Eulogy for my Dad
Friday, October 7, 2016
As many of you know our dad’s passing on Wednesday [October 5, 2016] came as a surprise. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about because Dad wasn’t the sick person we saw the past two years. He was a vibrant and active man, a healer and kind father and husband.
I could tell you about all of dad’s professional accomplishments but they really are too long to list so I’ll try and summarize.
Dad was born in Windsor, Ontario and so was my mother, but they met in London, Ontario, where I live now. Dad was attending the University of Western Ontario to become a doctor and mom was attending Victoria School of Nursing.
Dad received his degree in diagnostic and therapeutic radiology and was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and Fellow of the same prestigious organization, as well as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology.
He worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sarnia, Ontario waiting to immigrate to the US to practice there and started working at Grace Hospital in Detroit. He later became Chief of Henry Ford Hospital Therapeutic Radiology. In fact, he started that department and is a legend in the hospital because he forged into new area of cancer treatment and research there. He also held several teaching positions including Clinical Instructor, Assistant Professor and Acting Chairman in Radiology at Wayne State University Medical School. He was Director of the Therapeutic Radiology Residency Program and School of Radiation Therapy Technology at Henry Ford Hospital.
Mom and Dad moved to Columbia, Missouri in 1983 where Dad opened his own cancer clinic in conjunction with Columbia Regional Hospitals, where he also held the title of attending physician. That’s our dad on paper.
The man I remember, as a child, was very unassuming and quiet. He didn’t talk to us about his work but sometimes we’d go to his office with him. My biggest thrill was being allowed to use the typewriter. I think that’s where I got my start learning to type so quickly, that and mom making me take typing in Grade 9, which I thought was ridiculous but look what I do now. I’m a writer and can type 80 words per minute. So, yes, mom and dad had our future quietly planned, at least they knew we were going to attend university and created a life that allowed us this opportunity.
Of course there are so many memories I have of growing up and what I tell people is that, truthfully, I had a perfect childhood. We had loving parents who really cared about us. We learned the value of a dollar. Our parents came from modest families. When they married they weren’t wealthy. They bought their dream home in Farmington, Michigan for $25,000 and the living and dining room parquet floors were a place for my sister, Anita, and I to practice gymnastics because they couldn’t afford to furnish those rooms for several years.
One story dad told us was when he was in medical school and got a notice for a second term tuition. Though he worked in the Canadian Naval Reserve during the summers, something he was very proud of, especially in his retirement years, but that year he didn’t have the money to pay for his second term tuition. He went to the accounting office and they told him to fill out some papers and he got a bursary. Dad would give mom a dollar each week and asked her to hold onto it for him. They would go to the infamous Bobby Sox diner in London on the weekend and he would use that to have a hamburger. Being a skinny guy and putting all those hours in for school and internships, etc., this was a wonderful treat.
Dad had a loving family. We often visited our grandparents, dad’s parents, Bloomie and Joseph who lived in Windsor with dad’s brother, Uncle Lew. Lew and Dad were actually 21 years apart so Lew was more like a big cousin rather than our great uncle. The home they lived in was built by our grandfather and our father. We had our cousins, Stephen and Ellen State and their parents, Frances and Jack who lived in St. Thomas, Ontario.
Some of my fondest memories of bonding with dad included the day he decided to make bread from scratch with me and Anita. Mom was fastidious about a cleanly home, so he shooed her out the door that day and promised to have the place spic and span when she returned. I’m not sure how clean it really was because I remember being covered with flour from head to toe, but the result of our hard work was delicious.
On Sunday we would attend Hebrew School and Dad would take us to the bagel store and bring home a dozen bagels and cream cheese and lox and make scrambled eggs and we’d have a yummy brunch.
Dad also had a wonderful sense of humour. He would always pull a prank on mom on April Fool’s Day. Each year she swore she wouldn’t fall for it, but she always did.
Dad loved music. Every Sunday he’d pull out the portable record player. I know all the words to all the songs from Gigi and loved singing very song along with Maurice Chevalier.
He loved sailing, though his only solo attempt resulted in husband and wife overboard. Mom wasn’t impressed, to put it mildly. He enjoyed playing golf and tennis.
Our parents were married for over 50 years before mom became sick and died in 2009. They were the love of each other’s lives and we all missed mom, but dad missed her terribly. They were each other’s best friends. Every morning before he headed to work Dad would bring two cups of coffee on a bedside tray to their bedroom. Mom would be in bed and he’d sit on the side of the bed and, sipping coffee as they’d talk quietly together. He’d go to work and come home at night for dinner because they both felt it was important to be together, as a family, at the end of the day. As I said, it was a pretty ideal upbringing for my parent’s daughters.
In 2012 dad decided to move back to Michigan. He said it was an area he was familiar with and he would be close to me and his brother. He loved Canada and was proud to be a dual American and Canadian citizen.
I know this is just a sketch of our father’s life. He was a remarkable man. And today [at his funeral], as we put him to rest so that he can be with others that he loved so much, we ask that you remember him and all the wonderful times that you had with him when he was alive.