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 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.