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Tombstone Tuesday – Roy Frederick “Sonny” Wait Jr (1931-2004)

July 29, 2009

Uncle Sonny young man

Roy - Age 3?

Roy was born in Greeley, Colorado on March 16, 1931 to Roy Frederick and Freda Delores (Fleming) Wait.  Kath's DadHis siblings were Betty (b: 1925), Vivian (1927-1983), Doris (1929-2003), William (b:1935), and Shirley (1945-1998).  His family then moved back to his dad’s hometown of Seward, Nebraska, where they lived where his brother Bill was born in 1935.





   He joined the US Navy in 1949 and was stationed onboard the USS General JC Breckinridge 1950.  His ship was used to transport fresh troops to the front lines and wounded troops .  He received several medals for his service during the Korean War; The United Nations Service Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with three service stars, National Defense Service Medal, and the China Service Medal.

Mom, Dad, Tony, Brian, Kathy, and baby Karen

Mom, Dad, Tony, Brian, Kathy, and baby Karen






 I guess you could say that my Dad had a way with women.  In 1956, at the age of 25, he married Laurie Grant.  She blessed him with a son, Brian Paul in 1957.  They eventually divorced and by the time he married my mom, he also sired Nancy Sue McCumber and Mark Fredericks (Wait?).  He married my mom, Shirley Ann Kunz, in 1966.  I came along in 1968, followed by my sister Karen in 1972.  Toss in my brother Tony, who was my Mom’s son from a previous marriage, and we were one big happy family (for the most part)!

The Wait Clan - Late 70s?

The Wait Clan - Late 70s? (Back: Joe, Bill, Bob, Roy, Ron - Front, Betty, Shirley, Freda, Doris, Vivian, Deanna)

Dad was known for his playfulness and wicked sense of humor.  You could always count on him to give you rabbit ears in photos, steal food off your plate, or take your car for a spin around the block if you were careless enough to leave your keys laying around.  Uncle Bill told me once that when they were growing up, you could always tell when Sonny was back home because he there would be a big fingerprint in the cake!  He was in heaven when I started playing pool and we’d go to the pool hall and shoot a couple of games. 

Uncle Joe and Dad joking around

Uncle Joe and Dad joking around










We lived in San Jose, California from 1966 until 1974.  During this time, Dad worked as a toolcrib attendant for Ford Motor Company.  By 1974,  Dad had lost his father and Mom had just lost both of her parents, so my parents decided it was time to move back to Nebraska.  Dad got a job doing building maintenance for Jantzen Sportswear and worked there until the plant closed in 1992.  He then transferred to the plant in Walhalla, SC for two years until his retirement in 1994.  For him, it was like being sent to Siberia and it didn’t agree with him at all.  Upon retirement, he promptly moved back to Nebraska.

Dad at a car show, probably with Justin and Ian

Dad at a car show, probably with Justin and Ian

 Dad spent his retirement on the phone and on the road, traveling from here to there visiting friends and relatives and spending time with his grandkids.  He was known to just show up on your doorstep or where you worked just to say hi and maybe get some lunch or something.  When the new quarters came out, he made a point of collecting them for his family in California and sending them out without fail.  (I don’t think I even knew about this hobby until we found his stash of quarters and Sheryl and her family mentioned it.) 

He loved all of his grandkids; Justin, Ian, Stephanie, Ariel, and Naomi.  He really bonded with Justin and Ian during this time and liked taking them to car shows and up to the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland NE.  Of course, the boys drove him nuts and he loved to complain about their antics, but he loved every minute of it.  In 2003, he was very active helping my Mom fix up her house for sale and then helping my brother Tony build his garage.   

Then things really took a turn for the worse.  Dad started having trouble with his knee, so he went in for surgery.  That slowed him down and you could tell he wasn’t feeling too well.  After Christmas, he finally went in to the doctor and it was decided that his gallbladder needed to be removed.  So he went in for his outpatient surgery and ended up being in the hospital for a week because he wasn’t recovering like they’d hoped. 

While he was in, he told them that his lymph nodes were swollen but they said they’d wait until after he recovered from his gallbladder to take a look at it.  Within a week, the lymph node on the right side of his neck was swollen to the size of an egg.  The pain in his back worsened.   So they did a biopsy and a week later diagnosed him with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  That was Thursday, Feb 5th 2004.

By this time, the cancer was spreading rapidly and they started chemo right away.  I wanted to keep his out-of-state family up to date on his

Dad in the hospital on his 73rd birthday, March 16th 2004

Dad in the hospital on his 73rd birthday, March 16th 2004

 progress, so I built a website for him.  I posted a daily blog (though at that time, I didn’t know what a blog was!) with updates on his condition and information about the fundraising I was doing for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society right before he was diagnosed.  He had good days and would joke around with people and try to make phone calls, and bad days… he even had me take this picture so I could post it for his family.

He died at home on March 24, 2004 in Lincoln, Nebraska after only six weeks of battling cancer.  Our lives have never been the same.


Roy Frederick “Sonny” Wait, Jr, 73

Born 3/16/31 in Greeley, CO
Died 3/28/04 in Lincoln, NE after only six weeks of battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

US Navy Korean War Veteran, Building maintenance for Jantzen, Driver for Armadillo Express for the railroaders, Delivery driver for Lincoln Drug, drove a Taxi, Toolcrib attendant for Ford Motor Company, Delivery driver for Miller & Paine, sacker at Russ’s IGA in Havelock, Greeter at SuperK.


Son:  Brian Wait (Lincoln) and his wife Becky and grandkids Ian and Ariel
Daughter: Kathy Myers (Chicago)
Daughter: Karen Wait (Palmyra) and grandkids Justin and Stephanie
Stepson: Tony Snyder (Murdock) and his wife Debra and grandkid Naomi

Ex-Wife: Shirley Wait (Lincoln)… they stayed close even after being divorced 15 years ago

Brother: Bill Wait (Valencia Ca) and his wife Deanna
Sister:  Betty Amaral (Woodburn Or)
Cousins, Nieces, Nephews, Friends, and many more…

Preceded in death by:
Father: Roy Frederick Wait, Sr
Mother: Freda Delores (Fleming) Wait
Sister:  Vivian (Wait) Head
Sister:  Shirley (Wait) McFall
Sister:  Doris (Wait) Budin and brother-in-law Bob Budin

Cars and Family were his passions.  He put over 250,000 miles on his 1990 Lincoln Mark XII visiting family and friends.  He enjoyed driving, photographing, and tinkering with cars.  Whenever Dad would borrow one of our cars, he would bring it back washed and waxed, oil changed, tires checked, with a full tank of gas.  He was known to lure you into the car with the promise of ice cream and trap you there while he visited friends and family… we would eventually get ice cream, but a 15 minute trip always took 3 hours.  Cousin Sheryl said that they used to tell him ‘You drive like a rocket and stop like a bomb!”

Dad was also known for his wry sense of humor.  We fought over who had to sit next to him because it was inevitable that that person would end up with his hand clamped on your knee.. he could hit that nerve there every time and send you to the roof!  He couldn’t let a cake or pie sit there peacefully without poking his finger in the top of it.  It was his trademark!  He taught us kids to play cribbage when we were in grade school and we would play for a penny a point and he actually kept score!  I would say that over the years, he probaby has an 80/20 win/lose ratio..  but I think I skunked him twice!  (he skunked me waaaaaayyyy more than that!)

He taught me “old math”.  9+9 turned into 10+10-2.    18, either way.  I still add that way!

Dad loved his cell phone!  He is the only person I know who used every single minute on his plan!  750 anytime minutes… 3000 night and weekend… and he still had free PCS to PCS calls!  He got so mad the day they started charging to check his minutes!  “They use up a whole minute before they even start telling you what you have left!”  Tony just took his phone to the SprintPCS Store to print out his numbers so we can make our calls and they came back with 8 pages of phone numbers!!  This could take a while…

We’re in the process of going through his papers looking for his DD214 (discharge) papers.  We can’t find that, but we have found every single card that anyone has ever sent to him!  He would cut the return address labels off and tape them to a sheet of paper so they’d be easily accessible.  He kept everything!!!  Letters, bills, receipts, rabies papers for Sheba (his dog who has been gone for a couple of years now)…  Here’s a good example of what we found:  A 22 rifle that he bought from JC Penney in about 1970… in the original box.. mint condition… with the receipt (that was filed away in the desk).  His place is like a continuous time capsule of his life.  We have found so many packets of pictures in his place… old navy pictures, family pictures, car shows, parades, vacations, and old family photos.  My big Project is going to be to sort through it all, put it in order, make copies for family, and add them to albums.  I hope to get it done before the family reunion this summer, too!

I miss him already…  no more 7am phone calls just to say “hi” (he never got the hang of waiting until ‘double digits’ to call me)…  no more evening calls to say “what’s for dinner?”  even if he’d already eaten…. he would ask you to do things just to see if you would do them and then say that he was just kidding… 

He was strong enough to stand his ground when he was right, but soft enough that he would do anything for anyone.  He could dish it out, and take it too!  He was loved.

Dad's newest grandkid, Skylar, at his Grandpa's grave 2009.
Dad’s newest grandkid, Skylar, at his Grandpa’s grave 2009.

Dad is buried near his parents at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Ruby, Nebraska.

Roy F Wait, Jr.
US Navy
March 16, 1931 + March 25, 2004
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