I let Louis Van Vleet down but he didn’t let me down.
Let me explain.
For those who knew him, every year at the First Baptist Church’s Veterans Day ceremony, Mr. Louis would take part in the flag-folding ceremony. While not a veteran himself, as he was still in middle school when the war broke out, he was devoted to the memory of his older brother William Ellis Van Vleet, who was killed March 19, 1945 while serving aboard the USS Franklin off the coast of Japan.
I remember the date because that’s my birthday, and I remember the story because Van Vleet was one of the men honored each year for devoted service in that war.
A year or so ago Louis came in my office with a clipping about his older brother and while I had written about him before, I pledged to put it in.
Unfortunately I misplaced the clipping and while the search continues I failed to find it in time to place a story in the Times before Louis Edward Van Vleet passed away on Friday, Oct. 14.
Every time Louie would stop by the office, which he did often, I would tighten up inside, embarrassed at my inability to find the clipping and write the story.
And each time Louis would be gracious, never making me feel small and always throwing in a compliment or two to make sure I understood that he hadn’t lost respect, just was a little disappointed. He was reassuring, he was kind and he was faithful that it would be found.
Born March 13, 1932 to the late William Van Vleet and Florida Sizemore Van Vleet, Louis spent his entire life in Apalachicola where he worked for Wefings Marine and was a member of the First Baptist Church. He enjoyed freshwater fishing, feeding the stray cats around town, and riding his bicycle.
In addition to his older brother, he was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Emma Brooks Van Vleet; and two sisters, Erris Ventry and Eva Van Vleet.
He is survived by two nephews, David Ventry (Pat) and Louis Brooks (Mafe); two nieces, Shannon Lines (Gary) and Susan Lettin.
Funeral services were Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 18 at the church with PastorS Jeff Strickland, Charles Morris, and Bill Plazarin officiating.
Louis Van Vleet was laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery in Apalachicola, Florida.
And I will find that clipping and complete the circle that he started, with a feeling in my heart that there was as kind a gentleman as ever pedaled the streets of Apalachicola.