As some of you know, I lost my cousin Bernard last week in the Navy Yard shooting. Bernard was very delightful and sweet man, and we will miss him dearly. One of our drum circles, some of our elders and lots of family attended the funeral earlier this week to bless his passage to his place of rest. The Washington Post published the article linked below yesterday.
Under a red tent at a Waldorf cemetery, relatives and friends of Navy Yard shooting victim Kenneth Bernard Proctor Sr. gathered around a black casket with a spray of white roses. His two teenage sons sat near their mother, listening to distant drumbeats coming from the edge of the cemetery, where the Piscataway Conoy Tribe of Maryland performed an honor song to help Proctor’s “spirit travel to its final resting place.”
“We always perform an honor song for tribal members when they cross over to the spirit way,” tribal leader Mervin Savoy said.
The tribe had prepared a white leather pouch for Proctor, 46, who as a child performed with the Piscataway Conoy Dance troupe for six years. He was proud of his heritage and was able to trace his tribal ancestors back to 1734.
In the leather pouch buried with his casket, the tribe had gathered things meaningful to Proctor. “In the pouch are three sisters: corn, beans and squash for nourishment,” tribal member Lisa Savoy said. “Tobacco, sage, cedar, pine and sweet grass to carry his spirit peacefully . . . down from thistle — the white fluffy part — to rest his head. Finally, the seven clans: turtle, wolf, snake, deer, bear, beaver and wild turkey so he doesn’t travel alone.”
Proctor, who lived in Waldorf and graduated from La Plata High School in 1984, held jobs with the federal government for 23 years. On the day of the shooting, he was working as a utilities operation supervisor at the Navy Yard’s water plant.
“He didn’t work in Building 197,” said his oldest brother, Fitzgerald Proctor, who lives in La Plata. “I found out he was in the boiler plant right next to 197. When he heard the commotion, he came out to see what was going on. That’s what we heard. We do not know what happened after that.”
When Fitzgerald Proctor learned of the shooting, “I didn’t want to think anything negative,” he said. “I was hoping for the best and really praying he wasn’t involved until we found out later that night.”
Rear Adm. Katherine Gregory, who attended the Mass and burial at Trinity Memorial Gardens, said the Navy mourns for Proctor.
“His reputation was he was just a great person to work with and be with,” Gregory said. “People loved working with him. Everybody in the Navy really feels his loss. We are one Navy family. We’ve lost a family member, and we are really sad.”
During the visitation and Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in La Plata, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) presented a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol to Proctor’s two sons.
“Your father was one of those extraordinary people who come together to make America what it is,” Hoyer said. “He will never be forgotten.”
Proctor loved watching boxing, cheering for the Redskins and coaching his sons’ football team. Family members said he also had a passion for fishing and working on cars.
At the church, Kenneth Proctor Jr. stood up and told of how his father had taught him to honor and respect others.
“One day, we were out grocery shopping, and there was an old lady in front of us,” the younger Proctor recalled. “My father noticed she couldn’t buy all the items. He stepped up and bought them. He said later the reason he paid for them was because if it was his mother, he would want someone else to step up.”
After the burial, Kenneth Proctor Jr. held the folded U.S. flag. Then he bent over and touched his father’s casket and plucked a single white rose from the spray.