Obituary-Eulogy:  Brian King of Harpers Ferry, WV

My friend and Odd Fellow brother Brian King died surprisingly of congested heart failure (CHF) on June 17, 2017 at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, WV. Brian was only 47; born February 27, 1970 in Wilmington, DE, he was the son of Mark and Mary King of Glenmoore, PA. Brian was a graduate of New Milford High School in New Milford, CT, class of 1989 and a graduate of Albright College in Redding, PA, class of 1993.

Brian cared about helping others by his service in the Odd Fellows, and he studied and wrote about history. He had a great love for historic Harpers Ferry, and spent many years helping and talking with his blind NPS Ranger friend Chuck, who worked down-town. I also spent many hours talking with both he and Chuck, on hot summer days in the cool shelter of our historic buildings. Brian and I spent years volunteering together at the Odd Fellows Lodge, and talking about old-tyme radio and comedy tv shows (like Red Dwarf). Even after I was no longer active with the Lodge, as I was working on my family property next door, I would see and wave to Brian almost every week. Brian spent many hours, for many years, in ‘working meditation’ on the Lodge property maintenance and most memorably, removing the stump of the old Elm Tree.

Brian King and the Old Odd Fellow Elm Tree Stump

The story of the Old Odd Fellow Elm Tree is a long one, as we have historic photographic evidence it may have been over 140 years old. I will try to condense both the life of the tree and the man called Brian, into a short essay as a tribute to both. The story of the old Elm Tree is that it spent many years dominating the block on top of Harpers Ferry hill (camp hill) with its siblings on the Kaplon-Stowell front lawn (cut in the 1970s), and the one on the border of the Brady-Stowell property (cut in the 1990s). The Kaplon Elm died of Dutch Elm disease, as many others in the area did; and for many years the front lawn had sunken areas from the decaying roots, that moles loved to make tunnels in. The Brady Elm was cut by Tony Catanese and his father, who took turn whacking away at the stump. Elm’s are notoriously hard woods, very hard to cut; which brings me back to the story of Brian and the Odd Fellow Elm. The Old Elm may have been around during the Civil War (1860s), as it spent many years growing wide and tall. It grew into 2 main branches, stemming from the main trunk several feet above ground level; which may have been a result of it being decapitated at a young age, and regrowing while a pocket of rain-water formed in the V, no doubt contributing to its’ hollowing. Most of the Old IOOF Elm’s history is unknown to this author, but when I was a young teen I did make efforts to study it. That area of the block was always mysterious, as it was half wild, and sometimes partially gardened. There was a storage yellow garage-shed, and a plain but historic out-house, below the Elm’s massive boughs. In 1994 lightning struck the tree filled with water, it split in two; one half fell on the garage-shed, filling the lawn, but the other half remained standing!! The remaining half of the Elm stayed up and alive, until it eventually fell over a decade later, partially smashing the out-house and other nearby trees. Phil Folk and others cut and removed the body of the tree. However the stump remained. Brian spent about a year obsessively removing the stump, working hard on it every day. When I heard the regular chopping on hot sunny days, I brought him some glasses of water, and checked in with him. Brian would be sweating in the humid heat, and he broke a few mattocks and shovels; he took out his frustrations on the stump, and it caused him frustrations; but he did it all by hand!!! Brian’s focus and dedication to task reminded me of an epic tall-tale, or folk-tale legend; as when he was asked why he was so intent on removing every last root of the stump, he would say “I am doing it for the sake of doing it. The more time I put into it, the more I want to do the job to finish it; but as the work exercises my body and mind, the more the end does not matter.” Then Brian would make a self-deprecating joke about the heat affecting him. His frequent humility aside, the end was clearly no more the point for Brian’s life, as for the Old Odd Elm Tree.

Brian focused on Harper Cemetery, the Civil War, and Odd Fellow history. Brian allowed me to read some of his Civil War book he was writing, and I offered to publish it for him. He was a member of the Civil War Round Table, and a valuable and dedicated member of Virginia Lodge No. 1, IOOF in Harpers Ferry, where he was Past Noble Grand and held many other offices as well. He currently held the office of Grand Herald in the Grand Lodge of WV, IOOF. Brian was Past Captain of Poolsville Canton and was a member of Gilead Encampment in Hagerstown, MD. Brian King was unique and special, yet despite any disabilities or personal problems, he achieved much as a private intellectual and humble helper to the community. This memorial requiem is written to honor Brian’s dedication to researching, learning, and sharing the history of the deceased. Brian was always there to lend a helping hand, and will be greatly missed by all. In addition to his parents, he is survived by one brother, Brent King and wife, Elizabeth Notturna of Newark, DE. Thank you to Eackles-Spencer & Norton Funeral Home, 256 Halltown Road, Harpers Ferry, WV for services. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Brian’s memory to Virginia Lodge No. 1, P.O. Box 896, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.




~ Rest In Peace, Brian King, FLT ~