Friday, November 7, 2008

Honor Thy Father

On April 18th, 2007, Eddie took his small fishing boat out to a local lake for a day of fishing. He had landed one the largest fish he had ever taken from the lake two days before, and was out to catch another whopper. It was a perfect spring day with temperatures in the low 80's and a light breeze. He anchored in a small cove near the shore and put two lines in the water.

We will never know much else about what happened that day. When Eddie failed to return home for supper, his wife got worried and called family to begin a search. The search quickly escalated to include the local sheriff's office and the owner of the marina where Eddie's boat was docked. At about 11:30 pm the owner of the marina found him floating face down next to his boat. He was wearing a life jacket and had a fish on one of the lines.

Eddie was 80 years old. He was Past Master of his local Trinity Lodge, a member of the Scottish Rite, active in the United Methodist Church, a member of AARP and an emeritus member of the American Institute of Architects. He was a Scorpio and a lifelong Razorback fan. And he was my father.

My father was born in 1926 to an extended family of construction people. At the age of 13 he went to work for his Uncle Mutt, a general contractor. After a short stint in the Air Force at the end of WWII, and a short stint in college on the G.I. Bill, he gravitated back into the construction business. He married my mother Betsy on Christmas Day of 1949. They had four children between 1951 and 1959. He became a General Contractor and operated a successful construction company for ten years or so, building small commercial buildings, schools and churches. When construction lagged he took the architect's licensing exam. Despite not having finished college, he passed the test and became a licensed architect. Eddie and Betsy divorced after 28 years. Not long after the divorce he married Mary Frances, a widow and childhood friend. After about 20 years as an architect, he "retired" and began a career as a ready responder for FEMA that lasted almost another 20 years.

After health problems forced him into retirement yet again he continued to look for ways to contribute. He volunteered to supervise construction of a sanctuary of the First Methodist Church in a small, mostly poor community near his home town. There he continued to do two things he loved: build and teach. In recognition of his contribution the church named the sanctuary after him. It was his last big project, and perhaps the one of which he was most proud.

My father believed in the value of work and the need to leave the world a better place then he found it. In addition to the dozens of stores, pizza parlors, banks, schools, churches and hospitals he designed or constructed, he built several houses and countless tree houses, forts, playhouses, dollhouses, decks, gazebos and one swimming pool.
When he was here he was always my father. Sometimes grumpy, often bossy, he always had an opinion. Now he's gone and all I see is what a good man he was, how much good he brought into the world, and how much poorer we all are for his passing.

My father was born 82 years ago today. Happy Birthday, Old Man. I miss you every day.

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