I used to be one of those folks who looked at ‘holidays’ like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. as simply ways Hallmark figured out how to get folks to spend money. Over the years I have softened my stance and now that my Dad passed away just three years ago on August 1, 2008.
Now I look at these Special days as days to honor our fathers, mothers. and other family members.
This may be WAY more information than anyone here cares about, but the following is the eulogy I gave at my dad’s funeral. It sums him up pretty well, I think.
I was told I was to speak for two minutes …. However I know that talking about my Dad for just two minutes is impossible …. So please …. I ask that all you all bear with me. At a time like this it is very hard to continue forward —- and not simply look back on what has been — and the treasure that has been lost to us all. However, in the case of Dad — it is a tiny bit easier to continue into our futures since he bestowed so much of himself on each of us who were lucky to have known him — and some of us who are blessed to have some of him in us. So let me tell you just a little about how my dad influenced me, my wife, my children, my grandchild, and countless others I am sure…… First there was Work. With Dad, work always came first – that’s how it was in his generation. Dad was truly one of the top businessmen of America — and he got there through hard work. I guess the first lesson I have a memory of was of Dad’s hard work and how he expected and valued a strong work ethic. I am sure this probably started early in his life — before I was even born. Maybe it had its roots in his Dad, George, working in the steel industry in Cleveland. Maybe it was how he had to work and study at the same time to earn his degree at Antioch. But it was certainly evident in his efforts in World War II — when he had to do such gruesome work as graves registration officer for his fallen soldiers shortly after D-Day, fighting for his life in the Battle of The Bulge, and earning The Bronze Star for his service to our country. Perhaps it was from his experiences in the war that he also taught me that work is not just about the glamorous parts — that while someone has to be out front making the speeches and working the crowd — that someone also has to do the grunt work — I clearly remember one time helping him cut and finish over 150 wooden steak platters for a Rotary steak fry — thinking then that our work was done — only to spend the entire event with him sweating over a huge grill while cooking hundreds of steaks for everyone in 90 degree summer heat. I trust you all know that my Dad was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a Federal Reserve Board Governor, a CPA, Chairman of the Board of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and that he was a published author on many business issues. But you may not know that his favorite subject just might have been Corporate Social Responsibility? I recall him taking time out from his work to act as a CEO Chef on the Nicollet Mall for a city summer event — and doing such volunteer work as revitalizing the Minneapolis Urban League shortly after the devastating riots on the North side in the late ‘60’s. He often attributed his success not to himself – although he was an incredibly astute businessman – but to others. When I asked him once what was his key to success he said “I always surrounded myself with people who were smarter than me – then I was smart enough to stay the heck out of there way and let them do their jobs”— he just didn’t use the word heck. He illustrated to me — and many others – that you should be measured not only on what you accomplish, but by how you make a difference! He showed me by example that it was crucial in life to not be known only by what you did — but by who you are. Next my dad taught me about Marriage! I saw a man who loved his wife with unswerving dedication and admiration. Who truly saw his wife as a partner — not just as a spouse. And while it may have been my Mom who was the first woman to ever walk through the front doors of The Minneapolis Club — it was my dad who would swell with pride and tell the story over and over! He showed me how to be committed to your spouse — how to do not only the easy stuff in a marriage — but the hard stuff too! For instance – he would buy my mother a year’s subscription to the Opera – a subscription for two — but even with my dad there were limits! He would buy the subscription — but somehow managed to always be busy those nights — so I guess I can thank him too for my introduction to Opera – since I ended up being my Mom’s “date” for most of them. He also would spend hours and hours helping my Mom get ready for their famous International Night Parties — ignoring the piles of paper and work on his desk for nights on end. He taught me about Family! How family is something bigger than any one person in it! I’m not sure how much the ideas of family vacations were my Dad’s and how much were my Mom’s — but we took some great family vacations — LONG — CAR RIDE — VACATIONS — doing things I am guessing he may not have totally enjoyed all the time — like horseback riding in the Teton mountains — swimming in a freezing lake in Northern Michigan — and endless miles of car rides with three kids in the back seat playing “Dummy Up”. I saw through my Dad that family has a larger definition than I originally thought possible — and it would include names like Carol, J.R., Jean Francios, Mitoshi, Juan, and numerous others. He showed me that there is little love greater than giving to your children something that you may never have had yourself. I — as will my sisters — be forever thankful that he gave me World Campus Afloat. And all you had to do to pay him back was keep a journal to share your experiences with him and others. He showed me by example that you can do amazing things — simply for your love of your children — like spend one night a week wearing a feathered headdress and going by the name of Big Shooting Star — like spend nights sleeping on rocks in a sleeping bag and a pup tent —- and getting by with a dinner of peanut butter and rye krisp crackers on a Boy Scout canoe trip when you all get lost. He showed me that if you were with the best possible person that the best lunch in the world could be eating cold Vegetarian Vegetable Soup — right out of the can over the kitchen sink. Most of all — my Dad taught me about Self — He taught me that you can indeed make very difficult changes if you really want to — I saw this as he stayed sober for more than 23 years! He taught me that you have to work very hard in life — but you can also take some time to play He taught me that there is a world of people that I could influence and help beyond the walls of my home and the curbs of Manning Drive. He taught me early on that goals should be set high – and you should not quit until you attain them — as both he and I did with our Eagle Scout and God & Country. He taught me that you need to be true to yourself! That it was OK to tell the Minneapolis Tribune, when they asked what your favorite meal was – to say Porcupine Balls! He taught me that you don’t have to always call someone to fix everything – and I have wonderful memories of sawdust and sparks as he would teach me woodworking or how to fix a fuse with a penny down in his workshop. He taught me that you can put up with almost anything that your children do —- even if it costs you money (that he hated to spend) because you put a dead hamster on the furnace to try and get it to wake up – and the smell necessitated calling the heating man to come see what was wrong in the house! He taught me that sometimes you need to shed your comfort zone and reach out beyond it — as he did when he eschewed moving to New York City– not to stay in Cleveland – but to move to Minnesota (which yes Mom is still West of Wisconsin!) And he taught me that you must always do your best, that nothing comes easy in life, and that you have to work hard for what you want. I will close with this: I used to ask my Dad how he managed to handle everyday when so much was riding on his shoulders.
He said to me: Scott, when I go to bed at night I say this prayer – “Dear God, I tried to do my best today. Now I need my sleep so I leave everything in your hands until I wake up tomorrow — when I promise to give my best again”.
Dad, we know you gave your best everyday —-and from the very fiber of our beings —- we thank you for that.