(Delivered at Dad’s Celebration of his Life at The Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix on Saturday August 20, 2016.)
As many of you know, I am a Physical Therapist and also a Hypnotherapist.
One of the issues I help people with is Public Speaking.
It turns out that Public Speaking is one of of the biggest fears people have, more than; spiders, snakes, heights or flying.
So bear with me, I’ve seen this before.
I hope the trance lasts.
This is a Eulogy
A Definition of a eulogy is:
“A speech that praises someone who has died.”
*Maybe we should take more time praising someone while they are alive!
I was chosen by my siblings to deliver this, perhaps because I’m named after my father,
who was named after his father.
Having the same name, I was Little Don to his Big Don.
So to be clear, any positive things I say, are about my father, Big Don.
First some biography:
He was born March 2, 1934, in Peabody, MA and raised in Salem, MA.
He was an only child.
His father was in the Army in WW II and died a year after returning from the war,
when dad was 13.
He did have some important male influences in his life, including his uncles.
His mother, as a single mom had the challenge of raising a curious, strong minded and
The high school was a half mile away.
His mother would drive him there and by the time she got back home,
he would be there eating a bowl of cereal.
Unbeknownst to his mother, he began racing a stock car, when he was still underage.
Coincidentally, another driver was one of my mother’s brothers.
He shared his love of motor racing to following generations, bringing us to Manzanita
Speedway and other racing events.
Dad was a real renaissance man, from Johan Sebastian Bach to Richard Bach.
Possibly in spite of his formal education, he was very well read and knowledgeable
about: Arizona, United States and twentieth century world history, Arizona Geology,
Native American culture, especially in the South West, all things about the Sonoran
Desert, firearms, movies and classical music.
He was a master of the show Jeopardy, drawing on his broad knowledge to beat the contestants from the comfort of his recliner.
One of his interests was astronomy. Often when I see planets or identify constellations,I remember looking through the telescope with him in the back yard.
He was a voracious reader, reading Science Fiction and futurist books, especially by Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.
Other favorite authors from a very diverse library include; Edward Abbey, Richard Bach, Leo Buscaglia, Kahlil Gibran and C. S. Lewis.
He read poetry by; Robert Service, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack London and many others.
He became involved in photography by working in the photo finishing business that one of his uncles owned and met my mom who worked there too. Photography followed him to Phoenix where he working at the Photo Shop and opened his own photofinishing lab in our house, where we learned to mix the chemicals, develop film, make prints and work in the dark. Many of us still work in the dark.
He had a deep love of music, especially classical, but included Gene Autry to Herb Albert, Musicals and Jazz. He was able to play by ear, primarily on the organ. His musical ability has skipped my generation.
His creative expression included photography, writing essays and poetry.
He was open to new discoveries, including Mexican food which was unknown in Massachusetts at the time.
There was experimenting with dehydrated backpacking food, digestible or not.
He liked to do some barbecuing and cooking. He is best known for his chili, beef stew and a secret recipe fried chicken. That recipe remains secret.
He developed a love of the Western outdoors from the mountains to the deserts.
Hiking, photographing and backpacking. He taught and led trips, working in the business later opening his own store, the Trail Head a true adventure.
He later started a tour business, sharing his knowledge of Arizona with people from all over the world taking them on a journey to the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek and desert.
He was very patriotic. Putting up the flag every day in the Flagstaff house. He had strong opinions about politics which was opportunity for intense discussion with Kathy.
So what did I, Dan, Davis and Kathy, grand kids and hopefully even great grandchildren get from this amazing man’s life, words and example.
We learned some discipline, especially Dan and I. Maybe Davis and Kathy were better or maybe our folks just got tired.
You always told the truth, you always kept your word, you were nice to animals. You respected and took care of nature.
You took the time and effort to help people and be polite, even if it was ½ an hour helping plan a backpacking trip for someone who was only going to buy a dollar topographic map.
It was alright to be physically uncomfortable while achieving a goal, whether the heat of the desert, the cold cross country skiing, bugs, fatigue on a long hike.
“The end is right around the corner” was common encouragement, even if there were many corners ahead. The view was always worth it.
We learned it was alright to be scared learning something new whether learning to ride a bike or rock climbing. I don’t remember public speaking be part of that. Oh well.
We learned to take risks and persevere. Opening a business is a gamble.
There were tough times. Some days were a challenge.
There is the true fable of Zero the rabbit. We had an unnamed rabbit who was going to be named after the next customer that came in.
By closing time no sales, hence Zero the Rabbit.
Even so, Dan and I have both started businesses. Some days I could have used a rabbit.
We learned the importance of being involved with your kids whether in organized groups like Boy Scouts and Hiking Club and also family things like car trips to Massachusetts every other year for several years, experiencing the wonders across America.
And exploring ghost towns, hiking, backpacking and sightseeing.
Family is important, the immediate family and also grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
We learned patience, courage and acceptance over most of the last several years. Even though Dad gradually lost the ability to do most of the daily activities and the things he enjoyed, he seldom complained while he was still himself.
One of the most important lessons we saw as children was that even though he was a true individual, he was always a partner with Mom.
We experienced their love for each other and for us.
She was always been there for us and Dad. Going on the adventures and fun times and the
darkest and most trying times. Thanks Mom!
You always need a quote for one of these things. So here is one that might state a philosophy of his life. It is from one of his favorite books:
“I do not exist to impress the world. I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy. ”
One last thing, Dad had a real sense of humor, especially loved puns and he used to yell to the grand kids, like it was something urgent, Zachary, Stephen, Alicia, Daniel come here!
Then he would have them sing;
Yes, we have no bananas, (The four grand kids did come of front and sang their best)
Don “Little Don” Berlyn
Here is link to Big Don’s obituary