1. For His Siblings: He was born in Michigan in 1926. This is the same year welcomed Queen Elizabeth, Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe. While my father was in elementary school, he endured the economic disaster of the Great Depression and after high school served in World War II in the U.S. Navy. As I said during his eulogy:
He had two siblings: a sister, Marilyn and a brother, Albert. His family moved
to California in 1933 and his siblings always struck me as contemporary
Californians while Richard was much more of an import product of the Mid-West. I
know he valued their time together as a family…and spoke tenderly about a trip
he made to Redmond, WA in 1985 when they were last all together.
If you want insight into my father’s childhood, I recommend you check out the 1983 movie A Christmas Story. My father identified with the main character, Ralphie, a nine-year old Hammond, Indiana boy whose fervent Christmas wish was to receive "…an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time." (The thing which tells time is a sundial.) Ralphie, of course, continually hears the refrain: “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.”
2. For His Wife: Richard met my mother, May, and they got married in the 1950s. From the photos of their early married life, you can see that they were an ideal 1950s couple. My mother is extraordinarily beautiful and you can tell that being married to her was the best thing that ever happened to him.
3. For His Children: My earliest memories of him include kissing him as he came home from work. I still remember the smell of his after shave…and love and affection he had for me. I remember him, at the height of Cold War, stockpiling materials for a nuclear bomb shelter in the garage including wood frames, army water tanks, military food rations and burlap bags. Because of time constraints, I could not fit this into his eulogy, but I meant to say:
It goes without saying that he loved his job as a CAL-OSHA safety engineer and later as a top manager. When I saw him at work I was introduced to a whole new world of power and authority, a world in which opportunities for devoted public service were supplemented by lunches with his colleagues at Italian restaurants with fresh sawdust on the floor or by visits to cafeterias that looked like movie sets complete with colorful lights, waterfalls and California-themed dioramas.
Politically, he was an ardent anti-communist, a Goldwater supporter, and early Reagan supporter. My father took to Scouting – especially its religious values and code of character - and was remembered for it for many years. He raised money and took us to National Jamboree where we saw Bob Hope perform. He was active at district level and had the number one Boy Scout Camporee Troop in 1976.
4. For His Grandchildren: Later in life, he was a devoted grandfather who loved hosting the grandchildren (seven in all) at his house in Big Bear for the holidays. Remembering how much fun I had as a child playing around the Newhall house, I’m sure it warmed Richard’s heart to see his grandchildren happily running around the same hunting grounds.
5. For His Great Grandchildren: My father’s great grandchildren will undoubtedly learn about him from YouTube videos, blog sites, and genealogy charts - all freely available on the Internet. They will find he represented a proud tradition of American values and patriotism, a tradition extending all the way from the Civil War to the American Revolution.
Nothing was more moving to me, at my father's funeral, than the final moments when a naval officer handed a folded U.S. flag to my mother and said: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation as an expression of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."
I expect his great grandchildren will see a profound link to our nation’s heritage my father's life and in his love for God, country and family.
There is a special on-line obituary for him at http://bit.ly/9GiO7Z which includes a beautiful photo essay illustrating his life, career, and rich family connections.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.