I’ve been compelled to write about this experience for several reasons, but most significantly to remember a man that had a positive impact on me in only two hours’ time.
We live and we die, that is the fate of all humans on this earth. I’ve not yet witnessed a birth, but I look forward to the day that I can. However, I’ve been to many funerals. The experience of life and death isn’t always foremost in our heads, but it is omnipresent. Even though I’ve been to many funerals, I’ve experienced them all a little differently. Indeed, it’s hard to be blind to factors such as age, cause, and life choices when at a funeral.
Yesterday I received word that a relative of mine by the name of Milton Noel had passed on. As always when I hear of a death, a cloud of depression descended over me. Thoughts of the deceased and his family crossed my mind, as well as what little I knew of the man. I’d only met Milton, better known as Bubba, once. It was in December of 2006 at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, OK that I met him.
I’d heard from my grandmother many times that he was working at RIS, she is his aunt. I was in Anadarko visiting family and took a chance to ride to the school and meet him. I spent about two hours with him; he gave me a tour of the school and talked to me about the kids that attend RIS. I left that day with a feeling of pride, it stemmed from having a man in my family that I viewed as someone dedicated to education in the Native community.
I contacted the florist in Anadarko yesterday to order flowers to be sent to his funeral. This was a first for me; I’d never sent flowers to a funeral. The experience of it left me with an upset stomach and dissatisfied feeling. When the florist asked me what I wanted to go on the card I had to pause… I hadn’t thought about it. I felt like I wanted the note to be about a paragraph long, full of my memories and thoughts of the day he and I met. I ended up asking her to write “My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.”
I contacted RIS and spoke with Sharon Hunter – Federal Programs Coordinator, formerly Elementary Principal at RIS – to speak to a person that worked with Bubba. Ms. Hunter had this to say about his character:
“Not only was he a principal, he was a liaison with our local community. He formed strong relationships with other tribes and their people. He was solid in his faith, which was Christianity.”
Milton Noel came to RIS in 1987 to serve as a Vice Principal, a position he fulfilled until his death. Prior to RIS he worked in the Elgin (OK) County Public School system as well as at the Ft. Wingate BIE School in New Mexico. He was well known among the Kiowa tribe, of which he was an enrolled member. He spoke the Kiowa language and was involved in the culture.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer, which subsequently spread to other parts of his body. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. Services are being held tonight at the RIS gym and tomorrow at the Rainy Mt. Kiowa Indian Baptist Church.