Robert John Cragin was the son of Robert Clark and Medorah H Cragin. He was Gramma Cecil's brother (or for us Gibsons, our great uncle)
This is copied word for word from the Carthage Evening Press. The date, July 28, 1939 was penciled in at the top of the page. The newspaper clipping belongs to my Cousin Sharon who so generously loaned it to me.
MANY IN CRAGIN TRIBUTE
FELLOW FIREMEN FROM OVER DISTRICT ATTEND RITES
Attorney John Flanigan Eulogizes
Assistant Chief and Pumper Truck Carries Body to Cemetery
Fellow firemen from Carthage and surrounding cities, city officials, world war veterans and friends this afternoon paid tribute to the memory of Robert J. Cragin, Carthage assistant fire chief, at rites held at the Ulmer funeral home. A crowd of approximately 400 persons was present.
Attorney John H. Flanigan eulogized the fire department official whom he characterized as a friend of the unfortunate.
Visiting firemen from Webb City, Joplin and other points were seated in a body for the services.
Mrs. Ed C. Ulmer sang "Going Down the Valley" and "Going Home." Mrs. Wayne Pierce played the accompaniments.
Pumper Truck Is Hearse
The fire department large pumper truck, draped in black, served as the hearse to convey the body to its resting place in Park cemetery.
Members of the fire department and police department served as pallbearers. These were: Firemen Arthur Keltner, William Case, Clarence Kester and John Brydges, and Policemen Roy McLaury and Ray Vaile.
A firing squad from the Carthage Military club fired three volleys at the grave and Roy Sturdy, bugler, sounded taps.
Mr. Cragin died Thursday morning from burns received Wednesday when flaming gasoline was thrown on his clothing as he was using the fluid to prime a trash fire. He had served as assistant chief of the fire department 4 1/2 years and had been a member of the fire department 20 years, serving continuously since his return from overseas where he served a year and 5 months with the American forces during the war.
Following is the address in full of Attorney Flanigan, delivered at the services this afternoon:
"Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
These words from the book of Proverbs come to us with peculiar force today.
Only three days ago Robert J. Cragin was in the flush and prime of life. His health was excellent and before him stretched the pleasant prospect of a green old age.
Two days ago he died in anguish and in pain and now he "sleeps in cold obstruction and insensible oblivion."
When he arose in the freshness of last Wednesday morning he felt no premonition of disaster, yet disaster impended and was about to fall. Unconscious of the approach of doom he proceeded with the performance of his daily tasks. He was a fireman; a trained fighter of fire. He had met that enemy on a thousand fronts and had never met defeat. Yet fire destroyed him, -- not a mammoth conflagration of vast structures, but a little blaze,-- a tongue of fire that, like a red avenger, wrapped and mantled him in searing flame. Bob Cragin was terribly burned and maimed. He called to his comrades for help. Quickly came his friends, John Tryon, Dock Keltner, and Jim Farmer. With fearless and unselfish hands they smothered and beat out the flames, but his life they could not save.
Bob Cragin was a man of iron nerve. He did not repine or falter except to blame himself for carelessness, and when the ambulance had come he walked unaided to the waiting car and climbed within. In a few minutes he was at the hospital, where everything that sympathy and science knew to do in such a case was done for him, but done in vain, for shortly after dawn the next day his painful breathing ceased and he was gone to "that bourne from which no traveler returns."
In all his agony and torture his lips spoke no word of complaint. If life was done for him--if this was journey's end--he would, like the philosopher of old, "meet death as tranquilly as a star meets morning."
In this fatalistic attitude he met his death. No stupor came to his relief, no numbness dulled his faculties, but wide awake and fully conscious to the last quick breath he met "the angel with the inverted torch" and passed forever from the world.
Nature in her kindlier moods seals up the consciousness at the approach of death, and lets the weary traveler pass in sleep. Not so in his case. For him there was no anodyne and every pang that Death can deal was felt and suffered and endured by him until the end. So I say to you that he was a brave and valiant man, for he met his death without flinching and without a sob. Only the brave can die with flying colors and with head unbowed.
What manner of man was this who "kept his rendezvous with death" so bravely? He was a gentle and kindly man. Let me tell you
"That best portion of a man's life, his little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
Bob Cragin was sincerely interested in the helpless, the homeless, the forlorn and he was a lover of dogs. He was interested in the cares and troubles and anxieties of other people. Too often men pass through this world with never a care for their fellows; too often the clouds of selfishness blot out the sunshine of the soul. Not so with Bob Cragin. His friends tell me they have seen him give his dinner to a homeless dog and then go buy another himself; they tell me he had shod the feet and clothed the bodies of poverty stricken boys and girls. Human need and human suffering always touched a responsive chord in him and freely and unselfishly he gave alms where alms would help. But he gave more than alms, for he gave himself, his sympathy, encouragement and cheer. He was brother to every traveler on the Jericho road--the longest and weariest road in this world--that road lined with fallen ones--and unlike the Priest and the Levite who passed with faces averted, but like the Good Samaritan, he was forever kneeling in the dust of life's highway to lift the fallen and to help the maimed and hurt.
That man who has not sometime pressed a cup to famished lips, or clothed the naked, or fed the hungry; who has not sometime sat in sympathy at the bedsides of pain; who has not sometime solaced the heartbroken, or given rest to the weary or encouragement to the despondent, has not lived and has not paid a farthing of the debt that he owes the Creator. But Bob Cragin did these things, not once, but many times. He did good among men without ostentation or the pride of a Pharisee. He did good because he loved mankind, and would "make the world brighter and better, and bring sunshine and gladness to hearts in gloom."
If, as it is said in the epistle to the Galatians, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," then I have no fear of Bob Cragin's harvest. Many is the human heart that was made gladder by his life and made sadder by his death.
Bob Cragin had no creed in the narrow sense. He was an agnostic. He did not pretend to know the answer to the riddle of life and death and he did not profess to know to the point of certainty that there is another and a perfect life beyond the grave. No revelation had been brought to him nor did he have that simple faith and perfect trust that guides so many through the vale of tears. Some men are so constituted that they question the tenets of faith and the affirmations of orthodoxy, and he was one of these. But surely no man is to be punished because he cannot believe, for belief is not a creature of the intellect or of the will. The intellect proceeds on inquiry. It hears the evidence. It sorts the arguments and comes to its conclusion by a deliberate selection of postulates that appeal to reason and by rejection of those that reason cannot accept. But faith is of a different sort. It comes as a gift from Heaven and blessed are they who have it.
If Bob Cragin was denied that gift should any man blame or condemn him? Nay--rather should they who have that faith pray unto Almighty God that the verity of that faith may be made manifest to him, and that he be received into that "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
But faith or no faith, the worth of a man should be measured by his deeds. If any man keepeth the commandments of the Lord, and there be an eternal morning stretching in unimaginable splendor beyond the shadow of the tomb, then the keeper of the commandments shauld have eternal life. That is the creed of the agnostic. He would not weaken or destroy the faith of any man nor blot out a single ray of hope. He does not know the answer to the mystery of death; he will abide in patience until the veil be lifted and the riddle solved; and in the meantime he will live this life to its fullest and its best, bringing cheer to the downcast, help to the needy and hope to all that mourn.
Jesus of Nazareth said that the great commandments of the Lord are two: First, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind; this is the great and first commandment. And a second, like unto it is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets."
Another prophet said: "What doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God."
By these tests Bob Cragin has earned eternal life. As Cowley said:
"His faith, perhaps in some nice tenets might
Be wrong; his life, I'm sure, was in the right."
As Bob Cragin faces the Almighty One his hands we know are "filled with deeds of charity--the golden keys that ope' the palace of eternity."
In his last moments as he said his last farewell to his stricken wife, his thoughts turned to his faithful little dog, and he adjured his wife to "take good care of Petey."
Now we proceed to bury all that is mortal of Bob Cragin. The police of this city, who were his friends and who loved him, are his guard of honor; his associates in the fire department, with tender, loving hands, will bear him to his grave; and when the last word has been spoken and a solemn stillness reigns, it will be broken by the crackle of a military salute, for he was a soldier in the army of the United States and served with honor in Flanders and in France.
With the Stars and Stripes for a winding sheet, with military salute for requiem, with the prayers of his loved ones and his friends for a benediction and with many deeds of loving kindness as his voucher, let us commit his body to the ground and his soul to the God who made him.
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