Norman’s grave

Norman's grave in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, and a picture of the former U.S. service member.

A couple months back on this blog I mentioned a guy named Norman C. Schott. That’s him, pictured above.

Norman was an American ex-pat I met in 2020, a few months into the pandemic crisis, here in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines – where we remain today in anticipation of ongoing international travel opportunities.

Norman isn’t so lucky. He’s dead. Not of COVID (as far as I know), but the victim of a fall and hospitalization which lead to his demise.

Norman wasn’t really a friend – more like an acquaintance. He was a few years older than me. A navy veteran, he said. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin – based in Honolulu, Hawaii, he said.

I did enjoy his company a few times; conversation, beers, laughs, memories of northern USA winters, retirement tales, etc. One time he showed me his turntable and vinyl record collection, and his favorite album, Iron Butterfly, from 1968, the “summer of love” (photo below).

As I said in my first mention, I didn’t even know he had passed until weeks after his August 31, 2021 death.

After his passing, his body had been stored at a funeral home, 75 miles away, in our Provincial capital for weeks – unclaimed.

Shortly after I heard the news, his remains were returned and interred in our local cemetery — apparently courtesy of the local municipal (county) government.

As a fellow American and traveler ‘stranded’ by covid, I was bothered by Norman’s story. Maybe I envisioned such a fate could befall me?

Equally disturbing was the thought of a deceased US armed forces veteran forgotten/abandoned/lost on our island of Panay.

But truthfully, everything I knew about Norman’s saga was ‘second hand info’… scuttlebutt shared by mutual acquaintances.

Recently, however, myself and a couple of those acquaintances decided to confirm Norman’s ‘status’. We went to the cemetery, in search of his grave.

We found it. The red circle in the photo above marks the spot: Norman Schott’s final resting place — at least temporarily.

After a short search of the overcrowded, labyrinth-like, town cemetery, a caretaker took us to the correct grave — or should I say crypt or stack or hi-rise tomb?

Somewhat shockingly, the caretaker pointed at the top-corner ‘unit’ of a 5-story-high bank of concrete crypts. “The American,” she said, gesturing upward at the fresh, unmarked, cement box.

I squinted into the bright sky and gawked at the moldy makeshift mausoleum. Meanwhile, my Filipino comrades conversed further, in Tagalog, with the caretaker.

One bit of translation was solemnly offered, “The space is paid for the next 5 years”.

Apparently, the sky-crypt is ‘rented’. Don’t pay and you’ll be evicted? What will happen to Norman in 2026?

I’ve now sent an email to the U.S. Bureau of Veterans Affairs informing them of all these details. Hopefully, they might offer some solution or suggestions?

I’m also still considering contacting Norman’s family via Facebook. I was told there was some interaction with them by someone here locally at the time of his death, but I know nothing more.

Neither do I know the ‘family dynamics’ in play that have led to this American occupying the penthouse of a local Philippine ‘burial apartment’.

Maybe I’ll wait for a reply from the VA – something official -before stirring the pot further. Admittedly, the whole situation is awkward and unfortunate. But I also feel somehow obliged to help if possible.

In closing, I’ve passed by the cemetery a few times since my visit. I think of Norman every time. In fact, his resting place is easily visible from the nearby main road. He has a clear view of everyone coming and going from town.

Hopefully, one day he will have a better and more permanent place of repose – like a military cemetery or somewhere close to his family. We all deserve to rest in peace, no?

We’ll see what response I get from the VA – then go from there. For now, rest in place, Norman. Not exactly ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’, but I’m on the case.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!

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