When I was growing up, one of my dad's first jobs was driving an orange and brown Cook Coffee truck. He had a regular route on which he delivered packages of ground coffee to customers each week. Sometimes I was allowed to go on rounds with him and though I was only four or five at the time, I can remember holding a little bag full of coloring books, crayons, and a doll as we started our day. Mom packed enough lunch for both of us and off we’d go. I couldn’t imagine ever being happier than I was in those moments with my dad. As our family grew, Dad worked in a machine foundry located in the south end of town. It was a common place for people to drop off unwanted animals. There were often litters of kittens or puppies abandoned there and of course the cowards who did the deeds were never seen nor heard. Dad and his co-workers did their best to make sure those animals had a chance in life. They would each take one from the litter and take it home. They never left an animal to fend for itself. I’m quite sure my love and compassion for animals comes from having my dad as an example and mentor. The foundry closed with little warning and Dad had to find another job. We had just moved to another house and he hadn’t anticipated being out of work. After much searching he found a job that would allow him to support our family of six. Dad’s official title at his new job was, “maintenance supervisor”, but some would have called him a janitor. It didn’t matter what the job was called, Dad took it seriously and worked proudly. He never minded going to work. He loved being able to provide for us. There were times when it seemed all Dad did was work, sleep, and eat, and that left little time for us. His new job required him to work the second shift, so he was getting ready to leave the house as we arrived home from school. The weekends were the best times with him. I now realize he must have been tired from working all week, but he made time to play with us and the neighborhood kids who came to play. Aftter graduating from high school, I left home for nurse's training and it was Dad who helped me get through the nights of intense studying. He worked just a mile from my dorm and would either call me or I’d call him and plead with him to come get me out of there for a little while. There were nights he took me to Isaly’s for ice cream - he always ordered White House, which was vanilla ice cream with red cherries in it - and I always ordered Chocolate Marshmallow. It never dawned on me that he might not have the time or the funds to take me out and buy ice cream. Years later, I learned he had to make up the time he’d been gone from work. One night in particular, he and I stopped at a Kresge store where he bought me an amber colored mug for my dorm room. It wasn’t expensive, but I loved it and it resides in my kitchen cupboard to this day. He also bought me a small blue hand towel with which to decorate my tiny dorm bathroom. He never wanted to take me back to the dorm without giving me a few dollars since I had no money of my own and little time to earn any. He once offered me the last two dollars he had. I took one and insisted he keep the other. I told him if we each had one dollar, neither of us would be broke. He liked that. When I was in nursing school, I had no idea Dad would so soon be gone. I graduated as an RN in 1971 and Dad suffered a fatal heart attack at work one cold February night in 1972. A few months earlier, he had been smiling as he walked me down the aisle as I married my spouse. I remember being scared and nervous before we started our walk. He leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, your ol’ dad is right here for you”, and so he was. During his funeral, many people related stories about how Dad had loaned them money (though he had little himself), or how he’d fixed a flat tire for someone at work. We heard how he put in good words for others who sought jobs at his workplace. Whether his superiors needed someone to pick up luggage at the airport or paint their homes, Dad was the first to volunteer. He was even known to take people home from church while we waited for him to come back afterward and get us. We weren’t always happy about the choices he made, but we always knew his heart was in the right place.
Thank you Dad, for knowing what was important in life. You were strong in your faith and in your relationships with family. You were very generous and always compassionate toward people and animals. Though you didn’t have a college education, you had great “people skills”. I know you genuinely loved your family and friends. I'm still amazed at how you were able to put others at ease with your sense of humor. You had a work ethic that surpasses any I’ve ever known, and you didn’t just do the job for which you were hired. You went the extra mile for anyone who needed your help. Thank you for teaching me that people are worth the effort, that animals need to be loved and cared for, and that hard work blesses one’s life. Thank you for all the times you were strict and all the times you weren’t. I know you were trying to teach me to be a kind and decent person and though I still have a lot to learn, I hope I’m following in your footsteps. I love you, Dad, and miss you more than words can express.