Last night, the three of us spent two or three hours alone in a room talking about Dad. We’re not really the type of people to do the heart-to-heart thing, at least with each other, but this was nice. And we found that our experiences and our impressions of our father were completely in sync. We took notes while we talked, we discussed which were the parts that we really wanted to convey to all of you who didn’t know him as well as we did, and then we each took turns revising each other’s drafts until it said what we want this to say. So every word comes directly from all three of us.
First of all, you’ll have to forgive us if we seem a little green at this. Giving speeches was always Dad’s job, and we relied on him to represent us with eloquence and wit.
We relied on Dad for help with pretty much any problem that came into our lives that was beyond our immediate capacity to handle alone. This was a guy who was an expert in law, business, and real estate, but more than that, he was just an unbelievably smart person who could always see the logical side of any situation. No matter what kind of help you needed, he would have the answer, or he would know where to find it, and armed with that knowledge, he would devise a plan for you almost immediately, and usually took active part in implementing it. And it was never an imposition to him. On the contrary, nothing brought him greater joy in life than having a loved one come to him with something that he was in a position to help with. And he’s been there for us in every capacity for our entire lives. From helping with our homework to helping with our taxes, from arranging new living situations to the occasional need for legal advice, any time we found ourselves in an intimidating area, we always knew what to do. We’d simply bring it to Dad, and everything would be fine.
Dad’s number one priority in life was to nurture and support his family. But we’re not just talking about the four people in his immediate family who shared his house. This philosophy extended to his parents, his siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, and all of their extended families, but even beyond, to all his friends in Rotary, Mom’s friends in Sweet Adelines, his bridge community. Every time one of us brought a new girlfriend home to meet him, he always made them feel like an immediate part of the family. Dad made himself available to pretty much every person he came in contact with, and his council, friendship and love was always valued.
His greatest joy was to be around family and friends. Our childhood was filled with large family parties at almost any holiday, and he loved socializing at these events. His passion for theater has already been discussed, but what wasn’t said was that he rarely bought just two tickets. He always purchased four so that he and Mom could bring a second couple. He was never satisfied vacationing with just Mom, if it was possible for the whole family to come along. Even in our adult lives, they’d always want us with them. They often vacationed with their parents and siblings as well. Dad would leap at any opportunity to spend time with family and friends. As much as he meant to each of you, we can tell you, you meant just as much to him. And one of the saddest ironies of today is that he’s not here right now to enjoy the company of everyone in this room. Tragic circumstance notwithstanding, the opportunity to spend the day with this gathering would have been the highlight of his year.
All three of us were very close to Dad when we were growing up, because he made great effort to involve himself in our lives. When Joel and Aaron took up soccer, he signed on as coach. All three of us served in Indian Guides with him. When he started spending much of his time at Bridge tournaments, he arranged jobs for us as caddies. Joel and Aaron attended several Rotary conventions with him. Even when we weren’t living at home, we could still expect frequent phone calls from he and Mom, that they were in the area and wanted to take us to dinner.
Any time any one of us took an interest in something, Dad’s support was unwavering. In the 23 years Mom’s been in Channelaire, he may have missed one performance. Joel’s only been a member of the Masters of Harmony chorus for a short time, and already he and Mom have traveled across the state several times to see him sing live. All three of us have dabbled in theater, and we could always count on Mom and Dad to attend on multiple nights. We’ve never had to wonder whether he was proud of our accomplishments. Our whole lives, we’ve been inundated with reports of him raving about us to anyone who’ll listen. He wasn’t the type of guy to ever say "I love you" out loud to anyone other than Mom, but he didn’t have to. With us, there was never any doubt.
In the last three and a half years, we’ve had the opportunity to see Dad’s loving nature in its purest form as he became a grandfather. He absolutely lit up around Jonathan and Kaitlyn, and he took huge joy in their company. And they were both crazy about him. For the last six months of Dad’s life, he and Mom have shared their home with Matt and his family, and it’s been a very special time for every one of us.
Dad lived by strong ideals, but he was never preachy about it. He didn’t demand that we learn from him. He simply taught us by setting an example, and we absorbed those ideals because we were the recipients of them. Enjoy your life. Keep friends and family close. Offer help whenever you see that your expertise can benefit another. Those are the qualities that will transcend to our kids, and to theirs. And also, we expect, to most of you in this room who’s lives he touched. We are who we are because he was who he was.
And there’s no better legacy than that.