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The final trip... done how he’d want it

“It was our last ride together,” said widow


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    The family of Pickens resident Norman Mulkey, who passed away on  Dec. 25, 2016, asked that he be transported from the funeral home to the gravesite in his favorite pickup truck. Here, pallbearers unload the casket as survivors, including wife Becky, look on. 

It was early afternoon on a Wednesday when Norman Mulkey was laid to rest just beyond the crest of a hill at Sunrise Memorial Gardens.  

The December 28th funeral procession that traveled there from Cagle Funeral Home snaked down the long drive that led  from the garden’s entrance to the gravesite, where final, teary goodbyes were said and hugs were exchanged. 

Up until the procession, Jerusalem community resident Norman Mulkey’s funeral was by all accounts traditional for the region; a preacher poignantly recounted the 72-year-old’s salvation experience, reminded mourners he was now at peace, and reflected on Bible verses, including John 4:6 that speaks of Jesus and his talk with the Samaritan woman at the well.   

Hymns like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” filled the funeral’s chapel between eulogies. 

When the music and reflections came to an end, family and friends filed outside where the funeral took an unexpected, but heartwarming turn. In lieu of the standard hearse, Mulkey’s casket was loaded onto his favorite pickup - a 1992 candy-apple red GMC he had bought used from Lawson Chevrolet. 

As pallbearers secured the casket in the bed two men whispered about Mr. Mulkey and how much he loved that truck. The pedals had even been retrofitted to accommodate its owner who lost a leg in the early 2000s.

  Son-in-law Dewayne Ray was asked to drive to the gravesite while Mulkey’s wife Becky rode along in the passenger seat. It was a private time when she could say her own personal goodbyes to her husband. 

“It was our last ride together,” said Becky, who invited the Progress to the funeral “so people would know they have choices and don’t have to use the hearse. He didn’t ask for the truck to be used, but I made the decision because it was his baby.”

Luke Wigington, a funeral director at Cagle Funeral Home, said the Mulkey family’s request is uncommon but not unheard of, and definitely an option for other families. The only other similar situation he recalled in recent years was a firefighter who was transported on a fire truck.

“If the family makes the request, we don’t refuse it,” said Wigington.

The Mulkeys provided their own vehicle because of its weighty sentimental value, but some funeral homes offer hearse alternatives. These rentals have to be returned, of course, but Norman’s ‘92 GMC is going back home where it belongs. 

“This little guy is going to get it one day,” Becky said pointing to her great-grandson. “We’re definitely going to keep it.”  ~