I was planning on a Father’s Day column, extolling my own dear, departed daddy, when a dear friend, a mentor and deacon in our church finally succumbed to the cancer he had fought quietly for so many years. I was invited to give a eulogy at his funeral home service, which I did with great honor and love.
In writing the eulogy, I discovered that I was really writing a eulogy for my father, for the two men shared many of the same characteristics. And maybe that was why I had been so drawn to working with Robert Gerald. God bless his soul.
Norman Arey Fowler was the first in his family to go to college. He left the cranberry bogs of Carver, Massachusetts, for the hallowed halls of Gordon Theological Seminary, where he was going to study to be a Baptist preacher. He was a scholarship student, working his way through school as a waiter in the dining hall.
He left his adoring mother, hard-nosed Yankee papa and his five brothers and a sister back on the farm. He studied hard, worked hard and earned his theological degree.
Right after graduation he married my mother, who was a nurse in the Mass. General Hospital emergency room and a cradle Catholic. No pulpit for him. The marriage was small and private. The only ones attending were his college roommate and his wife, my mother’s older sister. I put an appearance rather quickly, and my sister arrived less than two years later.
Mummy still worked at the hospital and Daddy had a job on the docks unloading cargo ships full of gypsum.
Then came Pearl Harbor, and even men with two children were called to service. But fate stepped in, and while unloading a ship, Daddy was struck on the left arm with a steam shovel bucket. Mummy saw him in the ER, where the chief of medicine reduced her from Nurse to Wife. Uncle Sam was passed over for a long medical leave.
Two older brothers were firemen and excused from service. Uncle Bucky, young and 19, was drafted and slogged his way up Italy and into France. The youngest brother was still in high school and exempt.
So Daddy spent the war in a handsome black silk sling, and Mummy continued in the wildness of the ER. Then at the end of the war, Daddy was transferred by the gypsum company to the mine and factory in Virginia. You’ve heard about my adventures there.
But all the time I thought all daddies were like mine. It wasn’t till I moved that I realized he was something pretty special.
It was obvious that he adored my mother. He was always giving her fancy stuff as gifts. Jewelry, sexy robes and pajamas. He was always giving her kisses while she cooked, and he read to me and my sister every night before bed.
He was scrupulously honest. We had an account at the company store, and he knew exactly how many ice cream cones we had charged.
He built us a swimming pool because the pool in the next town was salt water pumped from the mines. He always paid his taxes on time. He was proud of being “insurance poor,” so we’d all be taken care of. He was brutally honest in his work as the quality control director of his company. Clients knew he put them first.
He played golf every Saturday morning with the same group for 20 years, and he never cheated, and he never broke 100. When he fixed something, he drove us all crazy, because he was a perfectionist. I once helped him put up an above-ground pool for my mother, and after digging the base, spreading the sand, setting up the pool and filling it, he laid a level across it on a board. Then he tore it all down and did it over because it wasn’t level.
After my mother died, he met a lady in El Paso, Texas. The complete opposite of my mother. … Mum was 4-foot-11; Audrey was 6-0. Mum could care less about fashion; Audrey was a department store buyer. Audrey dyed her hair red; she was very social; she didn’t play bridge; she loved to travel … all the things my mother wasn’t, Audrey was. Daddy had four wonderful years with her, playing golf in El Paso, driving to Las Vegas and California, spending fashion week in New York.
He was as happy with Audrey as he was with mummy.
He was a romantic man, always bringing flowers or ice cream. He never raised his voice to us kids, even when we deserved it. He went to church with us weekly. He finally became a Catholic in 1958, when we kids found out he wasn’t “in the church.” He never used bad language. He could make great fudge. He taught us to say our prayers, live like we should, be kind to everyone and tell the truth. The only time he ever struck me was when I said something nasty about mummy.
He adored his grandchildren and would spend hours with them. He even reveled in their name for him: DADADEE! I always knew he loved me, and I returned it. As I grew older, I realized he was the epitome of the Godly Man. How blessed I was.
I hope all of the men in my life had a happy Father’s Day.