May 2, 2015

In Loving Memory of Howdy



Eulogy from the granddaughters.   

Kerri:

Most of you knew him as Papa.  Some of you also knew him as Howdy.   He was, to his grandchildren, a kind and  gentle soul.  We grew up with him next door. So that means, for as long as I can remember,  he was right there.  Always there.  A constant presence in our lives.   He had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and a hearty laugh.  His eyes would light up every time he saw me, and especially so after Lucas was born.    He was stubborn and impatient but the most generous person.  Every time I would come home to see him, he would send me away with too many jars of pickled cucumbers and cherry tomatoes and then make me take even more.  He used to carry around a sprig of mint or basil in his pocket because it smelled good.   I learned how to make my first & favorite home style meal, broccoli and macaroni from him. 
Laura:
The broccoli and macaroni, pickles and the many other meals I learned to love and cook as a child are just a representation of what papa was to me. That constant presence. Growing up in the same house, for a few years upstairs and for many years after that, through a side door meant that papa served as another parent. But he never grounded us. Instead he was the one who served us up an extra dinner  and simply encouraged our interests and success. At least a few days a week, I remember going over to have a first dinner with papa around 5:00, while watching some peoples court or family feud before having dinner with my parents once they got home from work. At these meals, Papa asked about what we were learning in school, taught a few cooking techniques and reminded me to practice the trumpet. Papa was always there to motivate us to do well- I was particularly excited on report card day to get $1 for every A or a rounded $5 for a straight A report card. After adding it up now, I realize how he created that system to work in his favor. It’s okay, I got my dollars back from him in poker games earlier this month.

Kerri:
The big running jokes were always about how he really could see well, even though he was diagnosed years ago with macular degeneration.  I remember a few times coming to visit after he hadn’t see me for a few months, and him saying “Oh Kerri you look good, did you lose weight?” or “Kerri did you get your hair cut, I like it!”  All the while I stand there, puzzled, wondering how he could notice these things if he really couldn’t see?!  One year I drove him and Gram down to Florida.    He was sitting in the backseat the entire way, acting as my tour guide and route director.  “A few miles up here on the right you will be passing Stanton CT.  There will be a huge junkyard of cars.”  Sure enough… 10 minutes later…there was the junkyard.    It was amazing.   He was the same way with cards, but that needs no further explanation.     
One time I took Papa and my Memere to Foxwoods.   It was our first trip there together, and I will never forget how excited he was the entire way.   It was as though he was doing everything he could to restrain himself in the passenger seat of the car.  It was precious to be a part of, and I was glad to have that time with him, sharing his excitement and enjoyment of  what he loved to do. 
 But my favorite memories of him solely revolve around his love of gardening and his spot in the backyard, whether it be watering his tomato plants, listening to his big band swing, or just relaxing. Regardless of what I would be doing- either sitting by the pool with my friends or  doing dishes in the kitchen- I would look over and he would always be there.   
Laura:
During high school cross country races I ‘d also look over and see papa always there…usually smoking a stogie while cheering on the breathless runners. 
One of the most admirable qualities about papa was his gregarious nature. He was so welcoming to all who visited the house, no matter who or how long you stayed and he treated the new members to our family like his very own kin, which includes admonishing them for playing cards poorly. He’s been such a fabulous grandfather to my husband Gabe and not only because he’s a fellow Yankee fan, although I’m sure that helped. He’s resting easy knowing my son Emory has some visits to Yankee stadium in his near future– I only wish I could’ve taken them there together. On a recent trip to the Bronx, I smiled as I told a friend about my grandfathers love of the Yankees, it’s discordance with his family and how it dates back to the days of babe Ruth. Yes, he lived a complete long life, but that doesn’t help those of us who loved him most for wishing if was just a little bit longer…

 Kerri: 
He passed away on Earth Day.   April 22, 2015.  A day to celebrate new life and new beginnings.   How appropriate, really, since my memory is forever ingrained with images of him in his happy place: his garden.   
There’s a saying that everyone you meet has impact on your life in someway or another.  Some meetings are chance, and people fill our lives in a specific time and place.   We never really know the impact that they can have on us and it could be years until we realize this significance.   Papa was one of those people.  Sometimes  I buy mint at the farmer’s market only because it reminds me of him.    I started a garden at my home in Florida a few weeks ago.  It makes me smile and  I am so proud of it.  There are actually cucumber plants and basil growing.   My 19 month old son helps me water my plants every day.  Its our nightly ritual, and it allows me to think of my Papa.  He may have left us, but the memories of his presence will always remain.   You all will think of him and remember him in your own way-  and they will be thoughtful,  fond memories of a wonderful man who will be missed very much.    
Laura:
Papa left a most indelible mark on me and how I think about family, community and purpose in life. There was no one who was more proud of me than papa  when I decided to enter the teaching profession…he asked me about my work in education with genuine interest every time I saw him. I’m proud to share my career with such an impressive man and hope I can make a fraction of the impact he made. We will all continue to not only remember papa but to tell stories about him for decades to come, most of them leaving listeners and storytellers both rolling with laughter and smiling appreciatively  that they had the privilege of having their lives touched by such a loving soul.