Happy Birthday! How many miles we all have traveled since you left us 23 years ago. We think about you nearly everyday and about the big and small ways you influenced our lives. You taught us so many things.
You taught us unconditional love. We always knew that you loved each of us. We knew what was expected of us... to be productive members of society, to be honest, trustworthy and loyal. We knew that we would hear from you if we slipped up and we would have done anything to not disappoint you.
You taught us love of country. Your dedication to our nation, through your service in and love of the United States Navy, was clear to all. I remember the first time I saw you cry. We were watching the funeral of President John F. Kennedy and the funeral cortege. I knew you were a staunch Republican but understood that day that patriotism goes beyond party politics. I'm certain that you did not vote for Kennedy but you were none-the-less grieved by his assassination.
You were only sixteen when you enlisted in the Navy and had to get your very reluctant mother to sign permission. With the Grant High School class of 1944 behind you, boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center was your next stop. The Navy remained an important part of your life until you retired in 1982. You enthusiastically followed your son's and son-in-law's Navy careers and would be so proud of your two granddaughters who served, one in the Navy and the other in the Air Force.
You taught us your love for music. Though none of us inherited your perfect pitch, we all enjoy many types of music and dance. Two of us play instruments, and Trude has made dance her life's work. I loved singing in the Presbyterian Church Choir in Mount Holly with you. We fondly remember the Thursday night Barbershop Quartet practices at home. Each time we hear barbershop harmonies, we are once again transported to those long ago evenings in Willingboro.
You taught us the importance of involvement in community. From heading civic associations, coaching basketball, serving on school board committees, you made it clear that our communities were our responsibilities. We could not complain if we were unwilling to become involved. We needed to be part of the solution not the problem.
You taught us the importance of education. Each of your daughters, as well as your son, knew that we were expected to work to our ability in school. We knew that if we qualified, you would pay for our undergraduate education. We probably didn't yet know that you had gone to work while still in school to help your fiance pay for the remainder of her senior year in college. Or that working those hours, led to neglecting your own studies so that you had to attend summer school and graduate after her.
Perhaps most importantly you taught us that marriage is about love and respect. We never doubted your love for your wife and our mother. Your daughters learned by your example how gentlemen treat ladies and your son learned how to treat women with respect. We learned that marriages take energy and devotion and we have all had successful marriages. That is quite a statement in this day and age when more than half of all marriages end in divorce.
There are so many more memories...
PS... We also learned to drive to the front of the parking lot from you... whenever it works and we find that front row parking spot we send you an extra thanks. It worked for me today at Home Depot.