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Family, friends pay tribute to Alex Giles

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 10, 2007, at 1:35 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

— He'd wanted to write a letter to give to his dad on Father's Day.

Instead, he wrote one to share with him on Wednesday.

The occasion was his father's funeral.

In the letter, Greg Giles called Alexander "Junior" Giles his greatest hero and remembered him as a war veteran, a kind and wise farmer and stockman, a quiet and patient man, a caring father, a friend and neighbor to everyone, a man who never turned down a request for help.

"We all grew to love you deeply, and as I grew older came to appreciate you more and more. And the last few days, more and more," the letter said.

Greg Giles read it to his father inside Larrison Mortuary as about 450 people, many crammed into overflow rooms and standing in hallways, listened.

Alex Giles, 84, died at his home in Hopewell in one of the tornadoes spawned by the storm that leveled much of the Greensburg area Friday night. His was the first funeral for those who died.

Outside the mortuary, about 150 people, including members of the Patriot Guard, American Legion Riders, Christian Motorcyclist Association and residents of Pratt, formed a ring around the property clutching American flags.

"It's just almost overwhelming to know the outpouring of love that people have shown for our dad and our family," Greg Giles told mourners before he got to the letter.

"We're still just a little bit in shock yet, but God's going to take care of it."

He read about how his father rarely raised his voice to his children, but had a firm hand when needed.

And although Alex Giles, as an Army corporal, fought with the division that led the drive to capture the bridge at Remagen in World War II and earned a Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge, he rarely talked about the war with his family until his latter years. And when he did, he talked about the outfit, not himself.

"We never knew we had a hero in our midst," Greg Giles read.

His father never missed programs, ball games, weddings, graduations -- any function that family and neighbors were part of.

He loved the farm, loved to haul grain in the semis, and always knew what to do with the cattle and the horses.

"It was hard for you to accept our first live Angus bull at my suggestion. It took about two years," Greg read.

He remembered joining his father in an old Model A truck to feed the cows.

"It didn't have a heater, and the seat springs were covered with gunny sacks, but it seemed like a new Peterbilt to me," he read.

He remembered his dad taking the kids sledding in the pasture next to the house, pulling them behind a 1955 Ford.

He remembered that his dad used to fix up every old car anybody in the family brought home.

"You've always been the best example of a son, husband, daddy, granddad, friend, neighbor, relative, that I've had the pleasure to know," he read to his father.

"I wish you could've read this yourself, but I know you're hearing it today in heaven."

After the service, Alex Giles was buried with full military honors provided by the Fort Riley Honor Guard in Farmington Cemetery, Macksville.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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