Friday, March 4, 2011


My dad died yesterday.

It was sudden. Two weeks ago he was working in his garden. Last Thursday he was hospitalized from a doctor visit, and Wednesday we found out he had one lung almost completely full of cancer. My brother and I were able to fly home to be there when they took him off the respirator.

I wish to pay tribute to my dad. Who was he?
  • He was the oldest son of a "Missouri Puke" -- that's the term Dad said they called people from Missouri who made the migration to California during the Dustbowl (like Okies for the folks from Oklahoma). He was born in 1930, so he entered the world when the economic times were horrible and it took a decade and a world war to recover. (Dad's the little guy on the left--his twin is on the right.)
  • Dad grew up in southern California before the L.A. River was cemented, when it was a river to swim in and not a place to shoot Terminator and Transformer movie action scenes in.
  • As mentioned above he was a fraternal twin--one of those sets where what one doesn't think of the other one does. The kind of kids who really give their parents a run for their money.
  • I honor him especially for a major life choice he made--not to carry on the family tradition of spousal abuse. My grandfather used to knock my grandmother around, and that behavior was their model of manhood. One time my grandfather had been drinking at a bar and brought home a woman he met there. Yes, he brought a woman to the home where his wife and children were at. My 16-year-old dad decked his father and laid him out, telling him that he would never do something like that again. You go, Dad!
  • At 17 the twins decided to join the Navy. Dad made a career of it, serving for 24 years.
                                 (Dad's on the right)
  • My dad was a man to go after what he wanted. Because he was tall (6' 3 1/2"), people always thought he was older than he was--which meant he was able to get into bars before he was 21. He celebrated his 19th birthday at a bar ... and saw my mom. She was 21 and thought my dad was celebrating his 22nd birthday. He didn't correct her. They met in August and married in November, and Mom was more than a little dismayed to discover Dad had to have someone come and sign for him to get married (that was when you had to be 21).  She said she wouldn't have dated him if she'd realized how young he was, and my dad informed her that was why he hadn't told her.
  • I have an older brother, but my folks had a hard time getting pregnant again after him--and when I was born they discovered a blood inconsistency in the RH factor. I nearly died, and they gave up the thought of having more childrenfor a while. But they decided to risk another baby. Unfortunately this little girl was strangled by her umbilical cord and is buried in South Korea. A year later my little sister was born, and she was the same blood type as my mother. No problems.
  • My father was highly involved in my brother's sports events and willingly coached the teams as needed. When no one would be a scout master for the local Boy Scout troop, my father stepped up. Many of the boys he coached became involved in Scouting as well. A couple of the boys went on to play professional ball.
  • He was so proud when my brother was accepted to the Naval Academy, but my brother's leaving  for the Academy came at a tragic time. My mother had been ailing for a couple of years and technology finally advanced enough to identify the problem. A brain tumor. It wasn't malignant but in a dangerous place and swelling after the surgery killed her. We went from Mom's funeral to my brother's high school graduation. Dad remarried a couple of years later and worked to pull two families with teen children into one family. When I was 19, they had a daughter together. She's been wonderfully supportive of them in their old age, and this week we were all able to talk about how many of our standards came from Dad.
  • Dad was supportive but also firm. We'd just moved to a new military base a week before Mom died. I knew no one, and school had just gotten out. I was desperately lonely and thought summer school would provide me with a chance to meet friends. But it included taking 6 buses each day into San Franciso and back, and then I found out it wasn't even the school that fed the one I'd attend in the fall. I wanted to quit. My dad strongly discouraged me from doing this, citing his own experience in high school (he was a dropout). He didn't want me to be a quitter. I trusted in him and persevered, and that lesson has helped me throughout my life when I was tempted to give up. I'm proud to say this daughter is not a quitter.
  • He was the perfect kind of father and father-in-law (to me). We were raised to be independent, and he stayed out of our adult lives as much as we wanted. He was supportive and willing to do whatever we needed, but he was not one to tell us what to do or to offer unsolicited advice (or sometimes any advice--as in me joining the Army). He knew there were some decisions only we could make.
Years ago I heard a saying that I've always taken to heart:

The father is wiser than the son because
the father was son before he was father.

I'm fortunate in the father I had. He observed the mistakes of others and had the sense to learn from his own. He had a high code of conduct and built and preserved family traditions to be proud of.

It was an honor and a privilege to be his daughter and to call him my "Dad."

Love you, Dad.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. What an awesome tribute. He sounds like one really fantastic, loving, smart, strong father. I love the story about how your mom and dad met. It's very sweet. Sending hugs and prayers and good thoughts to you.

  2. My condolences for your loss. That is a wonderful and thoughtful tribute to him.

  3. And a hug from Downunder too - what a great Dad to have!

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss!! He sounds like he was an amazing man. The part about him not telling your mom he was so young made me laugh. This was beautiful!

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss, Donna. What a heartbreaking week you've had. Your tribute to your Dad is beautiful and reflects the love you have for him.

    Your family is my thoughts and prayers.

  6. Your dad was awesome--which comes as no surprise, considering his daughter.

    My favorite part was when he decked his dad. Booyah!

  7. Wonderful tribute Donna. Our thoughts are with you.

  8. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man - my thoughts are with you all xxx

  9. Dave you were a very cool Dad... Hopefully I can do half as good as you did. I will never forget you. Part of my life forever...

  10. Nice tribute sis. I am glad over the last few years I was able to tell Dad what a great father he was. For the last 5-6 years we always told each other we loved each other at the end of our phone calls. We hadn't done that since I was a teenager. You know, it wasn't cool.


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