Dad was a true gentleman and a great soul. Humble, compassionate and unbelievably generous, he was a man of the first order. Dad’s work ethic, values, personality, and leaderships traits have made an imprint on many of you here and as such, his bright burst of life has radiated his essence to us, where it continues to be the feedstock that fuels us. And to those in his family, we are driven to replicate this; and have that same impact in our lives and communities like he had. A cranberry farmer, civil engineer, conservationist, public servant, wetlands expert, board chairman, bank board member, private pilot, sailor, poet, old car enthusiast, American history buff, gardener, chef and amateur golfer; he wore many hats, but to his family most importantly, he was a shining example of both a father-in-law, supportive uncle, The best dad and a wonderful husband.
My parents have one of those rare great loves. Supporting each other with unconditional love and strength, each would say the other was the better half! My sister and I always felt like the lucky ones to have such amazing parents. Mom and Dad seamlessly wove beautiful memories with the everyday parts of life: Listening to jazz while reading poetry in his leather chair by the fire with his family on a cold winter night; coming down to fluffy pancakes and bacon for Sunday breakfast; or, dancing to Paul Simon after a family dinner waving napkins in the air. When we were growing up, Dad would often work 15+ hours a day with early mornings to set up his bog and engineering crews and late nights presenting his engineering work at town meetings. But most nights he always made a point to cook and eat at home. Through this, he showed us how to find a way to strike the right mix in life between work and family.
Dad loved to cook. And he loved to narrate his cooking even more. Every time the family got together, he somehow managed to pull someone into the kitchen and talked about exactly how to make whatever he was making. And in doing so, he turned what were memorized recipes or methods into epic dishes and mastered techniques that are best described in ‘bold, capital letters’ and are now eternal folklore:
- Cheese Soufflé, London Broil, Scalloped Potatoes, Banana Foster and Pancakes from Scratch
- …the time-tested techniques: How to Carve a Turkey, How to Sharpen Knives, How to make a Rue, Boiling Lobsters and Searing Scallops.
After cooking and hosting family gatherings (and Dad was always the host), Dad would promptly decamp with a scotch in hand to the sitting room, light a fire, and talk for hours. Business — the markets — American history and our forefathers — tales of our ancestors – seeing epic concerts at Woodstock and the Newport Jazz festival, lessons learned from his life — and every now and then, he would impassionedly recite “manly” poetry, such as The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. And if it was Christmas Eve, a special annual reading of the Night Before Christmas a time honored tradition for the Gilmore girls.
Another time-honored tradition with Dad was frost nights. It began on a cold April night when I was six year old I dragged my Winnie the Pooh sleeping bag from my bedroom downstairs to the front porch of our house on North Ave in Rochester. I told my mom that night I was going out on Frost night with Dad and since he was at an evening meeting, I spent the night outside waiting for him. A while later, Dad pulled into the driveway in his big black pickup truck and chuckled at the sight of me shivering in my sleeping bag waiting for him to come home. Grabbing his flashlight and thermometer, he carried me in my pjs into his warm truck and we went out on frost. Ever since that first night waiting for dad on the front porch, my sister and I loved going out on frost nights with dad. And the best part as a kid was stopping at McDonalds to get a late night snack! French fries for me and an ice cream cone for my sister. Frost nights with dad became a wonderful part of cranberry growing and a tradition that as adults we still loved. The conversations changed but the time alone with Dad was simply priceless. Whether talking about current events, school, jazz on the radio, or cranberry farming — the conversation always found its way to talking about legacy — where we are going and where we came from. We would ponder the big wide unknowns such as religion and astronomy sitting on those cold nights counting shooting stars.
As I reflect on his life and remember my amazing Dad; a humble and loving man, husband, father, and friend; I hold close his astute understanding of the interplay between the physics of the universe and the belief of a greater being and power other than ourselves- it is in this that I find comfort that he is perhaps most fittingly like a supernova – “A brief stellar explosion that outshines an entire galaxy, radiating as much energy as the Sun over its entire lifetime, it is an extremely rare, radiant burst of light.” Dad, I and we feel blessed and thankful to have had you in our lives. You are our supernova and your energy you’ve now dissipated into the universe lives on through all of us.