02 January 2018
Dad took off for his final flight yesterday. I would like to tell you a bit about Dad and his 90 years. But first I want to tell what he meant to me. When I was a young boy, I asked Dad why we refer to God as “Father.” Dad said that a father is someone who loves and protects you and God cares for us all and protects us. He smiled with half-closed eyes. From then on I had a clear image of a loving God.
Dad was born in Denver but lived most of his childhood in Tulsa, OK. He enlisted in the Navy during WW2 but served only briefly due to armistice. He then enrolled at University of Cincinnati in Aeronautical Engineering. Coming from a family of doctors and lawyers, that was quite a divergence. But Dad loved airplanes and built many models as a boy.
He was married to Sylvia, Mom, for 67 years. Dad cared for Mom at home, our house in Kettering, Ohio, they built in 1960. Mom has had Alzheimer's for ten years. Even though she has been completely infirm for much of that time, Dad employed some wonderful ladies to care for Mom at home. He often said, “I love her more every day.” He passed in his sleep at her side.
Dad's love of airplanes became a career as founding member of University of Dayton, Research Institute. UDRI started as a small office in the basement of the UD band building but now employs about 500 people. Dad became head of Aerospace Mechanics, performing research projects on a variety of aerospace applications as well as wind and solar energy and bio-engineering. He retired after 42 years at UDRI.
His love of airplanes continued. Our church, added a gym which Dad thought would be perfect for flying small, rubber band powered airplanes. Dad started a model airplane class for middle school aged kids. They met after school on Tuesdays, built balsa wood airplanes and flew them in the gym. After three months of classes, the parents were invited to a presentation where the kids flew the planes they had built. The gym was filled with wonder as these fragile planes circled up to the ceiling. Dad ran this program with the help of other dedicated men and women for 19 years, teaching around 500 students the basics of flight. Some have gone on to careers in aeronautical engineering.
Tulsa, Oklahoma is far from water but Dad loved boats and where they traveled. Brother Bob, Dad and I all learned to sail together in a heavy, wooden boat on a small lake near Ann Arbor, MI. We would spit in the water to see if we were moving on calm days. When the wind blew, we rushed to go out in the “Whitecap.” Dad taught me only one sailing tip which I was reluctant to accept. We were out in a blow with main and jib sheeted in hard. We were burying the lee rail and the tiller was to my chin with weather helm. Dad said, “I hear if you ease the sheets, we will go even faster.” I turned to Dad and said, “Dad, that can't be right.”
As I built and bought a succession of boats, Dad was always eager to sail with me. He would visit in Milwaukee at a time when he was assured to crew in at least a few races. Lisa and I sailed Uproar out the Great Lakes and stopped in Detroit for a family reunion. Bob arranged for us to race in a local race on Lake St. Claire. Dad, nearly blind, was eager to sail with us. The race started out very light but a squall came through that dismasted one boat and turned the sky black. Dad hung on for dear life, smiling the whole time.
When Lisa and I announced our plans to go world cruising in Uproar, Dad never hesitated in his support. We were fortunate to be able to phone often, he wanted all the details of our voyage. Dad bought us a satellite phone for Christmas so we could keep in touch during the long, Pacific passages. Dad, now we won't need a phone to talk when the sky is lit with stars.
I love you and miss you, Dad.