EULOGY FOR MY FATHER
Some of these thoughts were formulated while I sat by my dad’s side in his hospital room. At that time, he was here physically, but was somewhere else in another world, because his job here in this world was done. He was on the final page of his long life’s novel.
If there aren’t many people here today, that would be understandable. Twenty years ago, there would have been hundreds, as dad was well-loved and well-respected by his many friends. But, at 97 years of age, suffice it to say that he outlived almost all of his good friends.
My dad, , was born on M, 1908 in the town of Letichev in the Ukraine, Russia. This was a difficult time, especially if one was Jewish, as the terror of the pogroms took its toll. In 1919, dad, his brother (x) and his mother (xxx) came to the United States. They settled in Boston. Dad finished high school and was preparing to go to college and then law school. However, finances were such that he had to work full time and give up that dream. After a stint in the jewelry business and the grocery business he and his family came to New York in 1929. He started working for Nabisco in 1930 and retired after 40 years with the company. He came to California in 1970 and spent many years as a realtor.
During his life, while living in New York, dad was a member of the Knights of Pythias, the AJC (American Jewish Congress) the ADL (Anti-Defamation League). He was always a regular contributor to the UJA. He was also a member of Bnai Brith. Before his final move to Ft, he lived in the P in SXs, where he formed their Homeowners Association.
But enough of such a formal resume. When I think of the man, my dad, the words "integrity," "intelligence," and "love" immediately come to mind. During much of his tenure at Nabisco, he was Chairman of the newly formed Salesmen Union and Chairman of their Negotiating Committee. During my formative years, we had many discussions about these activities. At the time, Nabisco’s retirement benefits were unclear – some may say "somewhat secretive." Nobody was sure what those benefits were. This issue was a major one for the union and the result was a victory: finally a clear policy was developed. But, my father had plenty of conflicts within the union. He demanded that before we negotiate, the salesmen should do their jobs completely and unequivocally. By doing that, he felt he had a stronger negotiating position. He was willing to negotiate for higher salaries as long as the workers did their part. Basically, it was the philosophy of "an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay." He absolutely refused to defend workers who wouldn’t do that. I remember two major situations. One worker was fired for continually leaving early and not finishing his job. Another worker was fired for stealing. My dad refused to defend these men, despite the ire of those who felt the union should always defend everyone for every reason. Yes, my dad’s integrity was evident in these dealings. My dad had values and character before it was "cool."
My father was an extremely intelligent individual. He was always interested in politics, economics/finances, and the world around him. He would fiercely debate anyone on a variety of issues. His arguments, although at times vociferous, were always intelligent and cogent. His positions were well thought-out, despite his best friend Paul’s attempts to egg him on. I remember one evening calling my dad just to say hello. At the time I called, the President was giving his State of the Union address. I got royally chewed out for wasting my time calling him, "while our President was talking to the nation."
But, I’ve saved dad’s best attribute for last: the ability to love deeply and unconditionally. My dad married my mother, , in 1930. He loved her deeply. Upon their divorce after over 30 years of marriage, I chose to live with my father. We became quite the team; there was nothing we couldn’t do together. We discussed sports, politics, whatever. Dad was brokenhearted that his marriage did not work out, but we got through it. He was a wonderful dad, encouraging me to stick with my studies and taking joy with my own little successes and giving me suitable condolences when things didn't work out so well. I could not have asked for a more loving, supportive father.
Father remarried in 1970. He loved his **** very much and was devastated when she passed away in 1987. It is a measure of the man, that ****'s daughter-in-law at that time, P, is still a wonderful friend with us and considered dad her father, too. Upon ’s death, my father felt that at the age of 79 his life was over, too. However, he eventually joined a bereavement group, where he met the love of his life, M. They were married in 1989. How wonderful it was to see the smile return to his face. This past June 13 marked their 16th wedding anniversary. During those 16 years, they wrote many little love letters to each other, left on the kitchen table almost every morning. I want to thank M for bringing such joy into my dad’s life. Thanks to their mutual love, my dad was reinvigorated.
For many summers, my dad and his lovely wife, M, came to %%%, Michigan to spend a few months with us. (That would be me, my wife, C, and our two children, Y and T.) Those were some of the best days as we shared lots of joys and discussions together as a family. I also remember dad’s impatience and annoyance when, God forbid, M and C+l went shopping and came home five minutes later than expected! But, mostly I remember the sweet tears of joy at their arrival and the biting tears of sadness when it was time to end their vacation with us.
Once again, it is a testament to this man that he was a wonderful father to M’s daughter, Jy and grandfather to Bt, y, D, and St. Sadly, he was not well enough to meet his great grandson, O, but he did enjoy the pictures we sent.
Seven years ago, I was amazed that dad, at the age of 90, decided to sell his home in P and move to S in D. What spunk!
Oh, and I must tell the story about his driver’s license. Dad knew, in his early 90’s, that he really shouldn’t be driving, but he refused to give up his driver’s license. Then one day, he received his auto insurance renewal bill. It reflected a huge increase; surely there was a mistake as dad did have a flawless driving record. My father inquired about this and was told the increase was due to his advanced age. Well, he didn’t hesitate. He gave up his driver’s license before, as he put it, he "would let those SOB’s get another dime from him!"
Dad’s love and sense of humor was evident even in his final days. At the nursing home, M and I were feeding him lunch at a time when we were convinced that his communication skills and cognitive abilities were totally gone. He was in the aforementioned other world. He kept pushing his plate away, towards me. After the tenth time, he suddenly opened his eyes, leaned towards me, and whispered "You eat it, I’ll pay!"
So, you see, little did dad know in those sad days in 1987 that his long life’s novel would have such a wonderful final chapter. Dad, you can finally rest now. And rest assured that you’ve lived an honorable, loving life, worth living. We love you very much and now we bid you adieu. As we say, "you did good!"