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November 20, 2006 at 10:25 pm #1486
Margaret Schwan died this month. It is too bad she wasn’t alive for her funeral procession.
She was born 90 years ago at 10th and Geyer streets. Her maiden name was Stetina. Her father was a printer. He printed the first menus for Famous-Barr. Margaret grew up and married Raymond Schwan. He was Lebanese. His parents had come to St. Louis for their honeymoon to see the World’s Fair. They stayed here.
Raymond and Margaret lived on the city’s South Side. They raised four children. Raymond was a truck driver and then he worked for a liquor company and then he worked for a hospital. He died nine years ago.
Shortly after he died, Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer. She chose not to have chemotherapy because she didn’t want to lose her hair. She did have radiation treatments. The cancer went into remission. Margaret continued to live at home. She also served as a tutor at St. Aloysius.
In June, she had her 90th birthday party. She seemed in remarkable health. In August, her only sister died. The day of her sister’s wake, Margaret learned that the cancer had come back. It was in her liver and in her bones. She did not seem to mind. She was a big Cardinals fan, and she made it through the World Series. When the end seemed near, she went to St. Mary’s Health Center. On her final day, she lost consciousness, and then woke up to see about 20 family members in the room. She said goodbye to each one personally. To her son, Raymond, she said, “I don’t want a funeral. I want a party.”
Then she closed her eyes, and said dreamily, “I smell smoke.” Her son, Richard, said, “You’re going the wrong way, Mom!” She opened her eyes and looked at him, and then closed her eyes again. A few minutes later, she said, “Am I still alive?” After a while, she died.
The family had a party just as she had wanted. Also, of course, a funeral, which was held at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. The priest said, “Between the Cardinals winning the World Series and Bob Barker retiring, Margaret decided it was time to go.”
Colonial Mortuaries was in charge of logistics. Because there would be a large number of cars in the funeral procession, the family had requested an escort to handle traffic. Colonial hired TrafficCops Inc. from St. Louis County. The trip from the funeral home on Chippewa to the church on Oleatha was uneventful. After the funeral, the procession headed toward Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
Raymond was in the limousine right behind the hearse.
“I think we had just left the city when the city cops pulled us over,” he said. “I couldn’t believe they were stopping a funeral procession to give us tickets. We were stopped for quite some time.”
According to his sister, Pat Schwan Williams, the procession was delayed for almost an hour. She said that the man from Colonial, Craig Grissom, apologized to everybody when they finally reached the cemetery. She said he said it was the first time he’d ever heard of a funeral procession being stopped and that the problem had to do with the traffic escort service using off-duty county police instead of city police.
Grissom politely declined to discuss the incident with me. This is really between the traffic escort service and the city police, he said.
Don Chandler, who owns the traffic escort service, said the tickets were a result of a misunderstanding. He said there is no friction between his company and the city police department.
St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa agreed that the incident had nothing to do with the service using county police officers. He said the service does not have the authority to stop traffic and go through red lights. If the lead cars go through an intersection and the light changes, the rest can follow, Mokwa said. But if the light is red when the first cars approach, they cannot go through, which is what they were doing, he said.
“So the issuance of summons was correct and legitimate, but that should have been done later at the cemetery. Stopping the funeral procession was poor judgment and a mistake, and I have spoken to the officers and I will call the family and apologize,” he said.
That is certainly a nice gesture, but perhaps unnecessary. Although the family thought it was definitely odd and maybe even a little disrespectful to stop the procession, everybody seemed to agree that Margaret would have enjoyed it. She had a strong sense of humor. At the grave site, the mourners sang, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
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