Dad's FamiliesI have collected a large amount of information on my dad's family over the years. While dad always told me that he did not know much about his dad's family, I discovered a great deal over the past 20 years or so. Dad passed to his greater glory Oct. 15, 2006. I was asked by my family to do something I never thought I could do, give his eulogy. My siblings have asked me for a copy of notes. While I had prepared notes, I never actually looked at them during the funeral. There were a couple of things that I knew. First that I could not see my dad while I giving this nor could I make eye contact with my closest family members.
My dad was the funniest person that I have ever known. He often had a smile and knew everyone. The viewing the night before the funeral was a long line of postal employees that knew my dad, church friends, family and bowling buddies. My brother, Mike, not only looks a lot like my dad but also has his booming voice. As the family shook hands, there was no doubt who Mike was.
This is my attempt of sharing my parting words about Dad with a packed room of people who knew him well.
Remembering DadThank you for coming today to say your farewells with the family. My dad was born in Detroit to Emma and Lew Ray. It might surprise some of you that he lived there until he was about 5 years old. Just like today, things did not work out very well for his parents and he and his mother moved back to Granite City.
My dad had many memories of growing up. Some might remember my dad as a guy who was often a little late to many activities in his life. His school days were not any different. Dad spent a great deal of time with his grandma "Momma Cook" and his twin aunts, Billie and Betty, who were responsible for getting Dad to school on time. Apparently, he would wonder slowly to school, so his aunts would walk on each side of him grabbing his ear lobes to keep him moving along. My great aunt Betty always said that it was a wonder that Dad didn't grow to hate them. Dad never did, in fact, he had a great fondness for his family.
Some will remember my dad as Sonny and others as Big Red. Since Dad was Big Red, you might wonder who was Little Red. That was me. I am the eldest of Bob's kids and I have a great number of terrific memories of my dad. Long before there was a bring your daughter to work day, my dad brought me with him on his mail route. He delivered mail on a route that included his grandmother's house and I can remember my mother dropping me off at some prearranged location and I was able to walk the route with dad. It probably wasn't more than a couple of blocks and dad and I arrived at "Momma Cook's" house. It was one of the rare times that I was able to spend time with "Momma Cook" and I remember my Aunt Dot (who was my age) was there as well.
Another time that I was able to be with Dad during his assigned mail duties included a ride to school in the back of the mail truck. My dog had followed me to school, was hit my car, and the woman brought me and my ailing dog home to my mom. Mom must have called Dad. What I remember most was my dad telling me to hide behind the mail so that no one would see me. Now that was in the days that the post office was using those 3 wheeled mail trucks. I remember at some time during dad's work career, he managed to have an accident with that thing. My brother tells the story that the wheel actually came off of the truck and some how it broke in half. Like Ted Turner adding color to old films, sometimes Mike embellishes family stories as well.
As I grew up and went to high school, Dad used to let me use his 1973 Impala Station Wagon. We called it the barge because it was so big. My girlfriends and I would cruise through McDonald's in that boat on Friday nights while Dad was bowling. I was the kid that never seemed to get in trouble. But something happened one night when Mike drove dad's car. I'm not sure what it was, but it involved the Granite City Police Department, three flat tires and no exhaust system. After that Mike didn't get to drive Dad's car anymore. Brenda was the next of dad's kids to learn to drive. I can remember Brenda asking to use the car and answer was quick and to the point, "No".
I have to be honest, by the time that Dave learned to drive, I'm not sure that he even asked. He knew there was not chance.
Along the way, my dad meet my step-mother. While you all know her as Pat Ray, I am the original Pat Ray. That seemed to cause some confusion when I would come back to Granite and high school friends would call Dad's looking for me.
"Is Pat there?"
It never took long for Pat to tell them, they had the wrong Pat Ray and gave me the phone.
Pat came with 3 kids of her own and each of them have stories to tell. But the one person who really kept Dad going when his health began to decline was Carly. Carly is the youngest grandkid in the group and was always up to something.
During the entire time, I managed to look out into the group, I say a number of friendly faces looking back at me. I heard my siblings, adding comments that only the people in the front row could hear. The most memorable for me was when my brother Mike said something that sounded - OH NO - when I spoke of his mischief with Dad's car. At that point that I began to mention Carly, I broke my self-imposed rule and made eye contact with Carly.
I wrapped up my eulogy with a thank you. Among the tears and sadness was a great number of smiles and even some laughter. I am sure that my dad was with me at that time. Keeping me steady and help me add humor to what was the hardest speech I have ever given.