Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eulogy for John

6 November 1955---19 October 2008
October 18, 2009
Evergreen Cemetery, Tucson, Arizona

I come here today, not to mourn John’s passing but to honor a wonderful, loving and productive son. I clearly remember John’s coming into our life in Radford, Virginia, around 2:30AM the morning of November 6, 1955. We were expecting him to be born sometime within the coming week. But certainly not that day, let alone 2:30 in the morning.

About 1:45AM, Frances shook me awake with the startling news she thought the baby was about to be born. I was completely fuzzed out but managed to get dressed and helped Frances get into the car and took off for the hospital. Several times along the way Frances, in a very worried and almost desperate voice informed me she was sure the baby was coming right there and then. Of course, I was already a-dither and merely drove faster. The hospital finally hove into view and we came to a screeching halt in front of the door. I threw my door open, ran around to her door to help. A nurse came running out, shoved me, a mere discombobulated male, out of the way and helped Frances into the hospital.

I hurriedly parked the car and came running. When I got inside, I was informed Frances was in the delivery room. A few minutes later, a smiling nurse came out and informed me that I had a beautiful new son. For the next fifty-two and a half years I had the joy and pride of watching a wonderful, successful and happy life unfold.

As a youngster, he had more scratches, bruises and tumbles than any kid in the neighborhood. He was, in many ways, shy. But he was also, in his own way, gregarious and had lots of friends. He became a Boy Scout and almost attained his Eagle Scout badge. However, he discovered girls and the badge faded away.

His first year in college at the University of Arizona was, academically, an unmitigated disaster although he managed to pass most of his classes. The problem? Girls, Girls and more Girls. We put him on his own and told him we would reimburse him, semester by semester, only if he successfully passed all his classes. He did and we did.

After a discover-the-world junket in Europe he arrived home, broke and unemployed. I owned the Owl Head Ranch at the time and was traveling considerably in my job so I put John in charge of the Ranch. Cattle ranching then was a distinctive and different way of life. In many ways harking back in time a hundred years. John quickly adapted to moving between the past on the Ranch and the present when away, clearly preferring the former.

During his tenure there, he hired, fell in love with and married, Suzellen Young. She had two wonderful children, Michele and Justin whom he instantly considered his own. Michele lived at the ranch permanently and their relationship was so extraordinary and loving that John soon made of her his by legally adopting her. Indeed, to him, both were his children and so remained all his life.

To John and his family the Ranch was not only home, it was a way of life. They literally moved in and out of the past to the present and back again almost on a daily basis. To me, they all seemed to enjoy round-up, branding and shipping the most. Round up of between 500 and a 1000 half-wild cattle and their calves and/or a 1000 or more steers on 120 square miles (76,800 acres), even though fenced, is no small undertaking. The largest pasture was 45 square miles and the smallest, 10. The work could be hard, dangerous and fun all at the same time. I remember a truculent, sour tempered, old Brahma bull John had nicknamed "Gotcha" that would charge you at the slightest provocation, especially if you were a-foot. We were on horseback, weaning calves from their mothers, and when we put the last calf in the smaller corral, I got down from my horse and started to close the gate. John yelled "Dad, ‘Gotcha’." I whirled around and saw charging me, the meanest, tail-high, head down, ill-tempered old range-grouch around. Up and over the corral fence I went, landing in a heap in a large pile of cow dung on the other side. Poor John and Suzellen could hardly stay mounted they were laughing so hard. And so it was on the ranch, hard work, low pay, danger and joy all wrapped up in a wonderful way of life. But, good things all come to an end and we had to sell the Ranch.

After leaving the Ranch John moved to Tucson and began teaching at Mountain View High School and taught the rest of his life. It was in his teaching career that he positively touched so many lives. So as to better counsel them he got his Master’s degree at Northern Arizona University and was just one year short of attaining his Doctorate at the University of Arizona. Student after student after student has written wonderful letters attesting to his positive influence on them and how time after time, he selflessly helped them overcome, either or both, their academic or personal problems. They attested to the fact that he was never too busy to stop whatever he was doing and listen to them. Nor did he ever belittle them or their problem. He always tried to help.

To me, he gave great pleasure because he was my son. He also gave me another daughter, Suzellen, three wonderful grandchildren, Michele, Michael and Justin, and three absolutely delightful, great grandchildren, Jordan, JohnAlan and Joshua. Loving memories of him will be with me until we meet again and meet again we shall.

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