This site is here for us to remember those we've lost. I'm the last one left from the family in which I grew up. Losing my friend Arthur didn't even begin to prepare me for what was to come.
Let me tell you what I discovered along the way... If your Mom or Dad are still around, you cannot possibly spend too much time with them, do too much for them, or strive too hard to show them you've learned everything that they labored to teach you. Do these things well and you will give them peace, and you'll be able to live with yourself after they're gone.
This is a tribute to my parents, whom I loved dearly and miss so much... God bless you, Mom and Dad.
Dec. 31, 1915 - Aug. 26, 1998
I'm not just saying this because she was my mother, but Mom was the smartest person I've ever known. She was a teacher. She graduated high school at age 16, and at the top of her class at Wayne State Teachers College, Wayne Nebraska. Early in her teaching career she taught in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Nebraska. She was a good teacher... I know, because her students from the 1940's told me so at her funeral in Nebraska. She read constantly and volunteered as a librarian and member of the Board of Trustees for the Stratford, NJ Public Library for over thirty years. She could do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. I enjoy writing and believe I probably got that from her. I just wish she were still around to proof read for me, because she would always find sumething.
Mom had other work experiences besides teaching. During World War II, she worked for the U.S. Department of Interior. She told me stories of meeting Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. Later, after I was born she stayed home to raise me, just like most other moms at the time. Before she retired, she worked part-time as a substitute teacher when I was in my teens and in college.
Mom played piano, enjoyed flower gardening, and did beautiful sewing and needlework. She did these things, I don't quite know how to say it- methodically is not a strong enough word... Mathematically would be the best way to describe it. This was a problem with the piano playing. If she made a mistake, she'd hammer out that passage over and over until she had it just right... Long after Dad and I had left the room. She was an avid sports fan, following local baseball, football and basketball. I remember the radio always seemed to be on, tuned in to a game, (before we could watch local games on cable).
Mom was my good friend, but she didn't put up with any stuff from me. She kept a wooden paint stick on top of the refrigerator- to be applied to my backside when I got in trouble. This lasted until I was around 11 or 12, when one day I got the idea to run like mad when I saw her reach for The Stick. She chased me around and around from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room and back, until we were both out of breath and laughing so hard. The Stick was retired after that. We trusted each other and spoke each other's language. After Dad died in 1994, my wife Bonnie and I took care of her and helped her live in her own house. Well, she didn't really need much help. She drove her car until two weeks before she died. She was there, (of course) when I took my first breath, and I was with her when she took her last.
Aug. 14, 1916 - July 31, 1994
Dad would've been embarrassed if I'd written something like this when he was alive. He was a very private man, very unassuming, and very much a gentleman. He spent his boyhood on the family farm in Nebraska. He spoke Czech fluently, since my grandparents communicated primarily in their native language at home. When his father retired from farming, they moved to town- Clarkson, Nebraska. In high school he excelled in baseball and was captain of the basketball team.
When Dad left home, he moved to Omaha, because it was the Depression and that's where the work was. In 1939, he made a bold career move. He answered an ad in the paper and was hired by United Air Lines. At the time, airline travel was still brand-new and the people who worked for these companies were pioneers of their day. In the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, not far from the Wright Flyer, there is a United Air Lines Boeing 247-D suspended from the ceiling. Dad told me he worked on that type airplane- probably that very one. Eventually I followed in his footsteps, hiring on with United the year he retired. Between us, we have a 74-year legacy with the company. I would say that he did everything to discourage me from doing this, but I guess it was in my blood. Of course, as my airline experiences grew, we had much to talk about- many stories to tell. When we'd start trading war stories, the women always left the room, heads shaking. Man, would we have things to talk about today. I miss our times like that together.
Working for an airline meant opportunities to move, and that we did. Dad took promotions in New York and then Philadelphia, and that's how I ended up on the East coast. He was an avid salt-water fisherman. Interesting, when you consider he was a former Nebraska farm boy. God, how he loved to fish, be it surf or deep sea. I can remember being dragged from a warm bed in the middle of the night to accompany him on quests for flounder, fluke or blues. Dad had a problem with vertigo, (the reason he didn't go into the service in WW-II), but he managed to overcome that when it came to boarding a boat to go out and fish.
Dad loved retirement. He was so good at it. He spent most of his working life "on the schedule," and that continued into his retirement. He had a routine. Up at dawn. Out to the golf course. Take Mom shopping. Do the yard work. Nap in the recliner. Out to the diner for supper. Fish. Watch the game. He kept logs of the weather and what he ate and drank, always trying to head off vertigo attacks. He loved life and took such good care of himself. That's why he was so angry in the end when cancer was taking life from him. I'm sure he would be alive and active today at 85, if it hadn't been for the damned cancer. Cancer took Mom too. I hate that disease. Dad taught me how to take things apart and figure out how they work. We didn't work very well together on projects- I had my way and he had his. But I picked up a head full of knowledge along the way. So now, I have his tools, his benches and his advice. I always think about where that sharp tool will go when it slips off the work, and keep myself out of its way- literally and figuratively. Thanks Dad.
With Mom on my 1st Birthday
Dad, me and part of the day's catch, behind our Buick on Deep Lane - 1957
Alice, taken by Bert when they were courting in 1939
Bert by his convertible Model "A" coupe, taken by Alice in 1939
Dad, on top of the stand, working "Mainliner - City of Spokane" with a co-worker in 1946
Mom, helping with ground-breaking for the new Stratford, NJ Library
Dad's Card from the 1950's
ID card of my Cub Scout Den Mother from 1961
Mom & Dad visiting me on my day off from camp counsellor at
Indian Ridge Wilderness Reservation in the Catskill Mountains - 1971
I took this picture of Mom and Dad on their 50th Anniversary - 1992