Today, my family buried my father who died about 10 days ago. We had hoped my brother John could come home from California, but his wife Wendy is suffering the affects of chemotherapy and he chose to stay with his wife. It was the right thing to do, but I’m sure his heart was right here with all of us.
My father lived 89 years in the same town; in fact, in his lifetime, he moved one block from where he was born. He served on the volunteer fire department for over 40 years as an active member and 25 more years as an honorary member. The fire truck he used to drive in the 1940’s led the procession from the church to the cemetery past the park where I played as a child, past the old fire station where he served (and played poker once a month), and finally past the home where he lived for over 65 years. It was a fitting end for a man who served others most of his life. At the cemetery he was honored as a World War II vet, with a 21 gun salute while the stars and stripes covered his casket.
One of my cousins asked if I would post the eulogy I gave at the funeral. So, as one last salute to my Dad, here are my final words.
Today we’ve come together to honor my Dad.
Because he lived such a long, rich life, many of his friends have passed before him, but I see their children sitting here today. His sisters Beverly and Ellie are here, and so are his nieces, nephews, and grandchildren and one of his two great grandchildren. I hope all of you realize you had a special place in Dad’s heart, even though he may not have said it in words. Dad’s long life touched everyone sitting here either directly, or indirectly through the friends of his children who are here to support us. I want you all to know how much our family appreciates your presence as we send our father off with honor and dignity.
My Dad was a good man. He loved his wife and his family more than himself. He served his community as a volunteer rescue and fireman for most of his adult life, and he also served his village on the planning commission to make Sturtevant a better place to live. His life was simple, but rich.
He was lucky to call a special person “friend” since he was three years old. Now most of us have had children that age, so it’s hard to imagine two little boys barely out of diapers becoming friends. But that’s what happened when Roy Stuart wandered down to my Dad’s house on 96th Street one day. It wasn’t long before Dad found Roy’s house, and their friendship has seen them through to this day.
Roy told me a funny story when we sat together at the hospital watching my Dad sleep. When the two of them were around eight years old, they liked to go the Herzog farm to go swimming. You see, there was a pond there, but before they jumped in, they had to chase the cows out. The swimming hole was muddy pond, but Dad said he learned to swim there. Roy said it was a miracle they didn’t die from typhus .
When I was born, my Dad was proud to have a girl. He proved it his entire life. When I was in first grade, I had tonsillitis much of the school year, and Dad would stop on the way home from work to buy me a chocolate milkshake at the new McDonald’s to soothe my sore throat. When he took me to the father/daughter breakfast at church he bought me a corsage to make me feel special. When I was thirteen, I needed a new winter coat. Mom budgeted $20 for the purchase, but we had no luck finding something suitable at that price. When we did find one we both loved, it was $35. One night after work, Dad took me back to Penny’s where we had found the coat, made me model it for him, and he made up the shortfall, so I could have the beautiful red coat. Every time I put it on, it was like getting a hug from my dad. I never knew where he got the money until I was much older and my mother confessed he used his poker kitty to buy me the coat. Playing poker once a month with the guys at the fire station was one of the few things he did for himself.
As the oldest child, I was pretty much a test model, so Mom and Dad were stricter with me than John, Mark and Chris. But being the oldest did have a few perks. I got to go with Dad to pick out the Christmas trees, and every Thanksgiving I got to carve the turkey with him. Dad taught me how to play baseball as good as any boy, and how to oil my glove and mold a nice pocket. When I taught myself how to roller skate on the cement sidewalk in front of our house, he cried when he saw my black and blue butt. He ran beside me when I learned how to balance a bike and cheered when I took off on my own.
The most important thing my Dad did was teach all of his children how to be good people. He gave us everything we needed to live happily on our own. He taught the boys how to be good husbands and loving father’s by his own example. I learned how to love a husband by watching my own two parents be happy together.
Today, we say goodbye to him, and we’ll share our memories. Tomorrow we’ll go on without my him. But no one should be sad. Dad was ready for his angel wings, and I truly believe he’s having a great time getting reacquainted with old friends, his brothers Marco and Jimmy and sisters Mary, Rosie, and Josephine. And of course, he’ll dance with my Mom again.
He wouldn’t want us to cry; he’d want us to remember the words of his favorite Nat King Cole song entitled “SMILE”.
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.