This is Dad's eulogy, as shared by us three siblings--myself, my sister Amy and my brother Warren--at dad's funeral on April 19, 2015. We all stood before the podium, reading the parts like a script. We hope we made dad proud.
Our dad died last Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at approximately 11:30 a.m. We will miss him forever.
He was a great dad. He provided us with a nurturing loving mom, a secure financial situation and a stable life. His advice through the years, whether solicited or not, has been invaluable - both financially and otherwise. He was progressive, smart, tolerant and funny. He was wise, generous and engaging.
Frankly, our dad was amazing. He was born in Rhode Island to a family with no money. He worked on his uncle’s dairy farm in Connecticut; went to high school in Brooklyn where he was named most popular boy one year and class president another year. I think he always felt overshadowed by his brother but you would have to admit that Hartley was pretty amazing himself – a man larger than life. (And his son, Scott, our cousin, is here.) Everyone felt overshadowed by our Uncle Hartley. While we are at it, my grandmother, his mom, Shirley Lewis, was an amazing woman as well. She went to school to become a bookkeeper, thinking she was becoming a librarian.
Back to dad - Dad completed college through night school, became an accountant and then a certified public accountant. He married our mom and, after living in Brooklyn two doors away from where he grew up on Union Street, they moved to Long Island. His accounting business was in our basement until he moved on up to the big city. He loved numbers. He died April 14 – completing his last tax season early.
Our parents divorced in the mid 1970s. It wasn’t as common then, as it is now. He moved to Manhattan and Warren, Joanne and I would go each weekend on the Long Island Railroad to visit him. He was an amazing divorced father. And I know that now. I didn’t know that then. He showed us NYC, fancy restaurants, Broadway shows. He sent us to college and grad school, bought us our first cars, gave us down payments for our first homes and helped us make life decisions. He accepted our false starts and picked us up when we stumbled. I think he considered us in every big decision he ever made.
Dad was an involved father at a time when many men were not involved. All my friends knew him. He took us to his weekend home on Candlewood Lake in Danbury, Connecticut. He took my friends to Broadway shows and out to dinner. I have an email from him in 2009, where he plans the day to entertain Ryan and his friends at his home in Maine on Green Lake. He wrote:
“My suggestion for Ryan's party: 1)Invitees arrive between noon and 1pm ,2) they climb rocks, walk/run nature trail, take out party boat and jump into the middle of Green Lake, sink canoe and/or kayaks and jump on and about sinking boats, etc. 3) Amy and Jo entertain all invitees, 4) I grill hot dogs and hamburgers for serving around 4 pm 5) Give R his present and 6) W,M+B stay cool by doing as they choose.”
He invited our friends to Jordan Pond House in 2013 for a joint birthday celebration, mine and his. Here is what he wrote for the invitation:
“To celebrate my 8oth years of being on earth along with another
year for Amy we will party at Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine
gathering at 5:30 pm. Presents will not be accepted however each party
goer will either sing a favorite song or tell a (really) funny joke. D”
Most of the partygoers complied.
As you’ve probably realized by now, dad was a planner, which is ironic since his favorite saying, thanks to John Lennon, is “life is what happens while you’re making other plans. ” He loved NYC, Maine and Florida, and has owned homes in all. He had a great singing voice and would sing with us frequently. Warren and Amy each had a song that he sang with them on the way to the beach club in the late 60s. Amy’s was: California Here I Come (ironically, she ended up going to college and law school in California); Warren’s was: Baby Face (If you look at Warren's face, you totally will understand why!).
Dad and I would spend a lot of weekends together when he would take me horseback riding or I would stay with him in Manhattan or CT. We would sing the Tom T. Hall song, Sneaky Snake.
Boys and girls take warning
If you go near the lake
Keep your eyes wide open
And look for sneaky snake
Now, maybe you won't see him
And maybe you won't hear
But he'll sneak up behind you
And drink all your root beer
He sent the New York Times to each of us every day, as well as to our cousin Sabrina and his oldest friend, Harry Heineman.
He loved food and eating out. A few days before he died, I asked if he was dreaming while he slept. He said, yes. I asked him, about what. He said food.
Dad was our best friend. We spoke every day, he gave me advice on running my restaurant, we went fishing together, drove to Key West for long weekends, watched movies, talked about history, including WWII, which dad was very interested in.
One year, dad gave me a tacky birthday card and tie. My birthday is June 13th, dad’s is the 25th. That year, for his birthday 12 days later, I gave him the same card and tie. This began in 1978, as best as I can remember. We did this for decades. The card has since been lost. I still have the tie.
Dad and I shared several interests. He loves Bar Harbor, lobster rolls and fried clams. We both love open houses and shared that interest frequently - exchanging house listings in Bar Harbor and eliciting the help of brokers to show us houses that we had no intention of buying.
On July 4, 1976, my dad and I saw the Tall Ships in Hudson Harbor from downtown Manhattan. When the ships left, downtown was packed. There was no way to get a taxi, a bus or a subway. There was a mass exodus uptown. It was pretty scary. We walked along Third Avenue all the way up to 76th Street, which is where he lived. I felt safe and protected, never doubting that he was looking out for me. The next day he ended up in the hospital with a bad back. Every 4th of July, we remembered this adventure we had together.
Dad loved animals. He has always had a dog. Since 1972, he has been a father or grandfather to a poodle. When mom and dad lived on Union Street, they had a mini parrot, named CPA. Dad would tuck his shirt into his pants with the parrot safely tucked inside. For several years, his best breakfast partner was a cockatiel. Dad would sit at the breakfast bar in Westport, Connecticut feeding toast and cream cheese to the bird on his shoulder.
In the early 1990s, in Maine, Dad would take my son Brendan in his stroller to a local laundromat to visit a pot bellied pig who lived there. Actually, I think it was dad who wanted to see the pig.
He made many contributions to my favorite cause - the Bangor, Maine Humane Society. I’m not sure he knew this, but he was one of the top contributors in the Golden Paws Society. He purchased a kennel in honor of my sons’ high school graduations. One time, he told me to take $100 out of our joint account for kittens. I didn’t even know he liked cats. He didn't have to do any of that.
Speaking of charity, did you know that he has been a mentor of young folks here in Broward County? A Guardian ad Litem through the local court system? Volunteer at the local hospital?
We are so thankful for Beverly - for her friendship and for loving our dad so deeply. As he loved her. Words cannot properly demonstrate all she has done for dad throughout their 40-year friendship and 21-year marriage. They travelled to the Greek Isles, sailed the British Virgin Islands, visited Alaska, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma and Big Sur. They took a road trip along the coast from Vancouver to San Francisco. They hiked in Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and around Jenny Lake and Acadia National Park. They visited Savannah and Jamaica. They went to Fantasy Fest and dressed up. Dad was a very convincing Jean Luc Picard and Beverly was Madame Dracula before it became popular. When dad became ill six years ago, she stood by his side, not just going to all of his doctors appointments and making sure he took his meds but knowing more than the doctors about what was best for dad, taking part in every decision, working with dad as one. Thank you, Beverly. We love you not only for your devotion and love for dad, but for your friendship to us.
And of course, we are thankful for Dad - his heart and his guidance. His encouragement to all of us as we have embarked on and become successful at self employment. Amy is a lawyer, I am a chef/proprietor of a restaurant and Jo is a lawyer and novelist.
We have always wanted to please dad and to make him proud. That will never end. Our continued desire to make him proud will continue to impel us to learn something we would not have otherwise learned, to do a mitzvah we otherwise would not have done, to go higher and further than we would have otherwise gone. That is his legacy.
Dad’s soul lives in us and in his three grandsons. He loved spending time with them without their parents. They loved him and he has influenced all of them.
Brendan is my 23-year-old son. Dad was one of Brendan’s greatest advocates and supporters. Brendan started a job the day that dad died. He is doing really well. Dad needs to know this. I am sure dad is looking out for him just as he has done for us.
Here is an email that Ryan, my 21-year-old son, sent to him after dad stopped dialysis:
I know you aren't one for drawn out and emotional essays but, I'm going to write this anyway.
Ever since I was a kid, I lived in awe of your accomplishments, your lifestyle, and hard working mentality. You've taught me so many lessons about life in general that it's hard to pick a "top 10."
Your advice on career paths, on completing school, and how to commit to everything I do, is extremely valuable even to this day.
And while I've sometimes not adhered to it, and messed up along the way, you always had other possible solutions to suggest to me in order to motivate me to land standing up.
Honestly though, I think the thing that's going to stick with me forever is your constant application of dignity. You never seemed to let anything get to you, never seemed to make any decisions that might come back to haunt you, and never let anything hold you down for too long.
As a person you have my utmost respect and as my grandfather you have my love.
I'll miss you so much. Look the coming days in the face with pride in yourself and remember that none can match it, except my own.
I love you Grandpa, Be easy.”
Ben is mine and Marianne’s son, he is 14 years old. Here are his memories about dad:
He’s just the kind of a person who was always there, always supportive
He made me feel safe
His presence, the way that he held himself, made me feel everything was going to be okay
I remember hanging out with him a lot
Since I was little, I would go to Florida for a couple of weeks each summer to spend time with grandpa, Aunt Beverly, grandma and Aunt JoJo. Grandpa always took me to Tate’s which is this really cool comic store. Grandpa let me go crazy, I could buy whatever I wanted. Over the years Grandpa has bought me the best Gundam models ever.
While in Florida, I would hang out at his house, we’d go in the pool, sit on the couch and talk, watch movies. He’d come see us in NC and I would also visit him in Maine.
Grandpa loved the movie “Ted”, he thought Ted was hysterical. We watched it together. The best part was watching Grandpa laugh during the movie. He sent me a Ted doll, one that if you press a button he says things from the movie. If you know the movie Ted you know it’s dirty. Grandpa meant to send me the clean version but accidentally sent me the dirty one. My friends think he’s the coolest grandpa ever, and so do I. Grandpa and I exchanged Ted photos by email. Ted reading; Ted playing guitar, Ted eating, Ted hacking computers. I’ll miss seeing Ted the sequel with grandpa.
There was a little girl born on November 17th – the year the Beatles came to America and Cassius Clay became Mohammed Ali. She was a chunky little thing that came out of her mother’s womb with a shock of red hair on top of her head and chubby cheeks that soon would be dotted with freckles. Her father focused his eyes on this little girl and—even though he already had a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son that he loved like nothing he had ever loved before—this little girl grabbed a special spot in his heart because he saw her first.
This man, called Deanie by his mother, Dean by his friends, cradled the red headed, naked to the world, cooing infant, ingesting the brief moment before he knew he would have to share her with his wife, with his children who anxiously awaited the new addition to the family at home, with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, with friends and neighbors, and one day—he knew—he would have to vie for her attention with her teachers and friends, with her work associates and partners. So he took that moment and breathed her in, pausing time and cherishing the moment when he saw her first.
Throughout her childhood and into her adulthood he would smile and say, don’t ever forget, I saw you first.
Fifty years later, that man made a very brave decision to pause his life, to refuse a diminished quality of being, to shun life support and to die on his own terms. That little girl, now a woman, held his hand and rubbed cream on his back as his body deteriorated, as his mind collapsed, as his life slipped away. After he died, she sat with him for hours, watching him bathed in a beautiful light, so peaceful, until he was placed on a stretcher, wheeled out of his home and into a van.
I saw the van doors close and watched it drive away. Goodbye, Pops, I said, I love you. And don’t ever forget, I saw you last.
Everything We Need to Know We Learned from Our Father
Job advice: Have a career so you know what you’re unemployed from.
Financial advice: Pay off your credit cards each month. Invest for the long run. Don’t chase trends. Pay yourself first by putting away 10% of your income.
Social advice: Keep learning and make friends. Start a book group. Be charitable. Keep dollar bills in your car so you are always ready to give to those in need.
Technology advice: Don’t shun modern technology – Dad had an I-pad – but don’t give up on the old. He might be the last person to still record and watch videos on a VCR!
About luck: A person can get 3 hole-in-ones in one lifetime (Dad actually did. An amateur golfer's chance of one ace is 12,500 to 1).
Decision-making: Take your time making important decisions but remember -- (with help from John Lennon) Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.
Friends and family: Be loyal. Listen. Offer advice only when asked. Don’t be offended if your advice is not followed. Never say I told you so.
About love: Don’t offer your love easily but when you do, commit unconditionally.
Have Fun: Go to Fantasy Fest in Key West at least once. Dress up and stay on Duval Street.
About courage: Live life fully. Face death fearlessly.