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Tuskegee Airman is buried in custom casket detailed by his sons

Jun. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Retired Lt. Col. Harold J. Trabue, 86, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 24 in a custom casket designed and crafted by his sons.
Retired Lt. Col. Harold J. Trabue, 86, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 24 in a custom casket designed and crafted by his sons. (Photos courtesy of Ulysses Centaur)
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Retired Lt. Col. Harold J. Trabue, 86, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery June 24 in a custom casket designed and crafted by his sons. (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Centaur)

One airman received more than just his military honors as he was laid to rest June 24 at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.

Retired Lt. Col. Harold J. Trabue, 86, was buried in a custom casket designed and crafted by his sons, Mark Trabue and Ulysses Centaur.

“We were thinking of a lot of ways we could commemorate our father, and how we decorated the casket, we just felt like this reflected our emotions about him and his death,” Centaur said.

A national member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Trabue died Feb. 23 in Arizona. He was part of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and later retired from the Air Force in 1971. He acquired a Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters during his career.

For the brothers, who both own auto-body shops that detail and customize cars, it was the first time they had decorated a casket.

“We figured with our skills, and the way we wanted to honor him, that was enough inspiration to do this,” he said.

Centaur explained it didn’t take more than two days to design the stripped-down, blue metal casket. He and his brother used computer-designed graphics for the detail before they polished it up. The casket included a picture of their father from his time in the Air Force, three aircraft and other Air Force emblems.

For now, the brothers will go on with their day jobs enhancing cars — Centaur in Charlotte, N.C., and Trabue in Phoenix. They painted the casket in Phoenix and had it flown to Arlington.

But Centaur said they could do this in their spare time and are even willing to paint caskets for other service members in other military branches.

“With the turnaround time, we can do this, and with how expensive regular caskets are, we can devote part of our shops to making these,” Centaur said. “It would sure be nice if we could help others send their loved ones off in style.”

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