My earliest memories and my first awareness of my dad, was of me riding on his shoulders when he would take us on hikes at various parks and such. I would hold his ears for balance and I would pretend to steer him by pulling one way or another on them. I of course out grew this activity pretty quickly but my father continued to be the pillar of strength and the force that carried so much of my formation and personality. He pushed us, my brothers and me, to be the best we could be at whatever the endeavor, to be self reliant, and to expect excellence out of ourselves. I certainly did not make the aim in many of my attempts but I gave it a whole effort when I did, and was always seeking the nod of his approval.
As a young man called to the military he proved himself to be the leader and hero and was decorated with many of the highest medals awarded. After a very successful career of being a commercial contractor building shopping centers, my dad sold his business and was in a bit of limbo at what to do next when fate called him to a much different line of work. My brother David, who I think was Dad’s favorite child and who was so much like him, was killed in a car crash just before his 21st birthday, during this limbo time for my dad. David had been encouraging Dad to get into politics for years, because David felt that if the brightest and best don’t take on the responsibility of such, that the society will be governed by the leftovers, morons. With David’s death as his motivation, Dad stepped into the city government, and ultimately became the chief manager and tsar of this town and held the mayor’s office for 22 years, and did so without ever taking a penny of the salary.
There were many who did not like the iron hand that he held. There was the Christmas Eve that the windows to his car, parked just outside the living room where we sat, were blown out by gunfire. Those who were used to the good ol boy method of getting things taken care of were surprised to find him unwilling to take their bribes and under the table offers. The city was a wreck in disgrace when he took it on his shoulders to carry and he left it in a perfect financial state and a safe place to live, when the fickleness of the voters forgot what it had been like before him and un-elected him.
The un-election was a deeply wounding thing for him, feeling the pain of putting so much of his life and spirit into being Atlas for this town and its people, and having his efforts become so unappreciated, and largely forgotten. He rebound, however, with another career, and then yet another, each one was left in the best business shape possible.
He continued playing with this focus, and worked out with weights daily, even through his first couple of rounds of chemo therapy with a bout of throat cancer a few years back. Finally the poison that was being used to try to save his life, knocked him down and he never fully recovered that same fire. His mighty strength has waned, and the once fierce sparkle to his eyes has dimmed. So now he waits, for that which awaits us all.
It is such a sad part of this wonderful life that it has to end, however the age and whatever the form and it is only the ephemeral memories that keep their spirits here, and close. I have been so fortunate to have been a part of my father’s life and there is no way I can ever repay what he gave me and the things he taught me. I now sadly wish him a gentle crossing when his time does finally come, a truely great Atlas that will be so sorely missed. The world will never be the same without him.