By Jim “Pappy” Moore
On September 15, 1924 a country boy was born in Angelina County. His mama died giving birth to him. His family lived a hard life. They were salt of the earth. He shared his departed mother with her other son, Hollis Capps. Baby William Iris Capps would grow up as an older brother to his two younger siblings – Marshall and Doyce Capps – born to his father and the wife he married after Lillian died giving birth to W.I. Capps. Ma Capps became the only mother William Iris knew after Lillian’s passing at his birth. Life was so much harder then than it is today.
Twenty years later would find 20-year-old W. I. Capps in the US Army, fighting Japanese soldiers throughout the South Pacific in 1944 and 1945. After the war Iris would come home to Angelina County, where he would meet and soon marry Faye Bridges, a daughter of Winnie and Harold Bridges. They lived in Herty just east of Lufkin, Texas.
In 1947 W.I. Capps and Faye Bridges Capps had their first child, William Michael Capps. In 1949 their first daughter would follow: Lillian Ileene Capps. The second sister, Patricia Ellen Capps, was born in 1955. Iris worked at the Paper Mill. Faye was a hard-working full-time wife and mother.
It was October 1954 when I met Iris Capps, his wife Faye, his son Michael, and his daughter Ileene. I took an instant liking to Mike and Ileene. Ileene and I were both five, born weeks apart in 1949. Mike was that older brother type for me. Almost seventy years later, I am still close to those three Capps kids. Faye passed away in 1990. William Iris lived another 30 years, until spring of 2020.
William Iris Capps was one of the most optimistic persons you could ever hope to meet. He woke up each day with a song literally in his heart. He was the main song leader at the church where my Daddy was hired to preach. The Capps were part of an extended family that filled many of the pews at that church.
Iris had a wonderful voice, and he sang with such devotion and intensity. He believed the words of praise and godly obedience he sang in those songs. He led us in such a way that spirituality was supercharged in the singing at our church.
My Dad and Iris Capps would be friends from 1954 to 1971. My Dad died of cancer at age 45 in 1971. It was one of life’s ironies. Iris Capps had served in World War II under the most horrendous war conditions, while my father was disqualified for having a heart murmur. Iris had to fight off Tuberculosis and other diseases. He had a strong smoking habit for many years, and he managed to kick that. Iris would outlive Daddy by forty-nine years.
William I. Capps loved his kids, loved his grandkids, and he loved the Lord. He arose each day with goodness in his heart. He usually kept it to himself if he was rightly disappointed in someone he knew. I know this because he had reason to be rightly disappointed in me, but he kept his heart open to me. I visited him many, many times in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and into 2020. It was impossible to talk to him without being impacted by his positivity and spiritual devotion. We often talked about my Daddy. Sometimes he would bring up the occasions Daddy and I would borrow his pickup truck to go cut and haul firewood. Daddy had an incredible ability to get that truck stuck in mud somewhere – in a backyard, or a pasture, or deep in the woods. Those memories never failed to get us laughing. Daddy getting it stuck. Daddy and I unloading the loaded truck, then figuring out how to get the truck unstuck. Iris and I would laugh about that every time we talked about it.
When Iris passed away in spring 2020, he was ninety-five. He knew it was coming and we knew it was coming. What we didn’t know was that Covid restrictions would mean his funeral would not be open to all the people who wanted to pay their respects for the great man, great Christian, and decorated war hero. Instead of going to a funeral, we watched on live TV camera transmissions the graveside ceremony. The service was dominated by the incredible and joyful singing of a bird. The tweet-tweet-tweeting was loud and animated. It sounded like songs of praise. William Iris Capps loved birds, especially Blue Birds. He made countless bird houses over the years. I wonder if that bird singing his praises might have been honoring Iris that day. How many times must they have heard Iris Capps in the morning, singing his heartfelt praises to the Lord?
We miss you, William Iris Capps. You made a big difference in many lives.
Copyright Jim “Pappy” Moore, 2023. All rights reserved.