A life in full

My Dad died this afternoon. He was 98 years old, was healthy until this weekend, was married to his Peggy for 69 years (she died in ’08), and had three of his four children at his side when his time came. (And he was 6’3″, the exact height as the day he was married in 1939!)

Dad with his Peg in Atlantic City in 1939

 Dad was born Irish in New York City in 1912, when the ‘Irish need not apply’ signs were still seen on the streets.

His father was a barkeep; when Prohibition came he converted his establishment into a speakeasy. (Gramps often told us that cops and politicians were among his best customers in those days.) In later years he moved the business uptown next to CBS and when I was a kid I saw many a famous face sitting at that long mahogany bar.

Dad’s mother worked for the Strauss family in their ‘ready made dry goods’ store before her marriage. She remained close to the original members of the Strauss family for many years, even after they renamed their store Macy’s. 

Dad was one of two sons (his brother Jack was the first chiropractic in New York opening his practice in the 1930’s). He attended Xavier School in NYC (all little Irish Catholic boys), Holy Cross College and Fordham Law School. (He was bursting with pride when his granddaughter graduated from Fordham Law as well.) Dad had a photographic memory and still remembered all of his teachers and professors from those days.

He became a corporate counsel at MONY, Mutual of New York, where he worked for many years. When I was a kid, he’d bring us to his office where the windows opened on Broadway and we hung out and watched the Thanksgiving Day parade (we always called it the ‘Macy’s Day Parade’).

He spent decades as a member of the Representative Town Meeting in Connecticut where we lived growing up, an astonishing committment for a man who commuted to work in NY every day and had four children. Later, he served as Chairman of the Board of Education, the chair of the Ethics commission and the Charter Review Board. In those days, no one got paid for these offices. Just being a good citizen.

But my father will be remembered for something else entirely – he had a nearly perfect tenor voice and loved to sing. He’d burst into song often and everywhere. Six months ago, a younger friend asked him to sing at her wedding. He did – flawlessly. And it was the most treasured of his moments in this last year of his life.

So, as always must be, a good man has died. He had a full life and got to every grandchild’s wedding and met and held all seven of his great grandchildren.

We’ll sing at your memorial Dad. Requiem in pace.

20 responses to “A life in full

  1. Moe, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like a wonderful person, and what an amazing life he had! I’ve never heard of a life that was so fulfilled and varied. I’m sure there are lots and lots of people whose lives he touch and who will be remembering him very fondly.


  2. I’m sorry for your loss. At least, it sounds like he had a great life, and was healthy up to the end.

    My dad is almost 91, and in good shape, but I think he’s starting to slip a little.

    Anyway make the most of the time with the rest of your family, even in grief. I expect that you will.


  3. In the phot, he reminds me of Jimmy Stewart.


  4. Moe, I am sorry to hear about your loss. My father means so much to me, I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose him. I don’t expect it gets any easier as we get older, and the sense of attachment grows stronger. I have to admire you for your courage and selfless bravery…if my father had passed, I suspect that I would be to consumed with myself and my own loss to stop and ponder his accomplishments and how much he meant to others. Good luck, Moe…


  5. Ms. Holland,

    Sorry to hear of your Father’s passing. You posted an amazing life story. You are very fortunate to have a man like that as your Dad.


  6. You know how much your father meant to me; I am saddened by his death but greatful for all the wonderful memories of him and your mother. I am very pleased that we were able to celebrate his 98th birthday together. As I wrote to Susie, I am now left wondering who will sing at Steve and my wedding should the governemnt ever allow it. You are in my thoughts and I am here if you need anything.


  7. Maureen I’m so sorry to read of your father’s passing, it sounds like he had a grand life and went the way we all can only hope to go, a ripe old age and surrounded by loved ones. Again I’m sorry, you’re in my thoughts.


  8. I am so sorry to hear of your loss Moe. He sounded like a fine man and certainly lived through a veritable smorgasborg of American history. He must have had amazing stories to tell. Bless you and him. I shall pray for his soul this week. Blessings.


  9. Moe,

    My condolences. A very nice tribute to your remarkable father.

    Duane Graham


  10. I was thinking the same thing, that he looked like Jimmy Stewart in that pic!
    What a wonderful tribute to an extraordinary man and I loved the
    video of him singing!

    “Leaba imeasc na naomh go raibh acu
    agus ag an chlann mac is iníon atá leo.
    *translation-May they rest in the company of the saints,
    and their sons and daughters with them.”
    –Irish blessing


  11. Moe,

    What a beautiful tribute to your Father. I am truly sorry, my friend. If you need a hug, you know where to find me. I love you.


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