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Community comes together to support Custer family

April 17, 2020
Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle , Shepherdstown Chronicle

SHEPHERDSTOWN -- In adjusting to a life of social distancing, people wouldn't often think about how the loss of a loved one would fit into the new framework. Certainly, the friends and family of Christopher Aaron Custer, of Shepherdstown, never would have considered that question.

Sadly, Custer, who suffered from epilepsy, passed away at his home on April 8.

The loss itself would be crippling to any family; when adding in the restrictions placed on funeral and memorial services, the grief became even stronger.

Article Photos

A memorial was set up at the home of Shepherdstown resident Chris Custer, who passed away last week. In lieu of traditional services, friends and family formed a caravan of vehicles and tractors to drive by to show love and support to the Custer family. Toni Milbourne

According to Custer's cousin, Tricia Grove, going through the process of making funeral arrangements was strange.

"If families proceed with memorial services, only five are allowed and that is to include the minister, even if it's outside. Only two people were allowed to go into the funeral home to make arrangements," she said, mentioning that Custer's wife, Stephanie, and Grove's mother, Peggy Coulter, went in, while the rest of the family were video-conferenced.

Custer and his brother, John, always made the life of Coulter, their only aunt, happier.

"They are like brothers to our daughters," Coulter said. "Aaron [Chris] gave me a great-nephew, Kyle and his wife, Stephanie who is my only niece, that enlighten my life.

"Aaron was a great man with a big heart and would help anyone," Coulter said, mentioning it has been difficult to not be able to see her family and friends in this time of grief.

While the family will hold a memorial service at some later date, Grove said Stephanie wanted to do something to honor her husband now.

"Stephanie called me early Thursday morning before we met at the funeral home, and wanted to know my thought on a caravan of cars driving by their home to express their love to the family," Grove said.

Nathan Ware, a close friend of Custer, organized the caravan which began at Jefferson High School and proceeded to the Custer home on Engle Molers Road.

"While I'm not sure how many showed up to participate in this visitation drive by, I can tell you that there were rows of cars lined up. Following all the vehicles was a parade of tractors--this was a surprise to all of us," Grove said, mentioning Custer loved John Deere tractors.

Custer and his son, Kyle, participated in many tractor pull events, including at the Jefferson County Fair. Custer was a diesel mechanic and several years ago he and Kyle bought a John Deere 60 and restored it.

"Mike Duncan came up with the tractor idea," Ware said, regarding the tractor line-up parade. "We talked about it, and Mike put it out on Facebook Messenger and it took off from there."

"Reflecting back after this amazing event, it was so appropriately fitting, especially this being the location where Aaron's spirit was lifted to heaven to now be with his father and grandparents who I am sure were waiting with open arms," Grove said of Custer.

"Chris's passing was hard and no one expected it. His family endured a lot with Chris's condition over the years, and Stephanie and Kyle made one heck of team taking care of him," Ware added.

"It's incredibly difficult not to have family and friends gather to share in their grief and the memories in the most traditional way," Grove said.?

"But we will have a Celebration of Life for him as soon as possible," Coulter added. "It has been comforting to connect with friends and family via social media. The outpour of love and affection has been very comforting."

 
 
 

 

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