I wrote a note to my children today, and I’m just self-indulgent enough to share it with you.
My father was always proud of the fact that he shared a birthday with Winston Churchill, one of the giants of his time. Churchill has been gone for 42 years, and the world is a lesser place for his passing.
Dad was no Churchill, but he was student enough of history to aspire to make a difference in the world, and with his optimism and generosity, he did.
His own father died when Dad was a small child, but he once related to me that, well into middle age, he would meet someone who remembered his father, gone for 40 years, as a respected businessman, scrupulous and fair.
In the years since he’s gone, I’ve had that same experience about him.
At the age of 31 (eerily close to the age his own father had died) he was afflicted with a brain tumor. The art of brain surgery was pretty rough in 1956; my mother was told to prepare for widowhood. Yet, he survived, recovered fully, and went on to lead a worthy life.
He sold paper boxes all of his adult life, first for other people but later running his own small company (in which I worked for 15 years), but politics was his first love and avocation.
As our township’s committeeman, he managed to carry the town for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its history in 1964.
Later, he served as our town’s first Jewish alderman, and narrowly lost his race for mayor, He once told me, after seeing a picture in the weekly paper of the victorious opponent officiating at a Veteran’s Day ceremony in cold driving rain, that losing that election was absolutely the better outcome.
If politics was his first love, baseball was next. Time and money were in short supply during my childhood, but he made up for it while my children were growing up by sharing many a Cubs and White Sox game (he maintained season’s tickets to both for years) with his grandchildren.
He sponsored a Little League team in town (the first individual to do so), and my brother still does. It’s a blast during the spring and early summer to see kids biking to the park with Dad’s name on their backs.
His love of baseball took an unusual turn when his close friend Gus, whom he had had known for many years, revealed that he had been a promising rookie with the Cubs before the war, until his arm blew out.
Attending many games on Saturdays with my father and my older son relit the fire for Gus. Comfortably retired, he purchased the Triple-A farm team in Omaha, and one year that team won the Triple-A World Series. My father, who served on the team’s board of directors, always cherished his World Series ring.
Dad moved from elective office to appointments, and after spearheading the fundraising campaign to create a still thriving cultural center from a shuttered school, served the town’s recreation board for a number of terms, including as its president.
A recreation center he had helped the city build was named for him shortly after his untimely death from heart disease at 67.
That was 15 years ago, and his family misses him every day.
Oh, yeah, the note I wrote my kids today.
Today, November 30, would have been Grandpa S—–‘s 82nd birthday.
He was an extraordinary man and we’re all fortunate that he’s been in our lives.
He, along with dear Grandpa J—–, remain examples for all of us of integrity, generosity, optimism and courage facing crippling illness, and, most of all, the importance of family.
Grandpa S—–, as you’re sure to remember, used to love to give gifts to his children and grandchildren on his birthday.
I hope that his memory serves as that gift today, and every day.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
It’s it for now. Thanks,