I lost my dad last Friday evening, the 5th of June, 2015. He was unable to recover from surgery to remove an infected appendix. All his kids had a chance to visit him in the hospital earlier that week. He died at his home.
So it’s time to bid him farewell with this little illustrated tribute, with photos provided mostly by him (scanned and printed with a color laser printer, then re-scanned into images by me).
My father’s grandfather was Edward, an Englishman living in Canada. My father got to visit him there not long before he died, and this photo probably dates from that period.
Edward was a carpenter, wood carver and musician. He was affiliated with several military bands over the course of his stay in Canada (Vancouver) and he is shown wearing the ceremonial garb he might have worn while performing in, or leading, such a band.
Edward had one son by his second marriage, my dad’s father. He lost his carpentry business in a fire, and his marriage. So his son Frederick grew up with a “foster” family for many of his years in Canada.
Around 1920 Frederick moved to the Hollywood area, later becoming a US citizen. He married a girl named Ethel and their son was my Dad.
Ethel got killed in a car crash when my dad was a kid. His father took 18 months to recover from his crash injuries, and meanwhile my dad lived with one of his cousins. His dad finally re-married, and Polly became my dad’s mom for the rest of his younger years.
Dad spoke and wrote some of growing up in the LA area. He had to learn an instrument, which he didn’t much enjoy. He also got to work with cars, which I think he enjoyed more. And as an older boy he was a counselor in a summer camp for kids.
He wrestled, apparently, with some of the existential questions of life. With what was important, and what not. With what was true and what pretense. And what God really was. So when it was time to go to college, he studied (among other things, I suppose) philosophy. He kept a few books from those years, and I read them when I was a teenager.
My dad met my mom in college – UCLA. In a “social psychology” class, he later wrote. They were married in 1951 and started having kids (me) in 1954. And so he became my dad.
Providing homes for his family
A man (a woman) is many things to the various people who meet him (her). But one big role my dad played in the life of the family was providing us with places to live. So this becomes my theme for remembering my dad. Partly this is because it’s what I have pictures of. And partly it’s because Dad took this job quite seriously and always worked hard at it.
This family photo is from our first family home, in Richmond, California.
After procuring a grant from the NIMH to return to school for graduate studies, my dad used part of that money to get this house in the Berkeley hills, in a community known as Kensington.
After finishing his graduate work, but before completing his PhD, he landed a job with the University of Michigan and we moved there at the beginning of 1964.
In this brief tribute, I will skip all the trips and outings our parents took us on, their talks with us, their guidance.
One of our big adventures, though, was building a “summer cabin” on Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan. My dad was the key mover in this project, and built much of the home himself, with help from his kids and a local contractor. When we finally found clear water from a well bore, it was cause for a major celebration!
The kids leave home
During the 1970s, all the kids eventually left home to pursue their own lives. My dad took an administrative position (if I remember right) at Michigan State in East Lansing.
Here is a shot of the interior of his home there.
The paintings above us are by David Pierson, Dad’s best friend from LA. The table was made by me as a high school art project.
In 1980, my dad changed jobs again. This time to the university in Milwaukee. And so, yet another home.
With the kids gone, my dad and mom began to travel.
Here we find him in Madrid, Spain in 1984.
His travels included Alaska, Australia and various other places. Later he took to visiting his church’s sister city in Hungarian Romania. He even learned Hungarian during that time.
By the end of the 1980s it seemed time to retire. Dad and Mom decided to move to Seattle, to be closer to my sister and her family of three boys.
They settled on a little house near Green Lake.
We lose Mom
During a trip to the East Coast to help my brother and his new wife bring their daughter into this world, my mom and dad suffered a car crash in Virginia that killed my mom.
This hit my dad very hard. His good friends the Piersons invited him to join them on a short trip to Hawaii.
When he returned he was determined to keep Mom’s spirit alive in his work. It was then that he joined the Unitarian Church, as the Piersons had done years before. He developed an interest in tutoring (as a volunteer) and later went to Romania to help his church’s sister city there establish a medical center. He then returned several times to teach English. He wrote lengthy reports on each of his visits, and all his kids got copies. He made many friends in that far off place.
Being a father in the Space Age
During the lifetimes of my father, his father and their fathers, our planet walked into the beginning of its Space Age.
But the roles of the father as protector, planner, mentor, provider of living spaces, are roles that are timeless (and actually genderless, as well). My father took these roles seriously and applied himself to all of them (did I mention he worked as a teacher?). Technologies will not change this. There must always be beings who are willing to be fathers.