Monday, July 20, 2009

Memories of my Dad

This is a eulogy I gave at a memorial service for my Dad in Boston on Thursday, July 16, 2009

I have heard stories all of my life about the special attention that my Dad paid to patients in the hospital who were facing difficult personal issues. He went out of his way to help all sorts of people – from a gypsy king to a famous folk singer to a teenager with a broken family. We sometimes kidded him that he had a special soft spot for damsels in distress, but his capacity for caring was legendary.

These are stories I only heard about from various sources however, not things that I personally observed.

Today I would like to share with you some of my own recollections of events which may give you an insight into the warmth and generosity that defined my Dad’s character.

Dad was always an ardent photographer. I remember one time in early 1942 when I was seven and my brother Dave was five, just before Dad left to fight the war in the Pacific. Davy and I were horsing around on the lawn of our aunt’s house in Pasadena, and Dad was snapping photos. I was particularly proud to show how I could stand on my head, and this feat was greatly admired by Dad whose photos are the reason I remember it.

Throughout my junior high and high school days Dad was always there taking a keen interest and lending support and encouragement. He was at my football games and my scout meetings, my choral concerts and high school plays. He and my Mom were chaperones at dances and for our senior class outing at the beach.

Dad was not a very strict disciplinarian, but he would never hesitate to set us straight when the situation required it. I remember when we moved into a new house in Westwood when I was about 13 years old. The front yard was just dirt with lots of rocks which had to be removed in preparation for putting in a new lawn. This seemed to me to be an ideal opportunity to practice my pitching, so I was picking up each rock and, after a full windup, tossing it onto the vacant lot next door. Dad saw this and pointed out to me that this would not do, as it would take weeks at the rate I was going to clear the rocks from the yard.

Some of my most cherished memories of Dad are from a week we spent together exploring the islands and harbors of Casco Bay in Maine on his boat, Sequester. I doubt that there is any body of water in the world that has more interesting places, and Dad and I had a wonderful time exploring many of them. I will never forget those evenings anchored in the calm of an inlet or river estuary with a steak on the barbeque at the stern and a martini in hand. It was just the two of us, and I could not think of any place I would rather be or anyone I would rather be with.

He was always ready to lend a hand with whatever projects we had. When I ran for Congress in 1976 shortly after his retirement from the hospital he came to Maine and helped me with my campaign (which fortunately for me and for the country, was not successful).

The gifts he gave at Christmas were never perfunctory, but always given after careful thought. He discovered that I had an interest in recorders, so for one Christmas he gave me a beautiful tenor recorder. Although I have fallen far short of mastering the instrument, it has given me many hours of great pleasure—and still does to this day.

But for all of the wonderful times and for all of the ways that he helped me throughout my life, I am most grateful to him for the values he instilled in me by his example. There was never a hint of arrogance in anything he did, and he treated all people, of whatever station in life, with dignity and respect. He never refused to help anyone when that help was within his reach. He was a shining example in my life, and although I have often fallen short, I will be forever thankful for the life compass that was the greatest gift from my Dad.

Robert D. Lowry passed away on June 22, 2009, at age 95

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