My Speech at the Memorial for Dad

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We recently had a memorial for my father at the Milwaukee Yacht Club. I reluctantly spoke for the family. It was pretty difficult to do. The four speakers that preceded me, Randy, Terry, Marv and Ted, said such lovely things, and my boys both read, the start of the Hobbit and The Road Less Travelled by Frost, that I was pretty emotional. For two of the items, I had my brother come read them.

I have posted this here because I know how much reading my dear friend John Oxton’s speech helped me write mine. I would go so far to say that I couldn’t have written mine without his. Perhaps this, intentionally light hearted speech, will help someone write theirs.

For those of you who do not know me, I am Bob’s son, Peter. I have been living in London for 12 years now, so if I sound a little funny, you know why.

I want to thank you all for coming here today, it means a lot to the family to have you here to celebrate Bob’s life. I specially want to thank Marv and Uncle Ted for speaking, Owen for his reading, Ryan for the poem and specially to Randy and Terry who both spoke and helped organise this event.

things I learned from my father

I have two lists… first,

the bad list – things not to do

don’t ground your children ‘for life’

specially when they are nearly 18, it takes really a long time to get over a thing like that

travel far and wide

Bob was overly tied to his job and saw little of the world he read so much about. As much as he hated John and I moving away from Milwaukee, I know he was both jealous and proud

embrace technology

while Bob got one of the first commercially affordable computers into the stockyards in the 80’s and bought a very early computer for John and me, he was probably one of the last people ever to never to send an email, browse the web. He literally had mom print my blog.

don’t smoke and drink in moderation

I feel somewhat obligated to mention this

be able to ‘spot a blond’ at 100 yards

Bob could do this, perhaps even around a corner. He was nearly never wrong. I am still trying to think of why this is on the bad list

the good list – things to do

always jibe a lightning’s spinnaker from INSIDE the boat

even if you are 12 and can’t reach the spinnaker pole, make the effort, otherwise, the boat will tip – right Randy?

read aloud to your children

my brother and I still have the most magical memories of books dad read late into the evening – all the Tolkien books, Hornblower, Narnia, Robert Frost, Dahl

participate in your children’s lives

as stoic as Bob appeared, and perhaps bullied into it my my mom, Bob was pretty active in our young lives as a soccer coach and ref, cub scout troop leader, cub scout pack leader and a member of the junior committee, which became a real passion of his and lead to his board service a the club

all swearing is relative

I remember countless times John being chastised to use a fork properly at the dinner table, only to have dad answer the phone and swear like a sailor with his truckers and farmers. Bob moved easily between these world, because he mentally separated all of them

be moral, be truthful

except in card playing, and perhaps someone has a story that might disprove this, but Bob had a strong moral compass. I can’t recall him even telling white lies. Bob knew what was ‘right’ and did that.

collect people

some people collect art or wine or stamps, my parents have always collected people. whether it was someone who needed a little help, or someone who just needed some advice or a friend to talk to, they opened their homes and hearts to them – one and all.

family is like family

Bob loved his family. Like his sheepdogs, he was never happier than to have everyone home for the holidays or vacations. You didn’t need to get all sentimental, it was enough to just be together. He was also an amazing son, he always helped his parents when they were healthy and had looked after his mother every day for decades right up to his death.

all the best chefs are men

I think it took until mom went to China and then back to school, but Bob embraced cooking, cleaning, laundry and eschewed traditional male/female stereotypes pretty early. Personally, I always found it difficult to talk about the miracle of Oxiclean and not smirk

what are you going to do, marry her?

I remember that this felt like pretty non-empathetic advice at the time, but Bob had perspective. That breakup might have felt pretty bad at the time, but at 17, it was probably unrealistic to think my life was over. He always could help put things in perspective. I think it was a big reason he dealt with his long illness so well.

Well, that’s it. Thank you again, and I hope you all can stay for another drink and some food. I know this is just the kind of party my father would have liked; an open bar and buffet with unlimited shrimp cocktail!