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Forty-nine years after his death, Earl Lotter took his last and final ride home to Kentucky.
Early Friday morning, Aug. 12, Lotter's family watched nervously as a vaulted casket was raised with care from his grave in Whitley County, Ind., where Lotter had lain since his death on July 11, 1959. The vault was placed on a flatbed trailer and pulled unceremoniously south on I-65 by pickup truck.
As a young man who moved away from Campbellsville, Lotter would toot his car horn as he drove across the bridge leaving Indiana and entering Kentucky in celebration of going home. The sign on the bridge reads, "Welcome to Kentucky."
The memory of his excitement was contagious. As the trailer with his remains was pulled across the bridge, as was the custom, his family tooted the truck horn to welcome him home.
Lotter was born March 23, 1925, to Herman and Dora Brockman Lotter. His mother died in 1931 leaving four small children. Herman remarried Mattie Elizabeth "Totsie" Lawson in 1933 and together they had four children. The family lived on a small farm on the Taylor County side of Finley Ridge Road, the same property where Lotter's brother Bob lives today.
Lotter's family left "The Ridge" in 1940, moving north to Fort Wayne, Ind. where his father found work. They lived there only a short time when the family moved back home to Taylor County. Lotter later went back to Fort Wayne to live with his aunt and uncle, Brack and Helen Wise. During World War II, he served his country and was discharged from the Army in 1945.
After his discharge, Lotter stayed in Indiana, where he married his wife Kathleen in 1948. However, Lotter died on July 11, 1959, when he was just 34 years of age, leaving a young wife and four small children.
Money was tight. Times were tough. His young wife could not afford to send his remains home to Campbellsville for burial. Lotter was buried in a small cemetery in Whitley County, Ind., where he rested for the next 49 years.
Time slipped by. Lotter's children graduated from high school, married, got jobs and made families of their own. Through the years, they talked about moving their father home. It just never went any further than a thought and a wish. Alone, they were not financially able to do it. But it is an amazing thing what a family can do when they come together.
Many have asked why, nearly five decades later, the children would decide to move their father's grave to Kentucky. The answer is simple, they say. His children moved him home because they knew that was where he would have wanted to be.
So, in August, as his son-in-law and two daughters drove south pulling the trailer holding the casket, they watched other drivers from the truck mirrors. Vehicles would drive up close behind the trailer to study their cargo. Even though the vault was wrapped in a tarp, there was no doubt what was on the trailer. It most certainly was a casket.
Once other drivers' curiosity was satisfied and they realized that it was a casket on the trailer, they soon passed by. Many a strange look came the family's way, but few looked them in the eye. They just couldn't help but laugh.
The 6 1/2-hour ride south somehow didn't seem to take that long. As they drove into Campbellsville, it felt more like a celebration.
When the truck and trailer entered Campbellsville on KY 210 and stopped at a light, a man in a car nearby couldn't help but stare. One sister asked the other if she knew the man in the car beside them because he was staring.
The other sister replied, "Well, hello! We are carrying a casket. What do you think he is looking at?"
Then everyone in the truck just howled with laughter. You don't see a casket being driven down the road on a flatbed trailer just every day.
The laughter was a release of so many different emotions. It was a relief that they had finally gotten their father home to Campbellsville without any problems.
Once they had driven around the bend heading toward the Brockman Cemetery, the truck and trailer were visible to those who waited. All had tears running down their faces when the vaulted casket appeared on the road below them.
His daughter Vicky waited for her dad. Harold, Bobby and Mary Lotter Thompson waited for their brother. Donnie Lotter, son of Lotter's deceased brother Dale, waited for an uncle he never knew.
Earl Lotter was finally home.
Lotter's daughters didn't feel another formal burial service was necessary. It had all been said 49 years earlier, and it was said again this day when the journey began and ended at the Brockman Cemetery.
A few words were spoken, a prayer said and then their Dad was finally laid to rest between his brother and father in a perfect spot that seemed to have been waiting for him all this time.
As a final note, after everyone had gotten in their cars and began driving down the lane, on a perfectly sunshiny day with blue clouds in the sky, out of nowhere, a few drops of rain fell.
It was like tears from heaven touching their lives as if to say, "Thank you. I am finally home."
- Tamara Parkison of Crown Point, Ind. is the daughter of the late Earl Lotter.
Jeff Zickafoose, who is married to Earl Lotter's daughter Debbie, secures straps around the tarp, getting the vault ready to travel.
A view from the rear window of the truck as Earl Lotter's vault crosses the bridge from Indiana to Kentucky.
Earl Lotter is "Finally Home."