William Vactor, Jr.

Service at the Cemetery

10:00 am
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Hillside Cemetery
1401 Woodland Avenue
Scotch Plains, New Jersey, United States

Final Resting Place

Hillside Cemetery
1401 Woodland Avenue
Scotch Plains, New Jersey, United States

Obituary of William Elmer Vactor, Jr.

Lines for a Long-Distance Cousin
In memory of William E. Vactor Jr.
November 6, 1946 - June 24, 2021

Lord and Giver of Life, my true God whom I adore, illumine my mind and my heart
As I seek the lines that will become a poem for my long-distance cousin, Butch…..
Illumine me as the white moon outside my window
Illumines the quickening darkness of a September night,
A summer’s night transmuting
Into an autumn night of resplendent harvest…..

Illumine my cousin’s way as he continues his journey
Within an essence of Being no human mind can fathom.
Always he will be a cherished soul within my heart,
Always he will be a cherished soul within Your Heart, Lord,
Cherished as all the souls who ever were or will ever be…..
May he (like this summery night) find a resplendent harvest…..

We are all brought into Being, Lord, by Your will….. Your love…..
And we are all inextricably interwoven with one another within that Being,
Inextricably interwoven with one another within Your Heart…..
It is Enough. Enough? It’s Everything! All that matters in the End…..
The End? There is no End.
There is only Being…..

When we embrace the gift of Your love poured into our human hearts and send it forth, Lord,
We are Whole, and we are free…..
My long-distance cousin embraced Your gift, Lord.
He earnestly held fast to doing what he thought was right and true.
He fulfilled his duty to country….. Became the steadfast presence in his mother’s life…..
Sought to bring what good he could bring to souls along his way…..

I come, Lord, entrusting my cousin to Your love,
Certain he will find his way ever more deeply into the fullness of Being.
It’s what You set in place for souls to do
As they are burnished by the Holy Fire of Your love in this world and the next…..
I come trusting in Your love, Lord,
Carrying within me - the love You poured into my heart.

I send that love forth to my cousin now
As a prayer without words…… A prayer beyond the power of words……
I come to remember him.
His name was William, but none of us ever called him that
Sometimes his mother called him Billy,
But really he was Butch all the days of his life……

When he was four, and I was five, we met for the first time, Butch and I……
He was just a little boy running all about,
A profusion of energy erupting everywhere he ran:
A little boy declaring in his own way, “Here I am!”
A little boy transported along the surging currents of Being……
And I? I just stood quietly by, watching myself watching him……

When he was fifteen and I sixteen, we met again.
Butch was the quiet one then, already “keeping to himself”:
A boy at the cusp of manhood speaking only when spoken to,
But when my father said, “Come visit us, Butch. Come stay awhile…..”
Butch smiled a smile to rival the brightest star that ever was.
But he didn’t come.

Butch and I would not meet again.
I saw him looking out at me from photos his mother sent;
I heard his voice at the other end of the line at Thanksgiving….. Christmas..… Easter……
He was a picture puzzle with a lot of missing pieces, but always he was Family,
Both of us inextricably interwoven with one another within our Being..…
Both of us inextricably interwoven with one another within the Heart of God……

All the days of his life Butch lived with his mother.
Except his days as a soldier..… That tour of duty in Vietnam.
Except the days after his mother went on before him leaving him bereft.
Butch cried out once at her last breath, our uncle said,
And then just fell into silence, “keeping to himself” as he always had…..
He adored his mother.

He adored his mother but cast his boyishness aside,
Holding fast to being a man the day his number came up for the draft.
His mother would tell me years later she had said, “I’ll try to get you off,”
And he had replied, “No, you will not.”
“All of my life you have told me it’s my duty to go, and I’m going.”
He went.

He went and descended into a hell created by Man.
His mother told me he took no R and R,
Saying it was easier to stay there than face returning…..
He received a commendation for doing his part in Vietnam,
The words of his commander immersed in true regard…..
His mother told me he came home to her from the war speaking not at all…..

Butch came home to his mother bearing invisible wounds
As soldiers have done forever…..
He came home summoning the courage to begin again as best he could
As soldiers have done forever…..
He was the quiet son who “kept to himself”
And the steadfast presence in her life…..

He was the son who tended to her car,
The son who helped do the heavy household chores at season’s end…..
He was the one who got up and did the dishes after long holiday dinners
She had given all of herself to prepare…..
He was the son who brought the car right up to the door
On cold, damp days when her elderly knees “barked.”

On Red White and Blue days like the Fourth, every chance that came,
Butch pressed the paw of a teddy bear in camouflage I had sent;
So that the bear sang “Glad to be an American” over and over throughout the day…..
At Christmas he would gently tease his mom about her riotous decorating:
“I can’t see the tree for the ornaments!” he would say.
He brought her flowers and books for special days and just because surprise days…..
And when she’d tell me about it, she’d say, “I’m rich! I’m so rich!”

Butch came home from the war and worked all his life through,
A half century and more…..
A box handler on the graveyard shift at UPS,
He was a quiet man who “kept to himself,”
Ever mindful to acknowledge fellow workers,
Ever mindful to be the dependable one who got things done…..

When Butch came home at the end of the graveyard shift,
The street-smart stray cats were waiting.
Butch never let them down…..
And on winter mornings when the snow had fallen all the night,
He shoveled all of his neighbors out.
Butch was a solitary through and through, but he found ways to reach out.

After his mother died, Butch reached out to me sending cards across the miles.
He never forgot my birthday - not once.
And there was a card in my box for every holiday of every season
(Always chosen with care and simply signed – “Butch.”)
He sent cards to our uncle’s Beloved, Teresa, too
And cards to her daughter Sandi who befriended him…..

I am thankful Butch was here, Lord;
I’m thankful for his unassuming ways.
He stirred me to become more who You created me to be -
Like other cherished souls I hold gently in my heart.
Even in his tragic, solitary passage away from us into New Life
Butch gave me a gift of truest worth…..

That singular gift is not a gift as we think of gifts in our temporal world.
It came through the constant generosity of Your grace, Lord:
It came on the wings of Grief’s searing pain
As I contemplated the stark reality of my cousin’s final hours…..
In my grief I descended into the very depths of a darkness I myself had created,
And I watched myself struggle before the terrible Absence of Your Light…..

I had placed blame for my cousin’s lonely passage
At the feet of our mothers’ matriarchal lineage;
And within the hidden spaces of my mind, I had struck out against them with fury…..
Exhausted by such an unleashing of my own darkness I grew wretched…..
I discerned I was deeply wrong, and I was ashamed….. Repentant…..
For suddenly I had seen all the souls of our matriarchal lineage before me - my cousin’s and mine.

I saw those souls as You would see them, Lord:
I saw the shadows of their darkness, yes,
But I saw, too, their wondrous Light:
I saw their good intent; I saw their courage.
I saw their determined endurance in the depths of adversity.
I saw their suffering, and suddenly all I could do was love them and forgive…..

All I wanted to do was forgive and love them,
Those souls in our matriarchal lineage, my cousin’s and mine.
And in that moment, Lord, Your love poured into the human heart
No longer called out to me as an intellectual construct.
It had become a throbbing, living essence within myself,
And so, Butch’s gift to me is no small gift through the constancy of Your grace…


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