Dad died some forty years ago, halfway through his 59th year. He has been resting all of these years since on a gently sloping hillside in Memorial Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was joined there by my mother some 22 years later. I’m sure that is exactly the way he would have wanted it—next to his wife beneath the broad Oklahoma sky.

Since all of my memories of Dad are at least forty years old, the “facts” and recollections that I write about here may be distorted by time, colored by my experiences and influenced by the myths that I may have created about him. It is also difficult to separate what I remember from what I have been told—a risk for anyone who attempts a memoir of childhood. So what I write here may not be the truth, but is my truth.

Charles Kendall Watkins was born on a farm in Comanche County, Oklahoma on July 17, 1908, a year and a month after Oklahoma became a state. Shortly after his birth his parents moved to another farm that his grandfather, R. A. Watkins, had drawn in a government land lottery in 1901. He spent his early years on this farm in the arid southwestern corner of the state.

He was the first son of Minnie Olive Kendall Watkins and Charles Steven Watkins. He was the third in succession to carry the name of Charles, his great uncle Charles Clark being the first. However, his parents always called him Kendall.

Both of his parents came from relatively prosperous families that valued ideas and intelligence. His mother was valedictorian of her class at Indiana Normal College, later Indiana State University. His father came from a family of bright and intellectual people, and he greatly treasured books and reading.

Dad’s brother Ralph was born about a year later. He had one more sibling, his brother Jim, born some 20 years after my father. I don’t remember him talking much about his growing up years. As did most farm kids at that time, he took on farm chores very early in life. He once talked about plowing a field, saying the he really got tired of walking behind a plow all day looking at the backside of a mule. At some time in his youth, the family gave up the difficult and unprofitable farm and moved to the nearby town of Lawton where my grandfather found employment with the United States Army at Fort Sill. Dad attended school in Lawton, graduating from Lawton High School. While still in high school, he began his lifelong career as a florist when he started working at Mrs. Hornaday’s Greenhouses and Flower shop.

He married my mother, Gladys Lorraine Cooke, on September 16, 1930 at the Congregational Church in Lawton. She was also a graduate of Lawton High School and one the most accomplished students in her class. They set up housekeeping in Lawton where my sister Lorraine was born in July of 1931.

My earliest recollections are probably from 1939 when I was three or four years old. The family was living in a small white frame house in Lawton after having lived briefly and unsuccessfully in Clinton and Altus, Oklahoma where I was born in 1935, the year of the worst storms of the “dust bowl” era.

I remember Dad as a tall slender man, bald except for a fringe of black, and later white, hair. He had a wide, slightly gap-toothed smile and large protruding ears. His hands were strong and hard from his work.

The family was not well off during those early years, just scraping by with some support from Dad’s parents and credit from the grocer. To stretch the budget they kept chickens in a pen at the back of the little white house. I vividly recall Dad catching a hen with a thin, hooked rod and ringing its neck with his bare hand. The poor headless animal fell to the ground and ran around literally “like a chicken with its head cut off.” Having started life on a farm, I’m sure that he had no scruples about the violence done to the chicken. It is most likely that the chicken ended up battered and fried for a delicious Sunday dinner.

I don’t remember him tending to me very often. I suspect that this was because he worked long hours at a hard job, and that he believed that caring for my sister and me was Mom’s job. I recall him reading to me only once. I remember walking with him, reaching up to grip his strong rough finger in my pudgy little hand. I can recall no display of physical affection from him. He may have believed it inappropriate between a man and a boy.

The family finances had not improved with the return to Lawton. Dad again worked for Mrs. Hornaday for a very small salary. (I was later told that it was $25 per week when he could get it.) The family legend is that one Saturday night in 1939, when it was time to receive his pay, Mrs. Hornaday reached into the till and took out a quarter to give to him, saying that it was all she could afford to pay him. Whether that is true or not, it is not surprising that when he was offered a job in another city for $35 per week and free housing, he gave it serious consideration. The city was Tulsa, some 200 miles to the northeast of Lawton and at least 10 times its size.

Mom and Dad were both small town people, having spent their lives on farms or in small towns never more than 75 miles or so from their parents and extended families. I’m sure that Mom didn’t want to move so far away from her mother and sisters who had provided so much help and support to her as a young mother. But the times were desperate, and the job seemed to be an answer to their prayers. So they committed to the unknown and the unfamiliar in search of a better life for themselves and for my and sister and me,

picnic

Winter Picnic in the Wichitas, The Guys Kendall Watkins, David, Granvil Pennington, James Lee
Winter Picnic in the Wichitas,
The Guys
Kendall Watkins, David, Granvil Pennington, James Lee

Dad moved to Tulsa some months before the rest of the family. He drove there in his Model A Ford and went to work at the Tulsa Greenhouse. I was told that he put in 12 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week. He was very lonely during that time and suffered from a lung complaint and a badly infected hand. The rest of us moved in the fall of 1939. I remember Dad meeting our train at the Union Depot in Tulsa. He took us to our new home, one half of a small duplex where I was to sleep on a “day bed” in the dining room. The duplex was across 21st street from the retail flower shop and was in the midst of greenhouses and various outbuildings associated with the business. About 100 yards to the east ran the Katy railroad tracks where steam powered trains rumbled by several times a day, shaking our house and clouding the sky with thick black coal smoke. The business had been there long before the city had expanded around it. The neighborhood that developed around the business was fairly upscale for the time, so most of the kids that Lorraine and I went to school with came from families of higher social and economic status than ours.

Dad was not around home much during those first years in Tulsa. He devoted himself to his work, sometimes working evenings, Saturdays and even Sundays. Mom stayed at home, tending to household chores, while Lorraine I and attended Barnard Elementary School about a half-mile from our house, walking to and from the school in all kinds of weather. When not in school, we were free to roam about the several acres of the greenhouse property, finding places to play and mischief to get into.

The family began to prosper along with the rest of the country as the economy improved with the approach of war. Dad worked long and hard and as time went on, he was rewarded with more responsibilities and better pay.

After he moved to Tulsa, Dad became known as Ken to everyone outside the family, and he identified himself in business as C. K. Watkins. He was not a handsome man, but his friendly demeanor and open expression drew people to him and inspired confidence. I think that it is fair to say that he was liked and respected by his boss, his co-workers and later, by his employees.

He developed a reputation for competence, hard work, honesty and fairness and rather quickly assumed the role of general manager of the operations of the business, which included flower production in the greenhouses, a wholesale business and a retail shop. He was very tolerant and good humored and never overbearing. His reputation spread as he became active in the Tulsa business community. Sometime after the war, he joined the Rotary Club and the Tulsa Executives Association. He later served as president of the state florists’ association. Fairly early in his employment at the Tulsa Greenhouse he began to buy a share of the business, paying a small amount from his salary to the owner, G. V. Voight.

I remember two incidents that epitomize his kindness, generosity and tact in his business life. In the first, a very good and loyal employee in the retail shop named Vernie had been stealing small amounts of money from the cash register to cover some pressing financial need. I’m not sure how he long covered up the thefts, but Dad eventually caught him. He asked Vernie to explain why he had taken the money. Upon hearing his plight Dad loaned him $50 of his own money to cover the immediate problem and arranged to have a small amount withheld from Vernie’s pay each week to repay the theft. Needless to say, after that Vernie would have walked through Hell for my dad. That was a lesson for me, and I remembered it many times in my role as a manager of others.

In the other incident, which I believe I observed personally, Dad was waiting on a rather dotty old lady who purchased a potted plant. She gave him a ten-dollar bill in payment. He placed the bill in the cash drawer and gave the lady her change. Upon examining the change, the lady said: “This is not right. I am sure that I gave you a fifteen-dollar bill.” Without missing a beat, Dad invited her to look in the cash drawer to see if there were any fifteen-dollar bills in it. She examined the contents of the drawer and concluded that she must have been mistaken, since there were no such bills in the drawer. She apologized and left with her self-respect intact and no feeling that she had been cheated.

Thus in a period of a few years, Dad rose from near poverty and desperation in a small town to become a respected businessman with a financial stake in his business. He was proud of his accomplishments, though consistent with his southwestern values of modesty and stoicism, he never expressed his pride or even hinted at bragging. However, I am sure that he felt a deep sense of satisfaction in his accomplishments.

Two years after we moved to Tulsa, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I was only six at the time and didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew a little about war from the newsreels I had seen. I envisioned Japanese troops marching down 21st street in front of our house. We had moved to a better house next to the retail shop by then, and I remember the family gathered around the radio listening to the awful news. Dad kept insisting that Pearl Harbor was in the Philippines, but Mom said no, it was in Hawaii. Perhaps the fact of the Japanese bombing US territory was more than he could comprehend.

Like every family in America our lives were changed by the war. At the beginning, Dad was not quite old enough to be exempt for the draft, and it seemed that every year he got older the draft age was raised by a year. He did not want to be drafted and took steps to avoid it. He knew that his absence would be devastating to the family and a big problem for his career at the business where he was beginning to make real progress. Second, he abhorred violence and did not think that he could bring himself to kill another human being no matter how noble the cause. He had no desire to be a war hero.

It was obvious that his profession as florist would not qualify for any sort of an exemption or deferment. So he took a job at Spartan Aircraft Company in Tulsa. He was trained as a metal worker, constructing sub-assemblies for military aircraft. He was quickly promoted to “lead man”, supervising the work of several other people. I’m not sure how long this lasted, but I believe that it was something over two years. He worked the 4 PM to Midnight shift. This allowed him to work at the business from about 9 AM to 3 PM and still get enough sleep to keep going. My recollection is that he worked seven days a week at the factory. He once said that he went over two years without seeing the sun go down.

It was a hard grind for him, but through his effort he was able stay with the family and keep his part of the business going. A benefit this was that his additional income allowed him to accelerate his purchase of a share in the business. He became a 25% partner along with the company’s business manager, Bert Arnett who had joined the firm shortly before Dad. G.V. Voight held the remainder. Eventually Dad and Arnett bought out Voight, becoming 50-50 partners.

I saw very little of him during the period of the war. Most of that time he was either working or sleeping. In fact, I didn’t have much time with him from my earliest recollections until the end of the war when I was 10. He seemed to much prefer being at work to being at home. He enjoyed his status and his interactions with his employees and customers while he was at work. He always seemed cheerful and energized at work but was often a bit morose at home. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I believe I missed out on some important time with him during those years.

I won’t write much more about his business life. Suffice it to say that the business prospered, and he and Bert Arnett worked well together for some 25 years, though they never became close friends. Arnett died first, and his son, Bill, took over his interest in the business. Bill had a great deal of respect for Dad, and Dad liked him and respected his business abilities. I believe that he had hoped that I would join him in the business when I grew up. I rejected that idea out of hand, which I believe was a real disappointment, even perhaps an insult, to Dad. He may have looked upon Bill as the family partner he didn’t have. They developed a very close and caring relationship. During Dad’s battle with cancer, I was building my life and career in North Carolina and was not with him very much. Bill was very supportive during Dad’s illness and insisted that he draw his full salary, though he could do very little work. He visited Dad often and helped him in every way that he could.

After Dad died, Bill purchased his share of the business from Mom. It was enough to ensure her comfort and care for the remaining 22 years of her life and to provide a modest inheritance for Lorraine and me after she was gone.

Even after his death, Dad took care of his family.

As he was with his employees, Dad was very tolerant and easygoing with me. He rarely punished me, and I can’t remember him even raising his voice to me.

Dad was not a bigoted man in his relationships with people. He took others at face value and had no apparent prejudices nor did he believe in racial stereotypes. He hired Blacks to work in the business and treated them as he did his other employees with regard to pay and opportunities. He promoted a Black man to retail store manager where he successfully served the store’s totally white clientele without incident. This was rather remarkable in 1950’s Tulsa where the races were still segregated.

I don’t remember him ever going to church while I lived at home. Since Mom didn’t drive, the rest of us didn’t get to church much either. Mom made some attempts to get Lorraine and me to a Sunday school that was within walking distance from home, but they were mostly futile. Both Mom and Dad were independent thinkers, and didn’t seem to subscribe to many of the traditional Christian beliefs. For instance, Dad said that he would never join a church that required “total immersion” baptism as many southern denominations did. He believed that sprinkling was more than adequate. While I was in college, he and Mom joined a new Congregational church in Tulsa that had been formed as the result of a schism in a Presbyterian church. The Congregational Church was the church of his childhood and that of his Watkins forbears. He felt at home there.

He became a substantial contributor to the church and for a time served on its governing board. He resigned from the board, not in anger but on principal, when the church voted to welcome Black members. He believed that having Black members in the church would lead to socializing among young people of the two races, which would lead to miscegenation, which he abhorred.

Dad’s political views were conservative and Republican. He faithfully listened to the conservative radio commentators such as Fulton Lewis, Jr. He believed that every man should take care of himself and his family without help from the government. He thought that socialism, if not exactly evil, was a very bad thing. In spite of the fact that programs put in place by Franklin Roosevelt eased the plight of many families like ours during the depression, he despised Roosevelt and everything he stood far. I think that his opinions were probably shared by most of the businessmen in Tulsa. I remember him saying that the Tennessee Valley Authority program was a big socialist boondoggle that put the federal government in unfair competition with private power companies. He mocked such programs as the Works Projects Administration that in his view provided make-work jobs for lazy workers who “leaned on their shovels all day”.

Automobiles were an important part of Dad’s life, both for what they could do and what they symbolized. He was born at the beginning of the automobile age, and he grew up valuing the freedom and control that a car could provide. The earliest car that I remember was the aforementioned Model A Ford. He owned a number of cars during his lifetime.

I learned to drive on a new 1951 Chevrolet Fleetline (the model with the swooping back). On my first trip in the car without Dad, I scraped the side of the car on a fence pole, doing considerable damage to a fender and a door. I was terrified to tell him about it, but he took it very calmly. We agreed that I would pay ½ of the insurance deductible for the repairs. He never said any more about it.

His last car was a champagne-colored ’65 Oldsmobile 98 with a fabric covered top—a truly elegant and luxurious car. It was so long that Dad had to extend the front of his garage in order to accommodate it. Sadly, he did not get to drive it much, because he became ill shortly after he bought it.

Automobiles may have been the only material things that Dad ever lusted after. He sometimes spoke of his desire to own a white Cadillac (and I’m sure that he would have had one if he lived a bit longer.) White Cadillacs were favored by many successful businessmen in Tulsa in those days. I think that they represented to him the culmination of a long triumphant journey from a small town working class young father owing money to his parents and the grocer to a prosperous, successful and respected businessman.

Dad was a man who always wanted to be in control. When he traveled by car he was always at the wheel. He found it very difficult to ride as a passenger while someone else was driving. Mom never learned to drive, so if any of us went anywhere by car, Dad had to drive. Although it was an inconvenience for him, I believe that he preferred it that way. He never encouraged my Mom to learn to drive.

On rare occasions he rode the train, but he despised flying. I think that his first flight was in the early 1960’s when American Airlines inaugurated jet service into Tulsa. Along with other leading member of the business community, he was invited on a short ride on a Boeing 707. In telling about it later, he seemed pretty impressed, but he didn’t want to fly again. Near the end of his life, he flew to Houston a few times for treatment of his cancer, but it made him so miserable that Mom resorted to hiring an ambulance to drive him there.

Dad had no hobbies and spent little time in recreation. His life was centered on his work and on providing for his family. He never played golf, though he urged me to take it up for career purposes. He didn’t hunt (we never had a gun in the house), but he did like to fish on the rare times that the opportunity arose. He also enjoyed going to watch the local baseball team (the Tulsa Oilers) play. I have very fond memories of warm evenings watching the games under the lights, the fans banging beer bottles on the wooden bleachers trying to get an Oiler rally started.

He had only one vice, the Lucky Strikes that he smoked regularly until he was diagnosed with cancer. As with most smokers, the ritual of the Lucky Strikes was very much a part of who he was: taking one from the pack, tapping it on his thumbnail and lighting up, always with a kitchen match or one from a book, never a lighter. He never drank as long as I was living at home. There was usually a bottle of whiskey in the house, most likely a gift from a salesman. But it was used only for “medicinal” purposes to give Mom’s mother’s heart a boost when she was visiting or for a hot toddy for me when I was having an attack of the croup. After I left home he and Mom occasionally would have a drink at a banquet or when eating out, but so far as I know, never at home. Despite Mom’s efforts to put some weight on him, he was always thin until late in life when he developed a bit of a paunch. He enjoyed eating, but in moderation. So far as I know he never gambled beyond flipping a coin to see who would pay for a soft drink. I am certain that he was always faithful to Mom in both thought and deed. To do otherwise would violate his bedrock values of honesty and integrity. He showed great affection for her and always gave her a kiss when leaving for work

Dad was brought up never to show much emotion—whether pleasure or pain. He had to grow up fast, having to be responsible for farm chores and his brother Ralph at a very early in life. As Mildred Armstrong Kalish puts it in “Little Heathens”, her recent memoir of growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1930’s: “Childhood was generally considered to be a disease, or at the very least, a disability to be ignored for the most part, and remedied as soon as possible.” The ideal man of Dad’s generation and culture was the stoic westerner who never complained and never explained. If he was hurt, he would shake it off and keep going. If he was sick he would work until he could barely stand.

I started working for him at the business when I was nine, folding boxes for cut flowers during a holiday rush. As the boss’s son, he expected me to work as hard or harder than anyone else. I worked for him during school vacations and holidays until I went away to college and during holidays until I left home for good in 1958. This gave me some spending money, and I increasingly began to pay my own expenses. He tried to get me to work in the greenhouses during the summertime, but I did not fair well in the intense heat and humidity in the greenhouses during the unrelenting Oklahoma summers.

Money was a recurring theme in our family life during my growing-up years. I think that this came from the lessons of responsibility and frugality that he learned when he was growing up, and his experiences during the depression when he could barely feed his family. Dad very keenly felt his responsibility for his family, and he wanted to be sure that there were sufficient funds to take care of us and protect us from any future disaster like the great depression. It appeared that economic security was his highest goal. This meant working hard to get money, deferring gratification and spending only for essentials. Accepting financial help from others and going into debt ran against his values of frugality, independence and responsibility. He had to do it once; I am sure that he was fiercely determined never to do it again. In later years, I remember him expressing the opinion that it was a disgrace to “go on the dole.”

So he rarely parted with money for non-essentials, either for himself or for the rest of the family. During the early part of my growing-up years a substantial part of his income was going to buy his share of the business. In later years, profits were consistently plowed back into the business for expansion and upkeep. I think that this was not only to provide economic security for the family, but also to feed the great pride and personal satisfaction he felt in seeing the business grow.

This frugality was cause for some disagreement between him and Mom. She would often argue that he should make more money available for enjoying life now. A specific case of such a disagreement was about Lorraine getting braces for her teeth. Dad maintained that it wasn’t necessary, that he couldn’t afford it, and that he wasn’t about to go into debt to pay for braces. So Lorraine went without.

Lest I leave the impression that he never relented in his frugality, I remember that he would occasionally take the family to the movies downtown at the Ritz or the Orpheum or the Majestic theaters. And of course there was the occasional trip to the ballpark. We would sometimes go out to dinner during the busy holiday times, since we were all working long hours, and there was no time for Mom to cook. In the summer there were fairly frequent trips to the drive-in root beer stand, and an occasional visit to the watermelon stand, where he would carefully examine several melons by thumping promising looking specimens and then cutting a plug out of his melon of choice examining it to be sure that it was worth the 1 ½ cents a pound that he paying for it. After the war was over, and gasoline became readily available, he would take us on Sunday afternoon drives. These drives were a form of recreation that served to get us all out of the house. Sometimes, as a special treat, he would park at the end of a runway at the airport, and we would watch the planes take off and land. It seems that it didn’t take much to keep us entertained. As I look back on those times I see that we really didn’t suffer for the lack of much except perhaps in comparison with our better off friends.

As Lorraine and I reached our teen years, the issue of paying for college for the two us began to be very important. Dad had attended college for only a few months before quitting and taking a job washing windows on business buildings in Oklahoma City to help pay for his brother Ralph’s attendance at a business school. Mom’s formal education had ended with her graduation from high school, though she continued to read and to learn for the rest of her life. Both Mom and Dad thought that it was very important for us to have a higher education, but Dad worried about how he would pay for it. The task became even more daunting when, shortly after starting her college work, Lorraine expressed a desire to go to medical school. This meant that she would be attending medical school while I was in college—a double burden on Dad’s finances.

Lorraine was accepted at the University of Oklahoma Medical School and graduated four years later. When she was accepted, Dad made her no promise of financial support beyond the first year, and after each year he made no promise beyond the next. Mom and Dad and I attended the graduation ceremonies. I believe that this was the proudest moment of his life. By scrimping and sacrificing, he had pulled it off! He had managed to provide a college education for both of his children, and he had a doctor in the family as well. All of those years of struggle and penny-pinching had paid off, and we were both very grateful to him. I believe that he felt that by providing us with this education, he was insuring that we would never have to face the kind of financial hardship that he had endured. As it turned out, he was right.

Two acts of pure generosity by Dad toward me stand out in my memory. From the age of nine through the age of thirteen, I played football, first on a team sponsored by my Cub Scout pack, and later on a team organized and coached by the father of one of the players. This required at a minimum, shoulder pads and a helmet. He got them for me along with a pair of football pants. But for several years I played in my sneakers or “tennis shoes” as we called them then. I dreamed of having a pair of real leather football shoes with cleats like most of my teammates had, but I never really expected that to happen. So I was surprised when he bought me a pair of good quality high top leather football shoes with real hard rubber replaceable cleats. I then found the funds to replace my really sorry leather helmet with one of better quality. So between the two of us I was very well outfitted for the last few seasons that I played.

The other generous act involved my interest in things electrical. I was always taking things apart—especially radios. My mother bought me two or three “young electrician” books that provided some understanding of electricity and described experiments that I could do. Then, quite unexpectedly, when I was eleven or so, Dad took me to a local radio repair shop. He had arranged with the owner to help me build a radio. He also gave me a 100-watt American Beauty soldering iron. (I still have the soldering iron, and it still works after some sixty years. They don’t make ‘em the way they used to!) For the next week or so I would ride my bike up to the shop after school and work on the radio. I learned to read the diagrams, installed sockets and other hardware in the steel chassis and learned to solder in the components and connecting wires. The completed radio had two vacuum tubes and a socket for coils for the various radio bands. (I wound the coils myself.) When I was finished with the construction, I connected a stretch of wire for an antenna and another to a ground, and I plugged in my American Bell headphones. (These I had bought with my crystal set by mail-order from Allied Radio.) I turned the radio on.

The tubes began to glow a dull orange, and I began to turn the tuning condenser. Suddenly, I heard music and voices coming up out of the static. I was transfixed! I changed coils, and could listen to amateur radio operators and short wave broadcasts from England and France and even from Africa and South America. I kept the radio and listened to it well into my college years.

Dad gave me this great experience even though I had never asked for it or even considered the possibility. It was one of the most generous and appreciated gifts that I have ever received. And, of course, electrical engineering became my profession.

As time went on, I became less and less interested in home and family and directed my interests outward to school and friends and a social life. Soon I was in college and then graduated and ready to go to work. I came back to Tulsa on the way to my first full-time job in North Carolina. He helped me get my in car shape for the long trip. And then, rather suddenly it seemed, I was having dinner at his table for the last time living under his roof. As was typical with us, little emotion was shown. He gave me his last gift: $50.00 to make it to North Carolina and my first payday. It was the last money that I ever took from him, and I was glad that I would never have to take money from him again.

Epilogue

I didn’t see much of Dad after I left home for good in 1958. He and Mom would occasionally visit my family and me in North Carolina, and we would make the long drive to Oklahoma about every other year

As he got older, he began to relax a bit and enjoy life. He even talked of selling his interest in the business and retiring to the mountains of North Carolina. This was shocking and surprising to the family, because we believed that he would always be married to his work and would be lost without it.

I believe that it was in the summer of 1965 that he first developed symptoms of the cancer that would take his life. I flew back to Tulsa to be with him and Mom when he underwent exploratory surgery to confirm the diagnosis. Mom and Lorraine, Bill Arnett and I were in the waiting room at St. John’s Hospital when his doctor came in and told us that it was indeed cancer and that it was inoperable. He suffered a lot from then to the end of his life. I would occasionally get to Tulsa for a visit with him by extending a business trip. My most vivid memory of him during that time is seeing him lying on the living room sofa, his face drawn with pain and his body very thin. He made no attempt to be brave or cheerful. He was a picture of misery.

Finally the call came. Dad was near death, and I must go to Tulsa to see him for the last time. Mom, Lorraine and I sat in the green walled hospital room at St. John’s. Dad had contracted pneumonia and was propped up in the bed, apparently unconscious. His breathing was labored and raspy. And then it stopped.

The funeral was held at the Congregational Church that had become his spiritual home. As befitted his standing in his profession, flowers were everywhere: on the casket, on the altar in sprays on easels and in containers and even attached to the walls. We buried him on that gently sloping hill near a small tree on an unseasonably warm and blustery January day.

After the services we returned to the house on 19th Street that had been the family home for 18 years. There were many people there: relatives, business associates and employees who came to honor Dad’s memory and to recount to me instances of his kindness, his generosity and his integrity.

So those are my memories of Dad. Others might remember him differently or remember things that I have forgotten. Like the rest of us, he was not perfect, but he was a very good man and better than most. As I have written this, I have been surprised to discover how much like him I have been—both in his faults and in his virtues. I took from him many of my strongly held values—responsibility for the needs of my family, prudence about money (probably to a fault) and a commitment to fairness and honesty. Like him, I emphasized meeting the material needs of my family while sometimes neglecting the emotional ones. And neither of us really ever learned how to play very well.

And I am proud to have been his son and to have in some ways followed