Today is Father's Day, but we celebrated Kitty's father yesterday on Flag Day, his birthday. Kitty's father was quite a guy. He never finished high school. Instead he and his cousin enlisted in the Navy at the beginning of World War II; to pass the physicals they each had to pretend they were each other for parts of the physicals. Kitty's father ended up in the Pacific where his ship was bombed, tearing out most of its hull. Deep in the belly of the ship, standing in deep water, Harold worked in near darkness and in danger of being electrocuted, restoring power to the ship so that it was able to limp to port and safety. He received a Bronze Star for that. After the War, married and with a baby, he took advantage of the G.I. and went to Georgia Tech to earn his degree in engineering. He was almost kicked out when the university discovered that he had not finished high school; Harold pointed out that he never claimed to finish high school and pointed to his application, which bore him out. He was allowed to stay, earn his degree, and begin his career, most of which was with government contractors working on the space program. Harold came from a tough, long-lived Irish family. I used to say that you couldn't kill them with a stick. Harold almost brought truth to the saying. He beat pancreatic cancer twice, but the third time was the unlucky charm. He passed away 14 years ago, just a few weeks before his grandson Mark was born. And the circle of life continued.
Harold loved ice cream and often he would take the family out to Kimball's ice cream stand in Westford, Massachusetts, for an ice cream dinner. (To this day, Kimball's serves fantastic ice cream in large portions. If you are ever in the area, try one of their banana splits and see for yourself. Who knows? You might be able to finish one.) So every year we celebrate Harold's birthday by going out and having ice cream for dinner. Jessie and her daughter Amy are in Massachusetts so naturally they went to Kimball's and posted a picture of a gi-normous banana split on facebook. Kitty and I went to Bert's 50s Diner in Mechanicsville, Maryland -- the best place for ice cream in Southern Maryland. Joining us were Christina, Mark, Erin, and the Kangaroo (who incidently is going by the name Jack Harold.) So, happy birthday, happy Flag Day, and happy Father's Day to a man who was very important to all of us -- some of us because we knew him and loved him, and others because they are part of his legacy.
While Harold was out in the Pacific, another Harold -- a man named Harold Speed -- gave his life on one of those small islands in the Pacific while fighting the Japanese. He, for reasons I'm unsure of, was called "Jerry" and he was a good friend of my parents and is the reason I am named as I am. My father was a few years older than Kitty's. As with Kitty's father, mine left high school early, not for the service but to work on a farm. The principal of his high school did not take kindly to this and fought for my father to go back and graduate. A compromise was made and my father attended school for one day every two weeks and so, unlike Kitty's father, was able to finish high school. Times were changing and farms were slowly vanishing and my father was ambitious. Married an with three very young children, he began a part time construction business, building new homes. Six years later, that became his full-time business. My father was the most honest person have met. In more than twenty-five years of business, he never had a contract with his customers. Business was sealed with a handshake and his word was his bond. Some people in this world are givers and others are takers; my father was a giver. Throughout his life he had a positive impact on his neighbors, friends, family, and complete strangers. Physically he was a strong man but much of his strength came from his character. If I could only be half the man my father was my time on earth would have been well spent.
I suspect most of you have similar feelings about your fathers. To be a father is a special privilege. For some, fatherhood comes naturally. For others, it may take a bit of work. Most fathers honestly try their best and that means everything to their children.
Fathers. Bless them all.