I'm sharing these words here not only as a memorial to my father, but also because after the ceremony the funeral director approached me and told me I should give lessons in writing eulogies. Light-hearted. To the point. A celebration of humankind.
Thank you all for coming today. For those of you who don’t know me. I am his middle daughter, Holly. I’m here with my husband, Frank and three of our four children. His other two daughters are here as well, Christine, the oldest, and Anne, the youngest. His brother Peter and his sister Susan are also here with their families. He had two other siblings, a brother Richard who passed in 2008, whose wife Simonetta is here, and a sister Kathie who passed in 2011 who also had a daughter.
My father’s full legal name was Robert Edward Morrison, Jr., named after his father, but most people knew him as ‘Bob’, or dad or Uncle Bob, or granddaddy. He played many roles in his nearly 78 years. I’d like to go back about 6 decades. His own father passed away suddenly at the age of 37 leaving his wife, my grandmother, with 5 children. The youngest was only a month old, while the oldest, my father, was suddenly the man of the house at the tender young age of 12. The same age as my son is today. He became a father-figure to his siblings, especially the two youngest, the girls. I’m sure that this role began to shape him into the man he became: he was patient, kind, generous, a good listener, and always conceding to the wishes of those around him.
When I was a young girl, as most young kids, we see our father in only one role: the man around the house. He’d fix what got broken, he’d cut trees with the chainsaw in the backyard, he’d enjoy a cold can of Mountain Dew in the afternoons and we’d sit together and watch Star Trek while my mom was preparing dinner. To a little girl he’s not a ‘real person’, he’s just ‘dad’. It wasn’t until I was about 10 years old that I discovered there was much more to this person than ‘the man I saw around the house’. It was when he took me to work with him one day, and it was like being introduced to someone completely new. There, he was the boss. (At home, my mom was the boss) But at work, he was efficient and organized and had answers for every question that his customers had. But what impressed me the most was not his knowledge nor his business skills, but that everyone that came into the store knew him and called him by name. And he knew theirs too. When the customer would leave, I’d ask who was that? And he’d tell me not only their names, but a story about each one. Yeah, that was Diane, she works in the town hall. Or that was Mike, the track coach at the high school, or yeah, that’s Tony, I used to lifeguard with his son. His customers always lingered and enjoyed a chat with him, he told jokes, he made them laugh, and it was even clear to a 10-year-old girl that they really liked him.
After retirement and with some health issues, he slowed down. He loved building his boats in the winter, tending his garden in the summer. Everyone knows was a big fan of the weather. No matter where you were he’d give you your local forecast. He was so inquisitive. He never stopped learning. Forty years ago he relied on the Encyclopedia Brittanica. But then came ‘the greatest invention since sliced bread’ (he liked to say that)… and that invention for him was the Internet, which put the entire world at his fingertips. I’d tell him of my next travel destination and he’d get on the Internet and report back to me in a flash telling me which sights I couldn’t miss seeing there. This March I told him that Frank and I were flying to Budapest for the weekend. Without missing a beat, he said Oh, yea, that’s the city divided by the river, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. I hadn’t known that. But of course he was right. A couple years ago I was in Wales traveling alone for a race and on my last day there I had a half day free before my flight. I texted him the night before and asked what he thought I should do with the few hours. Within half an hour he gave me half a dozen options: a local castle, a quaint village, but of course I took his best suggestion to go see Stonehenge and even his advice about which motorway to use to get there.
I know we all have stories like this about him. Even now after his death, people are stopping by the house and telling me what a great guy he was, how long they’d know him and how much they miss him. He lived alone but was never really alone. He had countless numbers of friends who were in contact with him nearly every single day. And it really doesn’t do his life justice to have only one person make his eulogy. Because to know the true man, to get the entire picture of who is was, you need to hear those stories from his family about his life. I mentioned to several people the idea of asking everyone who is present here today to say a few words, as a community eulogy, but that idea wasn’t received very positively. But if anyone has a story to share I’d personally love to hear it after the ceremony.
I’d like to leave you with one more story. It was almost like his last joke for all of us. He passed in April, when Covid was on the rise and it was highly suggested that at-risk seniors remain quarantined at home. He assured all of us that he was staying at home, being careful, and that his friend Dave was delivering him his food. Last week, as my sister and I were going through his personal effects, we came across a receipt in one of his jacket pockets. A receipt for gas that he purchased the day before he died. It made us laugh so hard. We thought, You got busted dad! He didn’t want anyone to worry about him, but he needed to get out. He needed to be around people. I can just imagine him chatting with the other customers at the pumps, the cashier in the shop and who knows where else he visited that day. He had a gift with people. That was his calling. Whether we realize it or not, we all learned something from him or we wouldn’t be here today celebrating his life. And hopefully we can all use him as an example for our own behavior in demonstrating the primary strengths of his character: humility, kindness, compassion and generosity.
Thanks for the lessons, dad. You really, really were loved by all. We will all miss you. Rest in peace and we’ll see you again some day.