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Obituaries of the Undead
Words by Jody Rathgeb
Edwin A. and Teresa C. Young, New Orleans, La.
Married couple Edwin A. and Teresa C. Young, whose informal and illegal restaurant, Win-Ter, was known in its Bywater neighborhood for Monday R&B Night, died in a house fire one year ago today. Although the house has been razed and nothing remains but an empty lot, the Youngs apparently continue their activities in the area.
Both of the Youngs were born in New Orleans, Edwin in 1950 and Teresa in 1952. They met during a second line parade in Marigny in 1978 and married in 1979. Their popular “restaurant” was a sideline for both, representing their shared love for their city, its food and its music.
Edwin Young was a plumber who worked with several New Orleans contractors on both new homes and renovations. Teresa Collins Young was trained as a secretary and worked in the city’s Health Department. The real love for both, however, was the traditional foods of their Cajun backgrounds.
Win-Ter began as a standing invitation to their Bywater neighbors and friends. Word spread that the couple made huge pots of red beans and rice every Monday at their house on Clouet Street, and anyone hungry was welcome. As word spread, newcomers and strangers were asked to contribute to costs; hungry musicians bartered entertainment for food; and offerings expanded to gumbo on Wednesdays and jambalaya on Fridays. Music settled into rhythm and blues on Monday, zydeco on Wednesdays and jazz-funk on Fridays.
Few betrayed the illegal establishment, but there were occasional raids. Patrons would chip in to pay the fines.
The fire that destroyed Win-Ter occurred at night and was likely started by a faulty gas jet in the kitchen. Friends mourned the childless couple with a second line parade, and distant relatives had the house razed. The property remains for sale.
Meanwhile, the aroma of red beans and rice fills the neighborhood every Monday, causing people to stand opposite the lot and stare. Some attest that they hear music as well.
“I seen Win just the other day, comin’ down the street with a big sacka beans,” says former neighbor Frank Poles. “I tried to talk with him, but he turned into a yard and I couldn’t find him.”
Some people have begun leaving empty bowls at the edge of the property on Monday nights. By morning they are gone; none has ever been filled.
Rebecca Adler, Richmond, Va.
Rebecca Adler, a house slave whose only hope in life was to see her son again, was trampled on March 5, 1852, by a runaway horse and cart while she was on a provisioning trip to Richmond.
She chose to stay in the city after her death, because it was there that she was separated from her then-10-year-old boy when they were put on the auction block to be sold.
Born in a nameless village in Benin, she was impregnated at age 13 by a member of a rival tribe during that tribe’s raid on her village. Ten years later, the whole village was betrayed by its rivals and she was captured by slavers. She and her son survived the sea journey to Virginia, but all her remaining family members died en route. When she and her child were sold in Richmond, a local plantation owner bought her but refused to also purchase her son, despite her desperate begging. She was put to work in the plantation’s kitchen and spent the rest of her life as a slave.
Rebecca refused to believe that her son was sent to New Orleans and hoped that he’d been put to work close to their auction site in Shockoe Bottom. She continues to walk the streets in that section of Richmond, and night she visits its clubs and restaurants.
“I saw her at the bar at Aqua,” recalls Sarah Woods, a student and Virginia Commonwealth University. “I noticed a girl in a headscarf and thought, you know, she was just one of those who dress to be proud of their heritage. But she was acting funny. She kept going up to guys and holding their faces, looking into their eyes. Kinda creepy. They say she’s searching for her boy.”
“I’ve seen her a couple of times at the market,” says Tim Johnson, who sells fruits and vegetables at the 17th Street Marketplace. “She sits with the homeless people, but she’s different-looking, kind of old-fashioned. And barefoot. That bothered me a little, but I guess if she’s dead she’s not cold.”
Rebecca Adler has no known descendants.
Thomas Taylor, North Caicos Island, Turks and Caicos
Thomas Taylor, who ran a dive and snorkeling operation on North Caicos Island until his 2012 death in a motorboat accident, has re-emerged as a tourist attraction, according to visitors and other tour operators.
Tay, as he was known in life, is now called “the talking fish,” or sometimes “the fish guy.” Snorkelers at Three Marys Cays encounter him as a large grouper that speaks to them, often pointing out such interesting sights as a moray eel hiding in the rocks or a turtle as it passes by. Others talk with him at length at Flamingo View Bar, listening to his stories, only to have him disappear when their attention briefly strays.
Tay was born in Bottle Creek and spent a happy childhood as the youngest of the six children on Isaac Taylor and Rowena Hall Taylor. “He was the jokey one,” says his mother, who still lives on the island. “He made us all laugh.” After graduating from Raymond Gardiner High School, he did not follow his siblings to jobs on Providenciales but instead joined his father as a fisherman. When Isaac left the waters to operate a taxi service, Tay also took an entrepreneurial plunge, taking dive training and refitting the boat for a water tours operation.
Gregarious and knowledgeable about the local waters, he was well-suited for tourism and had a good reputation among the visitors. He would end trips by taking the guests to Flamingo View, where he would entertain them with tales of his fishing days. His sudden death when he fell into the running motor of his boat while trying to free a caught line was shocking, and he was mourned by many.
Word about the talking fish began to spread within a month of Tay’s death. Snorkelers told stories about encountering the grouper, which were repeated by tour operators and increased tourism around the cays. “Tay’s almost as popular as Jo-Jo the Dolphin,” says Frimo Williams of Reef Madness. “Do I believe it? Trust me, I’ll believe anything that brings in this much business.”
Other local people say they have seen Tay since his death. A former friend, Arwin Forbes, says, “I see him in Flamingo View sometimes when I stop in and they’re crowded. He sits at a table in the back corner, talking to a tourist. But I haven’t been able to get close. By the time I reach, he’s gone and the tourist is looking around for him.”
Thomas Taylor’s survivors, including his mother, two brothers, three sisters, two sisters-in-law, two brothers-in-law and a number of nieces and nephews, don’t believe a word of it.
#Unreal #ShortStory #Fiction #Ghosts #PastLives #Haunted
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