Army veteran who lived without light, water laid to rest
On Wednesday morning, Bobbie Lou Gragson sat in an Oklahoma City funeral chapel in front of a casket.
She sobbed quietly as she looked at the body of Willie Weeks, her friend of more than a decade.
"It was an honor to know him," she said through tears.
Weeks, a U.S. Army veteran, died earlier this month at the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City. On Wednesday, he was laid to rest as a part of a program that offers free funeral services for homeless and indigent veterans.
Gragson, 53, first met Weeks more than a decade ago, when he pedaled his bike up to the convenience store and coffee shop where she worked, walked in and ordered a cup of coffee. Over more than 10 years and countless cups of coffee, Gragson got to know Weeks better. He was quietly intelligent and trustworthy, she said.
Weeks, 64, lived in Sulphur for years, in a house with no electricity and no running water, Gragson said. He liked to keep things simple, she said. He used a propane heater to stay warm during the winter, and he mostly got around by bicycle. He worked as a handyman, repairing cars and tractors and anything else that needed fixing. As long as he had food to eat and a place to sleep, he seemed content, she said.
Before coming to Sulphur, Weeks served in the U.S. Army from Feb. 10, 1971, to Aug. 16, 1972, when he was honorably discharged. But Weeks didn't talk much about his time in service, Gragson said. In fact, he didn't talk much at all.
"He was a man of few words," Gragson said. "His actions spoke, not his words."
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Over the past few years, Weeks seemed sick. He had a nasty cough, Gragson said. Several times, she offered to drive him to a doctor. But each time, he refused, saying it was just asthma.
Finally, a few weeks ago, a friend insisted on taking him to Arbuckle Memorial Hospital. Doctors there examined him and sent him to the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City. There, doctors diagnosed him with stage IV lung cancer, Gragson said.
Weeks died Oct. 12. Staffers at the VA hospital contacted Chapel Hill Funeral Home in Oklahoma City, which is part of the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veteran Burial Program.
The funeral home helped with paperwork needed to get a military burial flag, arranged for an honor guard and a chaplain to conduct the service and requested the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group to accompany Weeks' remains, said Kaylee Wilson, the funeral home's general manager. The funeral home also arranged for burial at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin.
During a funeral service Wednesday morning, Chaplain Becky Johnson said Weeks was a part of an endless line of Americans who have served their country when called upon. With Veterans Day approaching, Johnson asked those in attendance to remember the nation's veterans, particularly those who are homeless.
"We need to do right by those that have stood up for our country," Johnson said.
Johnson shared a well-known passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes: To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time for war and a time for peace.
Now, Johnson said, is Weeks' time for peace.