brother-in-law, Lonnie Bruce Skeen, passed away peacefully at home in Caldwell at about 3:00 pm. Lonnie had battled a rare form of blood cancer for the past few years, and while his death was not unexpected it still came as a shock to all of us who knew and loved him.
Lonnie was born on December 21, 1947 and spent his youthful years growing up around the Treasure Valley. He enjoyed telling stories about his antics as a young man. He had seen many changes in our area over the years and it was delightful to hear him describe how things used to be, each story flavored with his flair for description and dry sense of humor.
My brother-in-law was a certified genius, qualified to be a member of Mensa, though I don’t think he ever was, and a person who truly enjoyed life. He followed many pursuits and hobbies over the course of his journey, each embraced with a tenacity and droll sense of perspective. He enjoyed everything from horseback riding to playing guitar; fly fishing to restoring old cars. He spent time flying small airplanes and loved going out on a boat.
Lonnie’s lifelong profession was welding. He started out with a five-year apprenticeship in the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local #296 in Boise and remained a member of that union for the next 42 years. His work took him all around the United States, and he was responsible for everything from helping to build the infrastructure of Micron Technology to constructing the natural gas mainline that traverses much of our great nation.
Lonnie had only been a member of our family for a few short years, but he fit in with everyone as though he was born to it. The way he embraced my sister’s children, and their children, was a wonder to see. He gave my sister the type of stability and lifestyle she had always craved, and I loved him for that.
Lonnie was the type of person who could talk to anybody. And I mean anybody. My sister would tell about going to a diner with her husband, and before lunch was over Lonnie would know the entire life story of the server as well as any passing busboy, and probably the people at the next table too. My brother-in-law was a very opinionated man, and though I didn’t always agree with his opinions I could always appreciate them. He was intelligent and well-read, and never took on a cause lightly. What he believed in he believed in for a reason, and you could not help but respect that.
My brother-in-law was generous, loving and gregarious. He never failed to greet me with a hug and a truly interested “How ya doing, Sis?” He loved to talk about horses and dogs and kids, and politics. When he found out he was dying he was very open about it. You never had to feel uncomfortable around him; he talked about how he was feeling and readily admitted that he knew his time here on earth was short.
Even with his openness about, and preparation for, his own passing, Lonnie continued to embrace life. He bought a new guitar and loved to play it whenever he had the strength. He had recently completed restoring an old boat, and then purchased an aging motor home to start renovating that. He spent Monday morning, the day before he passed, working on the motor home. He took a turn for the worse that evening, and when the hospice nurse told him she would see him the next afternoon he said gently “No you won’t, Sis.”
My sister said Lonnie was tired, and I know he was. His greatest frustration with his illness was that he had only a few good hours a day, and that was on a good day. He was ready for the next realm, and he had complete and total faith that he would be going to a much better place.
I am so grateful that this good man was able to do what he wanted to do with his time right up until that time was over. His biggest fear was that he would linger in bed for many long days or weeks; being unable to do what he would like to do and waiting interminably for the next phase of his journey. I am glad he was spared that.
Lonnie even got his wish about the services he wanted. He planned every detail of the Rosary and funeral months ago, and he told my sister that he hoped his Rosary could be on a Friday and his funeral on Saturday. Being the pragmatic man that he was, he wanted people to be able to attend without having to take time off of work.
Lonnie’s Rosary will be this Friday and his service Saturday morning. I know there will be many well-wishers there who feel just as I do, that our world is a little less rich without Lonnie in it. I can just see him up there in heaven though, spinning yarns and making new friends.
Happy trails Lonnie. You will be missed.