Category Archives: Eulogies

Bill Walker

Bill was a year older than me and five years to the day older than our brother Bob. We spent the first 16 years of my life in the same household, but were completely different individuals. He was also an accountant, but we lived our separate lives and got together a few times each year. No matter how much or little we saw of each other, you can never break the bonds that brothers have.

Other than Mom, I guess I’ve known Bill longer than anyone else here. Mom tells the story, although I really don’t remember this one, that when we lived in the Western UP in Republic, Bill and I would play outside together during the only two weeks of summer. They had just finished paving the street in front of the church and the tar was still wet and gooey. We lived in the back of the church, and Mom kept an eye on us all of the time, but there was very little traffic so we went out and played in the fresh tar. The way I understand it my bib overalls had one of those trap doors in the back and mine had become unbuttoned. Bill got a stick and, whenever I bent over to pick up something he painted my butt with tar. It took Mom a long time to wash the tar off and it never did come off the wagon we painted.

I probably shouldn’t have said “butt” in church. Dad is probably up there giving me “the look”, and I’m sure Father Mel will suggest meeting me in the confessional after the luncheon.

Growing up in Three Rivers, we lived out in the country and since there weren’t many kids to play with, we learned to do things with each other. Bill was a year older than me and Bob was four years younger. So when Bill and I wanted to play catch, Mom would make us include Bob. To Bob, we weren’t Bill and Jack…we  were “the boys”. Bob would go in and tell Mom that the boys wouldn’t play with him, and Mom would come out and tell us to let Bob play. We would argue that he was too small, but Mom said play with him anyway. We would often throw him ground balls; the balls would bounce through the yard, jump up and hit him in the face and, often, give him a bloody nose. He would run inside screaming to Mom, and we would get yelled at but, then again, what are brothers for?

Tom and Bill Kline lived a couple of long city blocks away and we would often go over to their house and play. Tom was Bill’s age and Bill Kline was a couple of years younger than me. They had just gotten a couple of BB guns and we had been shooting them at tin cans. Bill, Tom and I were standing in the yard talking and Bill Kline was spinning in a circle shooting the BB gun at random. One of the BBs hit brother Bill and the BB went under the skin in his chest. We pushed the BB back to the hole where it came in and pinched it out like a zit. We put mercurochrome on it and never told Mom and Dad. They never would have let us go back there and play and besides my friend Bruce, there were no other kids within walking distance. Sorry Bill, but I told Mom that story yesterday. But I didn’t tell her about the time we opened and sampled Tom and Bill’s grandma’s dandelion wine. That secret is still safe with me.

After we moved to St. Joe on Lake Michigan, we met a kid named Skip who ended up being my best friend. Our family started taking trips to Florida over Christmas break and we would stop on the way back in Tennessee or Alabama and buy fireworks. Bill and I would meet Skip down at the beach and set off firecrackers. Since the statute of limitations has expired, I will confess that what we bought was illegal in Michigan. We had some big ones…cherry bombs…silver tubes…M-80s…and we would look for dead carp that had washed up on shore. We’d use a stick and put an M-80 under the carp, light it, then run away and watch it blow to smithereens. It only took one time of gagging and retching to learn that you should run more than ten feet away and you should always run upwind.

Bill was a year older so he was a grade ahead of me in school. We were completely different people, but younger brothers tend to want to do what older brothers do and older brothers, however much they deny it, are protective of younger brothers. Bill took Latin as a required language so I did too. I’m still not sure why we did that. There aren’t a lot of people that speak Latin these days and, since we both made our careers in accounting, we didn’t use a lot of Latin to help us understand tax law. The Latin teacher would give all the students Latin names. Bill’s was Gulielmus, but we called him Gulie for short.

When we got into High School, Bill was in the choir because he loved to sing. You had to try out for choir, and if you didn’t make it, you had to take chorus or band. Of course, I had to do what Bill did, so I tried out for choir and made it. I had a little pull with the teacher because Bill was well liked, I could stay on pitch, and we had the same genes. We were in musicals together and, although we were never the leads, we always had prominent parts. Last year Mom took Bill and Lois, Bob and Patti, and me to see Brigadoon at the show palace in Hudson, Florida. Bill and I were both in Brigadoon in high school, but I couldn’t remember what parts we played. Not only did Bill know who he played, he knew who I played and described much of the story line. I glanced over at him several times during the performance and he was mouthing every word to every song.

After he graduated, Bill went off to North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. I was a senior and Jimmy Wohler and I decided to take a road trip to see big brother. North Central was a church school, and when we got there, Bill gave us the normal parent oriented tour. That night we went to a party with him, and it was nothing like any church school I would have envisioned. As long as I never run for public office, those skeletons will stay buried in the closet and, Bill; I still won’t tell what went on that night.

After I graduated from high school, Bill, Skip, Jim Thierbach and I went to New Orleans for a guy’s graduation trip. On the way down in Jim’s ’57 Chevy, we had car trouble in Memphis, Tennessee. The battery kept getting weaker and weaker and we knew we needed a new one. We didn’t have much money, so being dumb teenagers, we decided to steal one from a parked car. We pulled up to a dark carport, snuck up to the house, and were trying to decide who would actually do it. Bill said he wouldn’t do it, maybe Jack would. I said I wouldn’t do it, maybe Skip would. Skip said he wouldn’t do it, maybe Jim would. The James Gang we weren’t, so we chipped in five bucks apiece and bought a battery at a Western Auto store. As for the rest of the trip, we all promised not to tell what happened. What goes on in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans and Father Mel, I’ve already taken care of that one.

I remember the many times Bill and I would go over to Shiawassee duck hunting before Billy and Curt were old enough to hunt and take my place. I’d get up at 2 AM in Hastings and get over to Bill’s in Lansing by 3 or so. He’d be at the kitchen table eating a plate of cold spaghetti and tomatoes and we’d take off for the hunt. We’d get there, register, and then stand outside, sometimes in rain or snow or a mix waiting for the drawing. I wasn’t a lucky influence and we rarely got what we would call a good draw. We had our favorite areas, would choose them if we had the chance, and would get to the parking lot as soon as we could. We’d load up the canoe with guns, decoys and coffee and head out for the best spots. We’d paddle up the canals, get out on an icy or rain slicked path, drag the loaded canoe up and over the dike, get back in the canoe and paddle to the next dike where we’d do it all over again. We would often spend 3 or 4 hours standing in 33 degree water, get completely skunked, and come back the next week to do it all over again. We shot our fair share of ducks and geese and created many memories. When the boys got old enough they became his hunting partners and I didn’t go as much. I’m sure they have a hundred stories to tell about those times.

Bob lived in Dallas, Texas at one time so Bill and I went down there a couple of times to fish the lakes around there. Lake Fork, at one time, had produced 35 of the top 50 bass in the Texas record books so we fished that one a lot. You’d think that we would spend every minute trying to land a 10 pounder, and we did fish for bass some, but we really loved to fish for specks. I have never caught, nor seen caught, any bigger specks in my entire life and we would catch as many as we wanted to clean. We’d tie Bob’s boat to one of the many bridges or to an old submerged tree and fish ˜til dark. Bill wasn’t much of an early riser as many of you know, so we never made it out there at the crack of dawn, but that didn’t matter. We’d stay in a motel once in a while, get up and have some breakfast, and we were chomping at the bit ready to go. Every time we just about got in the car, Bill would feel the call to nature, grab and handful of reading materials, and head for the john. I can still see Bob and me sitting on the bumper of Bob’s truck and the tongue of his boat trailer knowing we were in for a 15 minute crap. I probably shouldn’t have said crap in church either so, Father Mel, just add that one to my list. Sorry, Dad!

Brother Bob and I are feeling just a bit guilty. Over Christmas when all three of us boys were at Mom’s condo, we ragged on Bill just a little about doing another tax season. We kidded him about how long it would take for him to end up in the hospital. Having been in the tax business for thirty years I know how stressful tax season can be. But I also know the satisfaction that you get by helping people with difficult problems. True, you get your share of clients that view you as an extension of the IRS and think you get a cut of their tax money. Actually I think they just need a cat to kick and you’re the closest one. But I also know how good you feel when you’ve done the best you can and they really appreciate it. That self worth overshadows the fact you are so dog tired you can hardly stay awake long enough to catch the evening news. Bill was good at taxes and was doing what he loved. As they say in the old westerns, he died with his boots on.

And Beth, I don’t think either one of us are going to be able to talk your Dad into a water aerobics class now.

There are tons of other stories, but Father Mel said to keep it short and I can see he’s already on his second page of confession notes. At about this time I’m sure that Lois and Mom, and many of the rest of you are thinking, “I thought Jack would get up and say a bunch of nice things about Bill and that would be it. Yes, the stories are mildly interesting, but they seem to be about your experiences with Bill. How does that help us?” The answer is, I don’t know. I’m not Dr. Phil and, other than the fact that we have the same hair style or lack thereof, I don’t have his credentials to know the psychological steps to handling grief. After the officer tells you that your husband is gone, or your son is gone, or after your mother calls and tells you your brother or father or friend is gone, and you get past the initial shock that feels like you just got hit between the eyes with a hammer, how do you make sense of it all?

We all handle it differently. When I first get the word that someone close to me has died, my head starts spinning and my entire life’s experiences with that individual passes before my eyes. It’s all crystal clear in my head and I have to put it down on paper. Sometimes I password protect it, file it in “My Documents” in Word, and no one else ever sees it. Sometimes I share it with one or two people and once in a while I read it at the memorial service in front of real people like most of you are. So write your version of Bill’s eulogy. Where I use the term brother, insert husband or son or father or friend. And where I tell the story about Bill painting my butt with tar, insert some of your experiences with Bill. Not all people can relate with how it feels to lose a spouse or a son or a father or a brother or a really close friend so we’re kind of on our own. We all have to find what works for us to get through it.

In my case, brothers are always brothers, no matter whether one decides to leave the game early or not, and those experiences are my definition of Bill. But in this case it still raises two problems. The first one is personal. When I was a kid I was afraid at night when the lights went out. Two things got me. I thought when planes flew over, they would drop tornadoes on us. I know, I know…it’s a mixture of fears. I get it, but it still bothered me. The other fear was that a giraffe would nibble my ears off, so even if it was a hundred degrees in the bedroom…and this was before air conditioning…I would pull the sheet or covers up around my neck and cover my ears. Why a giraffe, you ask? It was because our bedroom was upstairs in Three Rivers and a giraffe was the only animal that could reach high enough to get his head through the open window.

So one Christmas we stayed at Grandma and Grandpa Riggs’ house and slept in the way back bedroom upstairs. We all slept in one bed with Bill in the middle, Bob on one side and me on the other. Right after the lights went out, it was pitch black and someone or something grabbed my ear and pulled. Bill said he didn’t do it, so I laid there all night in fear waiting for the axe murderer to finish the job. Bill never admitted it and Bob couldn’t reach that far, so Bill, if you did do it, give me some kind of sign……I guess I’ll never really know the truth on that one.

The other dilemma is shared by all of us. We all have to figure out how to be content with the stories we remember about our relationship with Bill, ‘cuz there won’t be any new ones. We’ll miss you Bro!

Julie (Fisher) Sharpe

I first met Julie when I was in college at Western Michigan University. She was my “ex-wife’s” roommate. Julie had always been a friend and we became closer when I was going through a divorce. Julie loved cats and always had several who allowed Julie to live in their house.

Some time ago I walked through a garden.
I had been there many times before.
I came to see the brilliant colors of the flowers
Contrasted with the green leaves and grass.
The garden was beautiful but, as I looked around,
I noticed that a Rose was missing.
I asked the gardener what had happened to it.
He told me that it had been picked
And placed in a vase on a table in a restaurant
And at a candlelit dinner at that table a couple fell in love.
I was glad that the Rose had ended its life on Earth
In such a noble way.
Just then a stranger walked by and said
“What a beautiful garden.
Isn’t this the most beautiful garden you have ever seen?”
And I said yes, not wanting to diminish his moment.
But I thought to myself,
“You should have been here yesterday.
Yes the garden is beautiful,
But it is less for the missing Rose”.

Some time ago I went for a run on a road
That went through a beautiful forest.
I often ran that way to watch the birds build their nests,
And teach their young to fly.
To watch the squirrels gather nuts
And chase each other up and down the trees.
As I looked around I noticed that a small Spruce Tree was missing.
I asked the owner of the land what had happened.
He told me that the small Spruce Tree had been cut down
And taken to a nursing home.
It was being used as a Christmas tree.
All of the residents that were able
Were decorating the tree.
It became the center of their world
And it brought joy to all who saw it.
I was glad that the small Spruce Tree had ended its life on Earth
In such a noble way.
Just then a stranger walked by and said
“What a beautiful forest.
Isn’t this the most beautiful forest you have ever seen?”
And I said yes, not wanting to diminish his moment.
But I thought to myself,
“You should have been here yesterday.
Yes the forest is beautiful,
But it is less for the missing Spruce Tree”.

I awoke Thanksgiving Day with great anticipation.
There was much work to do.
Family was home and friends would be stopping by.
The turkey needed to be stuffed and put in the oven.
The leaves needed to be put in the table.
Extra chairs needed to be brought downstairs from my office.
As I looked around I noticed that a Friend was missing.
There was no one to ask where she had gone.
So I imagined that she was needed somewhere else
And she was there brightening their day
And being a Friend to them.
I was glad that the pain and suffering of her life on Earth was over
And she was in a better place
And she had faced death with courage in such a noble way.
Just then someone said
“What a beautiful Thanksgiving.
Here we are around the table with family and friends.
Isn’t this the most beautiful Thanksgiving you have ever seen?”
And I said yes, not wanting to diminish the moment.
But I thought to myself,
“You should have been here yesterday.
Yes this Thanksgiving is beautiful,
But it is less for our missing Friend”.
We’ll miss you, Julie!

Elaine Standler

Elaine was a charter member of our Trilanders Triathlon Club. In her younger years she had competed in speed skating and loved the sport. Elaine did one of her first triathlons at Lake Macatawa in 1999, which was my first triathlon race. She had a health problem on the swim and ended up in the hospital for a day or two. My wife, Jean, and Elaine were swimming together at Algonquin Lake in September of 2004 when Elaine died.

When Len asked if I would say a few words about Elaine, he knew that I had written e-mails each week to our triathlon group on my training for Ironman Wisconsin, and that Elaine loved reading them. He knew she would be proud to have me write something and I am proud to have the opportunity to pass on the thoughts of The Trilanders, our triathlon training group.

This is where I should say when Elaine was born, and I know she wouldn’t care if I did, but I’ll just say she was born some time back and leave it at that. She attended Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, and graduated 18 years after that unknown birth date. She and Len have been married quite a number of years. That takes care of the details. To steal a line from Paul Harvey, now here’s the rest of the story.

Our triathlon group was formed in the fall/winter of 2000. In a story about our beginnings, Jon Anderson was named King J.D., the king of Triland, which is how we got our name. We were given names based on our jobs, our personality traits, or our accomplishments. For example, Dr. Diane Ebaugh was named Diane the Body Parts Mechanic. Since I am an accountant, and accountants are often called bean counters, I was named Jack the Beancounter. Because of her accomplishments and interest, Elaine was named Elaine the Speed Skater. Through the years our group has changed. Some have left, others have joined in.

The group has formed a bond together. It’s more than just a group of athletes practicing for the big game. We have become like a family, and Elaine was one of the founding members. We come from all walks of life and each member brings his or her talents to the group. Some of us are good athletes and consistently win our age group at races. If you’ve seen my race results, you know that’s not me. Some of us have been athletes all our lives and excel at one or more aspects of the swim, bike or run. That’s not me either.

Elaine has been a champion speed skater for many years, but what she brought to the table was love, giving, a big heart, and acceptance of everyone for who they are. She loved, cared for and accepted everyone in the group for what they were doing, not whether they won or not. It was the same at home. Len told me that in the 47 years they were married, not one day passed that she didn’t wake up in the morning, turn to him and say, “I love you, Len”. She not only said it. She lived it; not only with Len, but with the rest of her family, with her friends, and with everyone she met.

We call ourselves a triathlon club. For those of you who don’t know what that is, you swim a certain distance, jump out of the water and onto your bike, bike a specific distance, jump off your bike, put on your running shoes and run a certain distance across the finish line. But some of us don’t swim or bike but love to run. Some of us don’t swim or run but love to bike. Some of us don’t bike or run but love to swim. Some of us love do all three but never race. Elaine loved to do all three, but was limited on the things she could do due to injuries or medical conditions. She had gotten back into speed skating and was getting in shape for the winter season. She would still come to the Sunday runs, and often would walk since that’s all she could do at the time. Sometimes she would bring Len along. Other times he would stay home, probably washing the cars.

We would often go on group bike rides and, for much of the summer, we would have time trials on the bikes. A time trial is going as fast as you can for a specified distance against the clock. We would start out at the Mormon Church on Airport Road, go out to M-37, up to Irving Road, through Irving into Middleville, back on State Road to Airport Road and back to where we started. Each rider would start a couple of minutes after the previous rider and you would try your best to catch the person in front of you. I remember one evening I started two minutes after Elaine, rode as fast as I could go, and never caught her. I got back to the church and Elaine wasn’t there. A couple more people came in after I did and they didn’t pass Elaine either. We got worried and were just about to go look for her when Elaine came riding in. Apparently someone, I won’t mention any names, gave her the wrong directions, and she went a couple of miles out of her way to McCann Road. She just laughed and said now she understood why she never passed anyone, no one passed her either and her time was worse than she thought it should be.

We usually had a brunch after the Sunday run and Len and Elaine hosted it several times. Usually there was more food than we needed, but we managed to eat it all, just to be polite. Elaine would always treat everyone in the group the same. It didn’t really matter whether someone had a good race, a bad race or didn’t race at all. Elaine would always offer congratulations for just being there.

This past Sunday morning, Larry, Gary and I ran our Sunday run together. Since Larry and I were recovering from Ironman Wisconsin, we were to do a short recovery run. Gary told us about a four mile run from their house on Sager Road to Cook Road, up Cook to Quimby, left on Quimby to the dirt part of Tanner Lake Road, back to Cook Road and back to the house. He called it the hilliest four miles in Barry County and he was elected to babysit us so we didn’t try to run too fast or too hard. We talked much of the time but sometimes ran without saying anything. We all said at one time or another, “What a beautiful day”. We all had thoughts about Elaine and I was reminded that about two years ago, another friend of mine died. Sometimes I have difficulty saying how I feel, so I turn to writing and the words just come out. Usually I’ll finish writing, feel better about whatever is bothering me, password protect it, and save it to the computer for no one to see. I have been having some trouble dealing with the fact Elaine is gone, as many of you have, and this piece came to mind. I didn’t tell Larry and Gary the story out loud because real men don’t do those things. Just in case you were wondering, this isn’t a poem. To quote Robert Browning, “It isn’t poetry if it doesn’t rhyme”.

Some time ago I walked through a garden.
I had been there many times before.
I came to see the brilliant colors of the flowers
Contrasted with the green leaves and grass.
The garden was beautiful but, as I looked around,
I noticed that a Rose was missing.
I asked the gardener what had happened to it.
He told me that it had been picked
And placed in a vase on a table in a restaurant
And at a candlelit dinner at that table a couple fell in love.
I was glad that the Rose had ended its life on Earth
In such a noble way.
Just then a stranger walked by and said
“What a beautiful garden.
Isn’t this the most beautiful garden you have ever seen?”
And I said yes, not wanting to diminish his moment.
But I thought to myself,
“You should have been here yesterday.
Yes the garden is beautiful,
But it is less for the missing Rose”.

Some time ago I went for a run on a road
That went through a beautiful forest.
I often ran that way to watch the birds build their nests,
And teach their young to fly.
To watch the squirrels gather nuts
And chase each other up and down the trees.
As I looked around I noticed that a small Spruce Tree was missing.
I asked the owner of the land what had happened.
He told me that the small Spruce Tree had been cut down
And had been taken to a nursing home.
It was being used as a Christmas tree.
And all of the residents that were able
Were decorating the tree.
It became the center of their world
And it brought joy to all who saw it.
I was glad that the small Spruce Tree had ended its life on Earth
In such a noble way.
Just then a stranger walked by and said
“What a beautiful forest.
Isn’t this the most beautiful forest you have ever seen?”
And I said yes, not wanting to diminish his moment.
But I thought to myself,
“You should have been here yesterday.
Yes the forest is beautiful,
But it is less for the missing Spruce Tree”.

I awoke Thanksgiving Day with great anticipation.
There was much work to do.
Family was home and friends would be stopping by.
The turkey needed to be stuffed and put in the oven.
The leaves needed to be put in the table.
Extra chairs needed to be brought downstairs from my office.
As I looked around I noticed that a Friend was missing.
There was no one to ask where she had gone.
So I imagined that she was needed somewhere else
And she was there brightening their day
And she was being a Friend to them.
I was glad that the pain and suffering of her life on Earth was over
And she was in a better place
And she had faced death with courage in such a noble way.
Just then someone said
“What a beautiful Thanksgiving.
Here we are around the table with family and friends.
Isn’t this the most beautiful Thanksgiving you have ever seen?”
And I said yes, not wanting to diminish the moment.
But I thought to myself,
“You should have been here yesterday.
Yes this Thanksgiving is beautiful,
But it is less for our missing Friend”.

I thought to myself, that certainly fits Elaine, but it doesn’t sound complete. Something is different. At that very moment, Larry said, “What makes this a beautiful day is that Elaine is smiling down on us”. Then it dawned on me. That was the difference. Elaine isn’t gone at all. When that bond was formed with Len and her family, with her friends, and with the Trilanders group, who Elaine was became a part of us all and lives on with each of us. Elaine is loving and caring and taught us all to love and care. Elaine is accepting of everyone unconditionally, and taught us all to accept. Elaine is giving and taught us all to give. Elaine has a big heart for everyone and taught us to open our hearts.

So Elaine is still a part of us all. She may be gone in body, but she lives on in our hearts, our minds and our spirit. We’ll miss you, Elaine.

Lloyd Walker

Dad knew when he was 12 years old that he wanted to be a minister. We were raised in Michigan all our lives and Dad served churches in Newberry (U.P.), Republic (U.P.), Three Rivers, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Ionia (city), Hart, Ionia (rural), Jonesville, Three Oaks (all in Michigan) and Frostproof in Florida. He had his PhD and had also served as chaplain at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. My brothers, Bill and Bob, and I were typical “PKs”, a little on the wild side, and Dad was always very understanding.

On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces landed on the beach at Normandy in the D-Day invasion, which was the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Dad had decided to answer God’s call to the ministry when he was a freshman in High School in Pickford, Michigan in the UP. In 1944, Dad was enrolled at Owosso College and the Bible Holiness Seminary in Owosso, Michigan. He married Mom that same year. Within two years they had two boys under the age of two, but continued working toward becoming an ordained minister. It couldn’t have been easy for Mom and Dad, but they persevered because God’s call is that strong. We moved from Owosso to Newberry, Michigan in the UP where Dad served a Wesleyan Church for three years. Then we moved to Republic in the Western UP where he served another Wesleyan Church. Bob was born in 1950 and that made three boys 5 and under. We remember Dad holding evening services in Republic with only a handful of people. But that didn’t make any difference. If it had been one person, the meeting still would have gone on. At evening services Mom would play the piano, and Bill and I would sit on the steps where Mom could see us. On Sundays, Bill and I would sit in the front pew and Bob would be there in a basket. We lived in the back of the church and were quite poor, but we boys didn’t know it. Dad only made fifteen dollars a week (a raise from the two dollars a week to seven dollars a week at Newberry), so he had to work in the iron mines to make ends meet. First he worked in the mines themselves and later worked as timekeeper in the office. He did what was necessary to provide for his family and still continue his ministry.

In 1952 Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine. Most children were vaccinated in the early fifties. I can remember Bill and I, and probably Bob too, eating those sugar cubes with the pink stuff in them rather that get shots. A disease that had crippled many thousands of children was soon under control. In 1952, Dad had accepted an assignment with the Evangelical United Brethren Church near Three Rivers, Michigan. There were two churches in the Park Circuit (Center Park and West Mendon) and they kept Dad hopping. Dad would preach the sermon at Center Park, finish, and then race over to West Mendon to do the same thing over again. On the way to West Mendon, we often picked up Mr. Crosley. He was walking to church smoking a cigarette, but hid it when we stopped to give him a ride because he didn’t want Dad to know he smoked. But Dad did know and didn’t approve but it didn’t really matter as long as Mr. Crosley was going to church. I can remember Dad performing weddings late at night while us boys sat on the stairway listening. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, some of the brides appeared to be near having their first premature babies. Dad used to help farmers in the church when beef and hogs were butchered. It may have been unusual, but as we said before, Dad would do whatever it took to provide for his family and continue his ministry. It also gave him an opportunity to interact with his parishioners on a more personal basis and it helped him understand their hardships. When we got older, we had to help mow the church lawns and paint the parsonages, so I guess Dad was also the Supervising Maintenance Engineer. Both churches were involved in building projects during the six years we lived there and Dad was always right there acting as construction engineer. We can remember Dad and others from the church hand digging a basement under the Center Park Church.

In 1961 the Peace Corp was founded. Throughout the years, Peace Corp volunteers have done much to raise the standard of living in many third world countries. In 1961, Dad was serving an EUB church in St. Joseph, Michigan. Bill, Bob and I were in our teenage years and were quite a handful (just typical pk’s). At the time we figured Dad only worked a half-day a week (on Sunday mornings) and had it pretty easy. It was only later that we realized how much work he actually did. The congregation was bigger, so there were more weddings and funerals; more people to visit in hospitals; more meetings to attend; more potluck suppers; basically more of everything a minister does. He was active in the area ministerial association. During those times of racial unrest, I can remember having Sunday dinner with the minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Benton Harbor and his family first at their place, then at ours. The custodian at the church in St. Joseph was a German refugee named Walter Scwartzfeld. Walter had made the escape from East Germany, but his family had not. He was alone in this country with no family and no friends. Dad befriended Walter and helped fill a void. Dad would take Walter for boat rides and do what he could to make Walter’s life a little more complete. Dad was sometimes Supervisor of Riverside Church Camp and would sometimes drag Bill and me along as kitchen help. As busy as Dad was, he still found time to drive us to and from our lawn mowing jobs, to and from baseball games, to and from the pier where we perch fished from dawn to dusk and to and from school functions. In between all those things, he still found the time to continue his studies and in 1964 he earned his doctoral degree from Protestant Episcopal University in London, England. He taught classes there as a visiting lecturer and also taught classes at the University of Michigan. We remember Dad taking Old Testament Greek from a Greek Orthodox Priest in Benton Harbor and studying until the wee hours of the morning.

In February 1964, the Beatles first appeared in America on the Ed Sullivan show and ushered in a musical revolution. In June 1964, Dad accepted a change in assignment to a church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A bigger church meant still more responsibilities. There were two of us in college, Bob was in High School, and we were all capable, at one time or another, of being more than a little on the wild side. We remember the cottage we had at Indian Lake and all the fun we had there. We remember the motorcycles we all had and the times Dad would make his church calls on his motorcycle. We remember the time that Dad borrowed mine, hit a car that had pulled out in front of him, and was in a coma for several days. We remember the trips we took to Florida, first to the Tampa/St. Pete area and later to the keys at Islamorada. We would leave Kalamazoo right after Sunday evening services and would drive all night (one time there were five of us and my twelve string guitar in a Ford Thunderbird–I rode the hump–not a comfortable ride). We can remember driving through snow and sleet in Kentucky and Tennessee and listening to the radio as they closed roads behind us. One year we stopped in Harriman, Tennessee to visit the Riggs relatives. We went back there last summer and caught up on family history (some of which is better left forgotten). We would always stay at nice places in Florida and went fishing from the bridges and on party boats. I guess we didn’t realize that Mom and Dad spent all their money on us so we could have fun. They didn’t have much left for themselves but that was fine with them as long as we boys were happy. Many people know that Dad had a love of cars. We knew that it was not only a love of the cars themselves, but also a love of dickering for anything he bought. Dad kept a log of the cars he owned in his lifetime and through 1986 the list totaled 86 different vehicles.

In 1969 the Woodstock Music and Art Festival was held in upstate New York. If all the people who claimed to have been at Woodstock were actually there, it would have been ten times larger than it was. In 1969 Bill was married and Bob and I were in the service. Mom and Dad had moved to Ionia in 1966 and served a church there until 1967. Dad soon decided to combine his ministry training and his doctoral degree in philosophy and became Chaplain at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (I’m sure there is a much more politically correct name for it these days). Dad took me on a tour one time when I was home on leave and I left speechless. There was a man behind the locked doors with papers piled all over his desk. He told me he was an attorney working on releases for some of the prisoners. I thought it was nice that he was able to work right in the lockdown area where he could be close to the men he was working for. Dad told me later that the papers were all waste paper, and the man was an inmate. I don’t remember all the details, but I know a man once pulled a knife on Dad in his office at the State Hospital (at the time it made him seem a little bit 007ish).

In 1973 the Sears Tower in Chicago was completed. At the time, it was the tallest building in the world. In 1973, Dad had returned to the ministry (we all knew he couldn’t stay away forever) and was serving churches near Ionia, Michigan called LeValley and Berlin Center. He also served churches in the Hart, Michigan area and the Jonesville, Michigan area from 1979 to 1985. It was during this time period that Dad renewed his love of the outdoors and hunting that he developed when we lived in the UP. During the UP years, hunting was necessary to put food on the table for his ever-growing family. He never missed an opening day of deer hunting season unless it was on a Sunday, and even then the sermon was just a tad shorter, and he would be in the woods by 12:30. This also gave him a chance to spend more time with Bill and later, his grandchildren. On one particular Sunday hunting trip he made a spectacular shot on a buck on a nearby ridge. In his haste to get to the woods after church, he had forgotten to pack his hunting knife and had to use a single edge razor blade to field dress the deer. On another day, it was warm and in the mid day heat, there wasn’t much action. He was cozied up to what was known as “Dad’s Tree” and closed his eyes for just a minute. He awoke a short time later and opened his eyes only to see a deer with its nose less than a foot away from his own.

In 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded seconds after takeoff killing all aboard. In 1986, Dad was serving what he thought was his last church in Three Oaks, Michigan. He thought he retired from the ministry in 1988. Dad and Mom did the normal retiree things. The first year or two it was a brief winter visit to Florida with their travel trailer. They progressed to a small park model home in the RV park at Bowling Green and then on to Deer Lake Park at Avon Park. At the time of Mom and Dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, they were touring the United States with Bill and Lois doing the trade show circuit for Bill’s business. He accepted the challenge to be minister at the Sun Ray United Methodist Church in 1996 which continued until now. Dad said it was only a part time job but he never did anything part time. If it needed to be done, Dad would do it without worrying about how many hours it took. The week before Dad has his heart attack, he visited a family and ended up taking the man to the hospital with pneumonia.

In September 2001 the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in the Washington, D.C. area were attacked by terrorists. Thousands of people died in these attacks. In September 2001, Dad was critically ill in a hospital bed in Orlando still preaching the word of God to nurses and anyone else who would listen. When we visited with Dad in the cardiac care unit, we told him that he needed to get better but would need to slow down a little. But he said and I quote “It’s not just a job. I do it because I really enjoy it and it’s my life”. He said over and over “I love God first, then Lorna and then my boys”. Dad always wanted to die with his boots on, and he did.

Two weeks ago, when Mom, Bill, Bob and I were with Dad in the hospital in Orlando, we told Dad we loved him and we were proud of him. Saying you are proud of someone is something that is said quite often without even thinking about why. So we boys talked about why. Dad didn’t storm the Beach at Normandy and help end the war in Europe; he didn’t invent the polio vaccine and save the lives of thousands of children; he didn’t start the Peace Corp or even serve in the Peace Corp; he wasn’t a rock star (although in our teenage years we thought that would have been way too cool); he was one of the few people of that era that didn’t claim to be at Woodstock (that would have been too weird– Dad at Woodstock); he didn’t build huge buildings that became world landmarks; he wasn’t an astronaut that flew to the moon; he wasn’t a rescue worker in New York City being lauded for bravery and tireless efforts to save people.

He didn’t do any of those things, but for over fifty years went quietly about the business of profoundly changing people’s lives. Every Sunday he would preach the gospel to anyone who would listen. He performed hundreds of weddings and probably just as many funerals. He baptized hundreds of children and adults. He had a keen financial mind and helped many churches out of financial difficulties. He counseled people who were having trouble in their lives. He comforted people when they lost loved ones. He ministered to the sick. He was a friend to everyone he came in contact with. He prayed with people when they needed help. He prayed for people when they didn’t even know they needed help.

We are celebrating Dad’s life today. But Dad would be the first to admit that he couldn’t have done it as well as he did without Mom’s help. Most people don’t realize, but we know from first-hand experience, that when a minister answers God’s call, the minister’s wife does too. Whether it’s playing the piano at services, putting together the bulletins, helping with the church reports, working with and sometimes leading the women’s groups, organizing church dinners, taking care of the kids when the minister has meetings every night of the week, going to work to help raise money for a church bus, typing the sermons, or any of the other duties of a preacher’s wife, she needs to be just as committed. We love you and we’re proud of you too, Mom.

But for us boys that’s not where the story ends. Dad had a way of letting us know we needed to do something without really saying anything (my kids say I am the same way). With just a look, we would understand that we had done something wrong and we needed to do something to make it right. So without saying so, we think Dad has challenged us to make a difference in the world with our lives. We aren’t ministers; we’re bean counters and computer geeks. But we can still make the world a better place because we were here. If we want to know how, we have over fifty years of examples to look to.

Jack Warner

Jack Warner was a friend for many years. He had attended a funeral for a mutual friend that I had written a eulogy for, so when he knew his time had come, he told his wife, Ila, that he wanted me to do the service. Jack was quite the “rounder” and there are tons of stories not fit for family and friends to hear at a funeral. He would do just about anything to needle someone, but had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone who needed help.

Jack Warner wasn’t an openly religious person to many of his friends, but his family and many people knew him as an exceptionally spiritual man. He requested that I help with the service, possibly because our names were similar (I was always being called Jack Warner but I doubt that anyone called him Jack Walker), possibly because he heard me speak at Dave Kruko’s funeral and enjoyed the stories, and possibly because he knew I was a minister’s son who approved of drinking beer and that was close enough for him. At any rate, his family told me that they often recited the Lord’s Prayer, so let’s begin by repeating that in unison together.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou annointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Many of you know Jack’s family, his wife Ila, his daughter Lisa, and his sons Ned, Tod and Del, their wives and special friends, his grandchildren and his many brothers and sisters. For those of you who think the newspaper spelled Tod’s name wrong (with only one “d”), it’s spelled correctly. When Tod was born and about to be named, Ila was going to spell his name with two “d”s. Jack said that would show favoritism because Ned’s name had only one “d” and insisted it be spelled that same way. Jack always had a reason for things, whether you agreed with him or not.

Jack was born in Burr Oak, Indiana and was raised in Indiana, attending schools there and graduating from Argos High School in 1950. He served in the U.S. Marines from 1951 to 1954, and married Ila later in 1954. He owned and operated a restaurant in Argos for a few years that was very successful. He and Ila lived in the Diamond Lake, Cassopolis, Michigan area until they moved to the Hastings area in 1961. He was a salesman/manager/sales-manager trainer for Moriarty Buildings, which became a part of the Wickes Corporation. He owned and operated Span Master Buildings for many years and later, served as Club Manager for the Hastings Country Club. He also worked for a time at J-Ad Graphics in Hastings.

We all have to admit that Jack was a “character” (in the good sense). I’m not a character, Ila’s not a character, Jack’s kids aren’t characters, George W. Bush is President and is famous, but he’s not a character. Robin Williams is a character, Jonathon Winters is a character and Jack was a character. To get a sense of who Jack really was, I thought it would be helpful to ask his friends to share a few “Jack” stories. Everyone immediately thought of a dozen stories, but the difficult part was sorting out the ones that weren’t “X” rated.

Dave Wilcox (who Jack often called Willis) told a golf course story to me about the time he and football coach Bill Karpinski were teamed up against Jack Warner and Bobbie Miller (the scrap iron Bob Miller, not the Hastings Schools Bob Miller). They were playing a $2.00 Nassau (which for you non-golfers means $2.00 for the winner of the first nine, $2.00 for the winner of the second nine and $2.00 for the winner of the overall match). Everyone knows that Jack was prone to unusual golf course antics, but not everyone knows that Dave is too. If you don’t believe me, just ask him why he’s no longer invited to the golf outings in Marshall with his brother-in-law Brad. Anyway, they got to the 12th hole at Hastings Country Club, which is not as far as you can get from the clubhouse, but almost. Those of you who have golfed with Dave know that he can hit the ball a mile, but seldom has any idea where it is going. Dave hit a shot that he describes as “less than straight”. Not because he was mad, but trying to be cute, he broke the club over his knee like a piece of kindling. The steel-shafted club didn’t break clean and had a wicked jagged edge that cut Dave’s leg, eventually requiring 27 stitches. The cut was bleeding profusely, but Jack wouldn’t let Dave go to the hospital until he paid off the bet ($2,00 for the front side, $2.00 for forfeiting the back side and $2.00 for forfeiting the match).

Dave was known as Mr. Ducks Unlimited. He and a few others organized the Thornapple Valley Chapter around 22 years ago. We had the first few banquets at the Elks Club (back when it was downtown), moved to the Moose for more space and eventually moved to the MidVilla where it still goes on. Ducks Unlimited is a great organization, and the banquets were held as fund raisers. Part of the idea was to have an extended cocktail hour, talk up the live and silent auction items, and raise as much money as possible. People would know that the money went for a good cause, so the would often spend a little extra. Jack called Ducks Unlimited, Ducks Untidy just to try to needle Dave just a little. More than once, the live auction would be going on, and Jack would be in the back of the room extending the cocktail hour just a little. Someone would buy an expensive item and most people would clap for their generosity, but not Jack. All of a sudden in a loud voice you could hear him say “You paid how much for that? What are you, crazy?”

Dave also recalls the time Jack borrowed (Dave said stole, but I think Jack just borrowed) two bushels of tomatoes from Dave’s garage and repaid him by leaving two cans of tomato soup.

Bob Stack and John Walsh used to have some intense golf matches against Bob Newell and Jack Warner. Jack would do anything he could to rattle the other team, usually to no avail. But one particular golf match was different. Bob Stack owned and operated (some people say Genevieve operated) the Stack Insurance Agency. At that time, Jack was the owner and operator of Span Master Buildings. Jack had his fleet of vehicles and other business insurance through the Stack Agency. Bob was on the first tee, ready to hit his drive, when he heard something hit the ground near him. He looked up and Jack had thrown the entire insurance premium (around $2,400 in ones, fives, tens and twenties) on the tee area. The wind was blowing the bills all around the tee. Bob scurried around, picked up all the money and stuffed it in his golf bag. Bob was so worried about having so much cash in his golf bag, that he shot a terrible round and lost all the bets that day.

I can’t remember the exact details, and I can’t remember the amounts involved, but I remember that Jack once paid off a golf bet to Dave Rodenbeck by taping $1 bills to the shaft of his putter with scotch tape so there was no way to get them off.

Many of you know that Jack was an avid basketball fan. I used to needle him by saying that there wasn’t anything to do in Indiana but watch the corn grow in the summer and watch basketball in the winter. I used to work in South Bend and we were told that anyone from South of Highway 6 was an Indiana hillbilly. Jack would needle me saying that, growing up, he heard that people living in Michigan either worked in an automobile plant, trapped beavers, collected unemployment or did all three. Anyway, Jack was well known for his love of the NCAA tournaments. He coordinated the NCAA basketball pool and, for those who were out of the running after the first two rounds, the “NCAA junior” for the sweet sixteen tournament. For several years he hosted a get together for the NCAA finals. It was always on a Monday night, and during tax season, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. The evening started at the Elks Club for a cocktail and a car pool out to Wall Lake. There were more cocktails, of course, and a couple of different wagering pools (usually circulated by Ron Lewis). Dinner was served around 7:30 or 8 and the kitchen was cleaned for the 9 o’clock game. I can remember John Czinder, John Walsh, Bob Stack, Bob Stanley, Bob Sherwood, Dick Guenther, Dave Goodyear, Harold Kimmel, Harry Leckrone, Ron Lewis, Dave Wilcox, and many others in attendance at most of the parties. On one particular night, John Walsh had brought fresh lobsters and clams from the East Coast where he was living at the time. We feasted on as much lobster and as many clams as we could eat. Jack cooked a large steak on the grill and we had all the trimmings (usually made by Ila before she took refuge at the neighbors). It was a meal fit for a king. John had saved out a couple of lobsters for Bob and Dorothy Stack and put them on Bob’s back porch in a cooler. The Stacks had invited Bob and Curly Sherwood over for an elegant candlelit dinner. Cocktails were served and when it came time to boil the lobsters, they were missing from the cooler. It seems Jack had borrowed them and failed to tell Bob or Dorothy. There they were with absolutely nothing to eat. I’m told that you could hear Dorothy all the way up to Bob Stanley’s house when she realized that the lobsters just weren’t there.

Speaking of basketball, Dick Guenther tells about Jack during the years that Dick was school superintendent. Whenever Delton and Hastings played each other, they would make a small wager on the outcome. One particular basketball game was played in Hastings and was well underway with Jack sitting on the Delton side and Dick, of course, on the Hastings side. As the game progressed, Hastings held a large lead and as the lead increased, Jack became very quiet. Tauntingly, Dick kept calling Jack’s name with no response. The second half was a different story, with Delton scoring frequently. With the score getting within 5 points, Jack stood up and yelled “Where’s Guenther Now?”. At that instant, the crowd of 1,200 had quieted and everyone heard him. Needless to say, the superintendent was a little embarrassed and so was Jack.

Jack’s friendship with Dick Guenther went back to the days they were neighbors on Court Street in Hastings. During this period, Jack had acquired a combination grass-cutter/snow-plow tractor from Dave Goodyear, the John Deere dealer and also a good friend of both. There weren’t enough sidewalks to plow around the Warner premises, so Jack would plow the entire neighborhood on his side of the street. The Guenthers, who lived across the street, had an open lot with newly planted small Blue Spruce trees where Park and Court Streets intersected. Again, Jack ran out of spots to plow so he crossed over to assist the Guenthers. As he plowed at the intersection, he gracefully took one of the spruce trees along for a ride. The spot was left bare as a reminder of Jack’s philanthropic treatment of one of his neighbors.

Harry Leckrone had a unique relationship with Jack. Since Jack has been sick, Harry probably spent more time with Jack than anyone else (other than Ila, of course). They talked about old times, of friends that were no longer around, and many private personal things. Harry enjoyed Jack’s stories and his sense of humor. Through the years, Jack delighted in giving people nicknames. Most of them can’t be repeated like Bob Stanley’s, but the nickname he gave Harry was Greasy Goodwrench because he owned and operated a body shop before he retired. Jack went to the trouble of having sweatshirts made up for Harry and Pat that said “Greasy Goodwrench” and “Mrs. Greasy”. Harry and Pat wore them to a trip to Disneyland later that year and got quite a few stares. Jack used to enjoy the bluegills Harry caught, filleted, and gave him (by the way, Harry, what’s the daily limit of bluegills anyway)?

Ron Lewis used to talk about, watch, and wager on sporting events with Jack from time to time, mostly basketball. He could never understand how Jack could forget the rules of the game and how bad Jack thought the officiating was when anyone was playing Indiana or a Delton team that one of his kids was on. This was corroborated when I asked Del about one of his high school basketball games. Delton had played a tough football game against Galesburg-Augusta in Del’s junior year. Galesburg-Augusta won but it was a hard fought game. The first basketball game of the season was an away game at Galesburg-Augusta. Jack went to the game and was sitting with the Liceaga brothers above the Galesburg-Augusta bench in a packed gym. Galesburg-Augusta sent a player in to intentionally foul Delton’s best player and he racked up four fouls in the first quarter. The officiating was “horrible” according to an “unbiased” Delton player and several “unbiased” Delton fans. When the “hacker” was taken out, Jack and the Liceaga brothers were very vocal about the situation, and rode the Galesburg-Augusta coach pretty hard. Soon, the coach had enough and refused to let his players finish the game until Jack was removed from the building. The officials couldn’t remove Jack just for heckling and the game was stopped. Del was a player and Lisa was a cheerleader at the time and both were extremely embarrassed. Jack finally agreed to leave the game so it could continue.

Ned, Del, Ila and one of Jack’s granddaughters related several stories about Jack when we talked on Tuesday.

Ila talked about the time that the family had a border collie as a pet. The kids loved that dog, but apparently someone else didn’t because they poisoned it. The kids were heartbroken. Ila took the kids out to get a replacement dog, a poodle. When they returned there were signs all over the yard and house reading “No Poodles Allowed” and “Poodles Not Welcome”. Within 15 minutes the dog was crawling all over Jack, licking his face, and Jack was hooked. They kept the poodle.

Ned told the story about when he and Jack were in the car one day going down Jefferson or Michigan near St. Rose School. It must have been track and field day because one of the nuns was trying to get all the kids lined up for a race. She seemed to be having a little trouble when all of a sudden Jack leaned out the window and yelled, “GO”. The kids took off and the nun glared at Jack with a look that said “I’d send you straight to Hell if I could”.

Jack’s granddaughter said that Jack told her the reason he had false teeth is that he made a pass to a pretty girl and she punched him in the mouth.

Jack was never very accepting about helpful suggestions. When the bag of fertilizer said to spread one bag per acre, Jack figured it would be twice as good with two bags per acre. More than once he burned up the grass that way.

We talked about the time he mowed over the wellhead, cut the top off and had to stop the water flow with a rake handle. The next time he mowed he broke a window in the house. We talked about the time he made his famous oyster dressing using bad oysters. The time he ran out of lighter fluid and used gasoline to start the grill (Ned had to go inside to check to see if he still had eyebrows). The time he put the grill on the pontoon to keep warm, turned into the wind and almost caught Grandma Ada on fire. The time he cleaned out the garage (we all know that Jack was a neat freak) and burned up his snow tires. He wished he hadn’t done that when winter came around. The time he took Ned down to True Value to try out bikes, only to find out Jack was buying it for a neighbor boy that didn’t have one.

Jack was a bit of a writer himself and was often writing notes to people. He had organized a Friday night informal couples golf league that included the Warners, Bob and Pat Newell, John and Patty Czinder, Bob and Charlene Keller, Max and Barb Myers, Larry and Michelle Archer, Brenda Newell and her ex, and Mac McAllister and whoever he was going with at the time. At the end of the 1981 season, he wrote this letter. “5 September 1981. I have enjoyed the last three terms of President of this summer golf league. This league has grown from the lowest pits to become a league that the whole community would like to be a part of under my leadership. However, this day, I stand before you with a heavy heart. One knows within when it’s time to step down and step on to greater accomplishments. Before I step out of this position of your leader, there are a few things I want to make perfectly clear. Over this past term that we are ending this day, there have been some poisonous tongues trying to create friction within the troops. Impeachment has been suggested at one point. This suggestion was overwhelmingly overruled and defeated by a mass vote of the people. This should indicate to a 90 pound little tongue waggler that the President’s position of power was intact. However, the tongues keep waggling. Discontent within the ranks has continued, regardless of the supreme leadership demonstrated by your President. At this point in time, I know not the future of this league, but it does not produce, in my opinion, a very promising 1982 season. As of this day, I will no longer be responsible for the actions of this league or any of its members. You will no longer have Jack Warner to kick around as you have in the past. I will continue to devote all my time and efforts to my 1982 Sheriff’s campaign in an attempt to become the county’s leading law enforcement person. At this particular time, Dave Wood and Larry Holman are scared. I may add that if this campaign is successful, I guarantee fair and unbiased treatment to every citizen of the county. But there will be one 90 pound tongue waggler without driving privileges. I hold no grudges. As I leave, my only hope is for the survival of this league. And may you all rot in hell! Thank You”.

Another letter that Ila shared with me was written by Jack to Bruce Van, Viv, Gin and Jack Metzger from Jack E., Warner, Chairman of the Board. The group was planning a trip to Las Vegas and Jack put himself in charge. Excerpts of the letter are as follows. “Since both of you lack decision making qualities, I’m taking over as Chairman of the Western Journey. It is my intentions to make travel arrangements to Vegas through a travel agency and we will probably depart the South Bend airport around the 25th or 26th of March….After the weekend, everyone is free to go or do as they please. Ila and Jack are flying to Southern California to rest and visit with our friends at San Diego. I might make a personal call on the Wickes Headquarters only to throw up in the lobby….News from Michigan: We just got through another cold, snowing, blowing and boring weekend. Two kids in the house with colds, two kids out all weekend on snow machines, they throw wet clothes all over the house. Mother has a sore throat and was tough to get along with- I quit trying so we went through Saturday and Sunday with one long argument. Glad to see Monday morning come so I can get to the office and act like I’m busy…. If either of you have any objection to the trip plans – keep them to yourself as I’m not interested in them. Also, if you have anything you would like to add, you may suggest it but it’s very doubtful that I will accept any of it. Signed, JEW, The Lumber Tycoon”

A notice was left on the Spanmaster door once that read “The Spanmaster office will be closed Friday, September 9th as the Warners are celebrating the marriage of their #3 son, Del. Del has been a great guy to have around our home, every parent should be blessed with the humor and love we have shared. I can’t believe I composed all the above. I should have been an author; by the way, these damn phones are on transfer to the house or contact Harvey Fredricks, Lake Odessa. We’ll get back with it Monday morning. Signed Jack”.

The knack for writing must run in the family. Here’s a letter that Tod wrote to Jack after he became ill. The letter echoes the feelings of Ned, Del and Lisa. “Dear Dad, You know after all the letters you have written me in my lifetime that were filled with everything from job duties to your wisdom and feelings about life in general. I was thinking that I have never returned to you those things that I have learned. First of all I want to tell you how proud I am in you, watching you go through all these struggles still always leading by example and displaying that never give up attitude that you have instilled in all your children. You have always taught me that you can do anything that you want to do and you can be anything that you want to be (even when you said it with that needed kick in the rear once in a while) if you get focused on it and put your heart into it. This is one of life’s great lessons I learned early from you and why I’m so grateful I have a man like you to call my Dad. The other lesson you have taught all of your children is a great work ethic. Always work had and do your best and good things will happen and you also shared that they may not happen right away but in time it will pay off. You were and still are a great provider for your family. You took us on many great trips and vacations throughout our childhood. Like the trip to Disney World, to the Rex Mays Classic Indy Car Race, to Cedar Point, to the Football Hall of Fame, to the great Milwaukee Zoo where the ostrich made family history by taking a dump right in front of us. Plus all the other little trips that we took for granted at times but mean so much to us all. We had such a good environment to grow up in, filled with all those things that made us a family like the love, the laughing, the fighting, the small talks at the dinner table, cursing time, and all those great things that created many great memories and stories for me to share with my family, Brenda and Jacque. You always provided us with great toys to play with on the lake from snowmobiles to boats and many others. You always taught me to hold my head up high no matter what the situation was good or bad. That never lay down attitude. You instilled in me a sense of pride that I still carry with me today. Whenever I get in some ugly situation I always try to think what Dad would do. You have always been a great example to me (not that you haven’t disappointed me and I have disappointed you, we are only human!) from just reading your words of wisdom left on the table Saturday morning, to just the father to son talk, to now talking to you on the phone. I had to do an interview the other day for the school newspaper and one of the questions they asked me was who is my hero, the person I would be if I could and, without hesitation, the answer was simple. My Dad. You have always been my hero in good times and bad because you have always believed in me when others didn’t. I will never be able to give back all you have given me in wisdom, backbone and character. I have always wanted you to be proud of me and I believe you are in a lot of ways only because a lot of you lives in me. God Bless You, Love Always, Tod”. I can guarantee you that Jack’s eyes weren’t dry when he read that and neither were mine.

I tried to imagine what Jack would want to say if he were here. I can see him standing next to me with his pink nylon golf shirt, his polyester pants worn a little low on his hips with the seat going straight down (cuz he didn’t have any butt) with his shoes polished like he was going to stand inspection in the Marines. He’d start talking with that “south of 6 ” hillbilly drawl:

“To the love of my life, Ila-I guess the perfect husband is the guy that remembers all the birthdays and anniversaries, who comes straight home from work and helps with dinner and the kids, who takes out the garbage before he is asked, who knows exactly what to say and when to say it, and to not say anything sometimes-only listen, to be a good provider, to say I love you when it’s not a birthday and anniversary, to always be agreeable even if sex isn’t the motive, who never has too much to drink, and who never embarrasses his family. But I didn’t do all those things. I did some of them. I did my best. No apologies, no complaints, no regrets. I was just being me and you know I always loved you.

To my kids, Ned, Tod, Del and Lisa-I guess the perfect Dad is the guy that changes your diapers when they need to be changed, who helps you learn to color inside the lines, who teaches you to ride a bike without training wheels, who takes you fishing, who helps you with your schoolwork, who teaches you to drive, who goes to all your games, who teaches you life’s lessons, who disciplines you out of love, and who understands when you aren’t perfect. But I didn’t do all those things. I did some of them. I did my best. No apologies, no complaints, no regrets. I was just being me and you know I always loved you.

To my friends-I guess the perfect friend is the one who stands by you whether you are right or wrong, who listens when you need someone to talk to, who offers advice only when asked, who loans you things not knowing or caring if they’re ever returned, who says what it takes to cheer you up when you are down, and who stands by you when business or family life isn’t going well. But I didn’t do all those things. I did some of them. I did my best. No apologies, no complaints, no regrets. I was just being me and you know I always loved you.

And here I would say “But you know Jack, some of us haven’t been the kind of friend that we should have the last couple of years. Maybe it’s because we didn’t want to see you sick, maybe it’s because in you we saw our own vulnerability. But for whatever reason, we did our best. We were just being us and you know we always loved you.

Jack would go on to say…Last of all, forgive me for being irreverent on this solemn occasion, but I’d just like to say “My life’s journey is over but you have to admit, it was one hell of a ride”.

I would like to close with a quote that Ila gave me that she feels sums up Jack’s feelings-“Remember me not for my weakness, for my sins or for my poor judgment, but that I loved you”.

Fred Eckardt

Fred was my “ex” father-in-law and I always considered him a good friend as well. He taught me a lot about life in general and I never really thanked him for that before he died. Fred had lung cancer and went into the hospital for an operation. His wife Dorothy, my “ex” mother-in-law, got sick and went into the hospital around the day of Fred’s operation and died a couple of days later. Fred came through the surgery just fine, suddenly took a turn for the worse, and died a few days later.

Remember-the evening before you went into the hospital for surgery, and you and Dorothy and I were going over some last minute instructions in case something happened, and you were telling me how to shut off the heater in the gun shop because Dorothy didn’t know how to do it, and we talked about death and dying, and you said “…after all, outside of my family and a few friends, who’s going to know or care if I’m dead or not?” Remember-when Sue and I had only been dating a couple of weeks, and she had told me how you delighted in giving all of her dates a hard time, and I was bringing her home one early evening, and the roads were a glare of ice, and I turned in the driveway, and the car didn’t turn, and I ran into your truck, and it didn’t do any damage to the truck or my car, and I walked the five miles from the driveway to the living room, and I told you I had run into your truck but it didn’t leave a mark, and you didn’t even go out to look (at least until after I had gone), and you just said “No harm done”.

I think-you probably were thinking that this is just another one of Sue’s dates, and he probably won’t last long at this rate, and his hair is too long anyway, but you were trying to teach me that it’s important to admit your mistakes, and even though it’s hard sometimes, you have to be willing to accept the consequences of your actions.

Remember-when I was working for you out at the garage, and I did a lot of odd jobs, and once I found a dollar in the front yard while I was raking, and a dollar meant something then, and you gave me a shovel to go out and dig something, and I used the shovel to pry a rock, and I broke the handle of the shovel, and when I told you, you just said “I’ve been trying to break the handle of that shovel for 15 years”.

I think-you were trying to teach me that by correcting someone with kind words rather than harsh words, they learn a better lesson.

Remember-the story you used to tell me about when Gerald Ford came out to the farm where you grew up, and you had been shooting pigeons with a 12 gauge shotgun, and he wanted to shoot pigeons too, and you talked him into pulling both triggers on the double barrel at the same time, and you told him if he braced himself against a tree it wouldn’t kick as hard, and you knew that would make it kick twice as hard, and I was impressed that I knew someone who knew someone who became President of the United States.

I think-you were trying to teach me that no matter how important other people think we are,that people are still just people, and we should treat all people with dignity and respect, even though they may not grow up to be President.

Remember-when we all went camping in your fifth wheel trailer, and at night when Dorothy was getting ready for bed, and the curtains were drawn, and Dorothy began squealing, half crying, half laughing, and you asked her what was wrong, and she said she had gotten the tubes of Ben Gay and Preparation H mixed up, and how we all laughed.

I think- you and Dorothy both were trying to teach us that we should never become so self-centered that we can’t laugh at ourselves.

Remember-when I was home on leave from the Air Force, and it was during deer season, and I wanted to go up to Grand Marais to hunt with Dick and Mildred and Dickie and Warren, and you knew we had a better chance of shooting a deer out our back door, but you drove us both up there anyway, and there was so much snow you said “The snow is ass deep to a tall Swede”, and we didn’t see any living thing, not even a chickadee, all the time we were up there, and we came back and hunted the last couple of days of the season at Dick and Mildred’s at Gun Lake, and you and John brought back a deer so that Johnny and Mike and I could have the opportunity to field dress it.

I think-you were trying to teach me that being with family and friends is more important than anything else in the world.

Remember-the story you used to tell me about hunting with your brother-in-law, John, and John would eat chili every night in deer camp, and you would follow him through the woods, and every time he would relieve his gastric distress it would cause you nasal distress, and so you laced his chili that night with Sal Hepatica, and the next day when John reduced the pressure he got a little surprise in his hunting suit.

I think-you were trying to teach me that even grown men do foolish childish things, and it’s okay to do foolish things—–sometimes.

Remember-when Sue and I split up, and we knew we had disappointed you and Dorothy (especially Dorothy), and whenever I stopped at the mill that summer you would shut the saw off, and you would sit on your chair, and light up your pipe, and we talked a lot that summer, and you never lectured me, and you told me over and over that I would always be your son-in-law.

I think-you were trying to teach me that even though people we love do things to disappoint us, we should continue to love them with the same unconditional love that God has for us.

Remember-the night Dorothy died, and after Sue and Joe and Matt and Sara and Anna and I had said good-bye to her, and we walked the five miles from Dorothy’s room to your room, and we waited outside your room for hours (or maybe it was just minutes), and we all walked in looking as if someone had died, and before we could say anything you said “With this gathering of people, the news can’t be very good”, and you ended up comforting us.

I think-you were trying to teach us that no matter how heavy our own burden gets, we should do whatever we can to relieve the burden of others.

Remember-the last time I came in to see you in the hospital, and we talked about the duck I was carving out of redwood, and the redwood was from a man who used to build picnic tables for the State parks, but I shouldn’t tell anyone where the wood came from, so I won’t, and I told you that the grain was hard, and the wood between the grain was soft, and when you worked with it, it would make ridges in the texture, but I thought it gave the duck “character”, and your face beamed.

I think-you knew that I had learned from you and our friend Davey Duck that computers and machines can make perfect ducks, but it takes human hands with God’s help to bring out the true beauty of a piece of wood.

Remember-in that same conversation we talked about me helping you with some things since Dorothy was gone, and you said that you would ask me for help, but only if I charged you, and you knew that I wouldn’t charge you, and I told you I wouldn’t because I didn’t charge family, and I felt good because I could help you, and we talked about our relationship, and you almost said “IT”, but you didn’t, but I knew, and you knew I knew.

I think-you were trying to teach me that you should never take people for granted, especially not family, and by making an offer you know they won’t accept, you give them the opportunity to do something for you, and it makes them feel good about themselves, and it’s hard for some people to say “IT”, but it’s okay if you live “IT”.

I learned-other things too, like it’s important to keep your commitments, and it was more important for you to keep your Valentine’s Day date with Dorothy than to spend any more time with us.

I hope-I’ve learned my lessons well because you’re not around to test me, and if you see Bill Riggs around, tell him I learned his lessons too, and I’m sending this letter along with you so you can read it, because you always has a hard time hearing me (you always said it was because I had a soft voice, but I think it was from when we shot the .44-40 revolver at the shooting range under a roof with no ear plugs and neither one of us could hear anything for the rest of the day), and I’m reminded that even grown men do foolish things—sometimes, and don’t show this around up there because if Gladys Youngs sees it she will have it all marked up for bad punctuation and grammar and run-on sentences.

Remember-when you said “…after all, outside of my family and a few friends, who’s going to know or care if I’m dead or not?”

I think-you were trying to teach me that what we are and what we know, we pass on to our children and grandchildren, and they pass it on to their children and grandchildren, and we live on in them, and a hundred years from now when no one remembers who Fred Eckardt was or who Jack Walker was or who anyone else in this room was, that they will be who they are, because of who we were, and they’ll be better people for having a part of you, and they won’t even know it, but we will know.

But on the other hand-maybe you weren’t trying to teach me anything, and I’m just being too sentimental. Sorry.