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Monday, June 10, 2013

Requiem For A Life Less Ordinary

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
    - Requiem,
Robert Louis Stevenson

He was a tough wiry man.

He was on the short side of medium.

He was thin his whole life, but he was one hell of a lot stronger than he looked, people constantly underestimated him that way, usually to their detriment – and he was never in a fight that he lost.

The songs talk about an “impish grin” and “sparkling eyes,” with him the grin and the sparkle were the literal truth. Those were the very first things you noticed.

Sandy-haired and handsome in the Irish tradition, he always had a good story to tell and he could make you laugh with the way he mangled words but still managed to make you wonder if it was everybody else that had the pronunciation wrong.

Back then, in 1960,  you could always hear him coming, the unmistakable sound of jaunty heels clicking on polished tile preceded him down the hallways of General Motors.  His steps sounded like he was wearing tap shoes and not just because he was the best dancer you ever saw, but also because he wore metal heel clips on his shoes – otherwise he tended to wear them out faster than they could be replaced, the result of a slight tendency to drag his heels and the fact that he was always in constant motion.

That was his defining characteristic, constant motion.

He was always moving, even when he was asleep his legs churned restlessly as if he was climbing mountains in his dreams.

He’d always been in motion, since the very fist day he’d entered the world back in 1934. He couldn’t sit still.  He was always going going going.

As a Catholic kid growing up in Grand Rapids in the 1930’s and 40’s it was stickball and pick-up baseball and football and kick-the-can and any other improvised sport he could manage. He rode bicycles everywhere and raced pell-mell though the neighborhoods of the Polish and Irish and Dutch immigrants who made up that part of town. Word is that he was hell on wheels in his teens, there’s a story involving a bench-seat T-Bird and a police chase that ended badly … but that’s a tale probably best left for another time. He watched his older brother go off to World War II, a medic on the beaches of Normandy, but he was too young to follow.  He was old enough when Korea came though, and he ended up a  Radioman in USS Shakori, ATF-162, a US Navy Powhatan Class ocean-going fleet tug and rescue ship. The vessel was a relic of the previous conflict and she sure wasn’t pretty and she sure wasn’t fast – her top speed was only 16 knots, but she could tow a battleship at 12.  Most Navy ships are women, Shakori was a bulldog. That tough little ship was the perfect home for a tough little Irishman and she took him around the world, twice.  He went to Korea and later served in Cuba during Castro’s first failed revolution – indeed there’s a picture of him and Fidel Castro standing together on the Guantanamo Naval Base back  when the US was giving the revolutionary refuge  against the corrupt Batista government.  Oh, could he tell you stories of pre-revolution Cuba, most involving Hatuey (The One Eyed Indian), a local Cuban beer,  and he never ever forgot a single detail of any of the myriad adventures he had during those days nor the men he served with and the tales of those times have entertained many generations since.

After the war, he ended up back home in Grand Rapids, an expeditor in the Materials Control Division of GM’s Fisher-Body Plant #2.

That’s where he met her. 

She was a clerk-typist in Materials Control.  She’d started out there back in 1954, then moved up to receptionist for the company’s doctor, and then back to Materials when the plant reorganized and went from making airplanes to car parts.  She’d seen him around of course, all the girls had, he was a regular cock-of-the-walk and impossible to miss. Her boss, a tough old coot named Chet Barger, who had once been a Texas Ranger and had rode with Teddy Roosevelt’s Roughriders, used to say that “the only thing that boy needs is a good spanking.”

Likely Ol’ Chet knew what he was talking about.

She ran into him one day, literally.

Or he ran into her, depending who’s telling the story.

Maybe she didn’t hear his heels clicking on the tile … or maybe she did.  What’s for certain is that despite the advanced warning they slammed into each other coming ‘round a corner.  After that, he started finding reasons to stop by her desk.  It’s possible that she was flirting with him. It’s also possible that he noticed.

She wanted to learn how to play golf.

She asked around, it seemed the best golfer anybody had ever heard of was already dropping by her desk on a regular basis.

So she asked him to teach her the game.

He agreed – but only if she’d have dinner with him.

You can see where this is going, of course, and it wasn’t long before they were married. 

They said it wouldn’t last.  He was an Irish Catholic, she was a Dutch Protestant – worse, a Presbyterian – and his family disapproved, to put it mildly, back when such things mattered. He was wild and impulsive, she was deliberate.  He couldn’t balance a checkbook on a good day, she always knew where every single penny went.  They struck sparks off each other and would for the rest of their lives but it turned out they had more in common than they didn’t and they proved everybody wrong. 

And they spent a lot of time golfing.

Their first child, a son, followed the marriage after the requisite amount of time, and another son two years after that.   They were living in a trailer in Grandville, but with two boys, they wanted something bigger, so they moved to Jension and bought a small house with a couple acres of land – large enough for a big garden (In all the years that followed and all the places they lived, and all the things they went through, they always had that garden).   Alongside the corn and cucumbers, they raised Irish Setters. And there were many cats and chickens and a duck or two, rabbits and a goose named Slippery, and various other critters now lost in the mists of aging and unreliable memory.  I could tell you stories from that time, about how he moved an entire garage a hundred yards with just the help of a few friends, or how he tilled that huge garden with an antique walk-behind tractor, a bucking beast of a machine that would have knocked a lesser man senseless (and did, but again, that’s a story for another time). He hunted and fished and gigged for frogs in a tiny fold-up boat made by his father-in-law.  He owned not one, but two Corvairs, and parked them next to the station wagon. 

He still worked for General Motors and one day while conducting an inventory, a job he wasn’t supposed to be doing but there was a strike and management had him doing tasks that normally would have gone to a union man, a defective lift cable snapped and he plunged sixty feet in an elevator cage to the warehouse floor below.  The fall shattered a vertebrate in his neck, he could have been paralyzed and for a while it looked like he might be, but a year of surgery and neck braces later and he was mostly back to his old self.  Mostly.

But that’s where it started, the collection of injuries that would haunt him for the rest of his life. 

The doctors fixed the shattered bones in his neck, but he would always have problems with the injury. He had numbness in his hands and trouble turning his head and if she hugged him too hard with her hands behind his neck, the pressure on his spinal cord would drop him to the floor like a puppet with cut strings –  a side effect the doctors forgot to mention and something that he learned about the hard way.  These were the 60’s, nowadays he would have gotten a decent settlement and maybe long term care, back then what he got was let go.

Rather than complain, he went on to other things and other jobs.  There wasn’t much he couldn’t do, they might have invented the term “Jack-of-all-trades” just for him, and he was master of quite a few.  He could do plumbing and electrical work. He could do any kind of carpentry. He could build fences and dig ditches. He had the best wood shop in the neighborhood.  He could wear a suit and tie as easily as a Caterpillar Cap and a pair of Levis – though he always called them “dungarees,” a legacy of his time in the Navy. They bought a new house, had one built, in one of the new suburbs of Jension. The house was bigger, the lot was smaller, but still they had that garden.  They camped and fished and drove cross-country on family vacations. By now it was the 70’s and instead of a crew-cut he had a beard and long hair and there was a lot of plaid – the pictures from that time are hysterically funny to his grand children.

It wasn’t all roses (though he grew those too, and they were gorgeous).  He drank. Like many a Navy Man of that time, he’d always been a hard drinker, Pabst Blue Ribbon usually, chased with Pall-Malls.  And after a while it started getting the better of him.  There were some rough times.  They’d started their own business by then and after a couple years of backbreaking labor, it went under – but not before he was nearly electrocuted (the details of which are again, a story for another time).  The short version is that an electrical shock burned a dime sized hole in his wrist, the high amperage cauterized the wound and you could look into the bloodless hole and see the bone. The electricity  traveled straight through his heart, it would have killed another man but not him, he walked out of the hospital.  His drinking got worse after they lost the business.  Eventually she gave him an ultimatum.  And so he joined Alcoholic’s Anonymous and found sobriety.  Like I said, those were rough times, they nearly lost the house and a number of other unpleasant things, the OPEC Oil Embargo was in full swing along with the energy crises and the floundering economy. But through it all they had each other and they persevered. He worked a variety of jobs, from janitor to hospital security guard – and, man, the stories he could tell about those places would have you in stitches no matter how many times you’ve heard them – nothing was beneath him, he’d do whatever it took.  He even went back to school and got his GED and some college.

He calmed down after he stopped drinking.  He’d always been there for everyone else and now he went at it with a will.  He helped others stop drinking, he didn’t preach or lecture, but when they were ready, he’d help them find their way to sobriety.  He became a deacon in the Presbyterian church (his family had long ago made peace with his departure from Catholicism).  He’d always been a scout leader, even before his own boys were old enough to be Cubs, back when being a Boy Scout actually meant you were something other than a bigot.  In 1976, he took a troop of Scouts to the BSA high adventure ranch in New Mexico, Philmont, and they hiked nearly 200 miles in two weeks. He had some trouble keeping up – even then a pack of Pall Malls a day was starting to have an effect, especially in the high altitude mountains of New Mexico, a harbinger of things to come. On the morning of the United States’ Bicentennial, he quietly woke his Scouts up before dawn and with practiced ease and huge shit-eating grins they broke camp in complete silence so as not to wake the other troops, then they climbed The Tooth of Time in the dark using only the light of the moon to arrive at the summit just as the sun rose over the Rocky Mountains.  Every Scout in Philmont that year had wanted to be first up the mountain on that particular morning, after all there could only be one troop, ever, first to summit on the morning of America’s 200th Birthday, and there had been some less than good natured boasting in base camp the night before among the Trek Leaders.  He didn’t boast, he just did what he always did – he outfoxed them.   His Scouts ended up on the cover of the Bicentennial Edition of Boy’s Life (if you happen across that issue, I’m the blond-headed 14 year old Scout in the front of the hiking line).  He got in some trouble for that, and more when he commandeered the troop bus (an aging repurposed school bus painted like a giant Bumble Bee) and took his Scouts on an unauthorized trip to a local Mexican restaurant as a reward for all their hard work and where those Michigan boys learned about real genuine New Mexican ‘green’ chili for the first time (Jesus H. Christ!).  On the four day trip back to Michigan, whenever the other Scout Leaders from the other Michigan Troops would attempt to chastise him, he’d lead the bus in a rousing rendition of 10,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and drown them out. 

He got a job as the resident manager of a YMCA summer camp out in Middleville. The place was a wreck, but he cleaned it up and turned it around and thousands of kids owe some very happy memories to him.  He was in his element, wrangling horses and giving hay rides behind the tractor,  zoo keeper to an ever changing menagerie of animals from goats to raccoons to cows (I’d tell you about the time one of his boys, and I’m not saying which one, locked a very angry goat in the chicken coop as a Father’s Day surprise, but that’s really a story that needs to be told in person and out loud with lots of enthusiastic hand waving. The short version is that he was indeed surprised that Father’s Dad. Very. Ditto the story about the dead cow, and how Old Man Mesick grabbed its tail and cranked it back to life after … well, again, that’s a story for another time). He had a garden there too, a big one and more and more he thought that’s what he wanted to do full time – garden, farm, grow things.  The job lasted a decade or so, long enough for his kids to leave home and go off into the world on their own, one to the Navy, one to the Air Force. 

Eventually he left the YMCA and they moved to a small farm outside of Middleville.  He went back to school, this time to the Michigan State Cooperative Extension and became a certified Advanced Master Gardener.  They owned a couple of acres and they bought more, and they converted almost all of it into a specialty garden and artisan farm.  They opened a farm stand and started selling fresh produce in their front yard.  It wasn’t long before they were known across half the state and people came from all over for a chance at their stock in trade.  He helped others become Master Gardeners themselves.  He worked at the local Co-Op and Grain Elevator, testing soils and doling out advice to local farmers.  One day the town fathers approached him, they were thinking of starting up a farm-market, something they hoped would revitalize their slowly fading village.  And so it did.  And so they became founding members of the Middleville Farmer’s Market, and there you could find them, rain or shine, every Friday, the center of life in a small Midwestern farming town.  Everybody knew him, he had a thousand friends and when he walked into the local diner a dozen people smiled and waved and called out his name. 

He got older though, and his health went to hell.  He finally quit smoking, but by then it was too late.  The old neck injury calcified and his hands got gradually weaker and more numb and one day he could no longer change fittings on the tractor with a normal wrench, he just didn’t have the strength anymore. So, being him, he got out the biggest damned pipe wrench you’ve ever seen and fitted it onto the tractor’s PTO, figuring all he needed was a little more leverage.  Unfortunately the tractor was in gear, and when it shifted the PTO rotated a turn … and that huge damned wrench swung through a full arc that just happened to intersect with his leg.  They had to insert a steel rod and fit the shattered bone back together with screws and if you think it slowed him down or taught him a lesson you haven’t been paying attention.  Eventually he went back under the knife and the doctors were able to clean up his neck and he got both feeling and strength back in his hands, sort of closing the barn door after the tractor has done rolled away down the hill so to speak.  But even as he got his strength back he was developing COPD, that’s the new innocuous word for emphysema. He ended up on oxygen. He had to give up golf.  He kept looking for things that he could do, he became an avid birder, a member of Cornel University’s legion of bird watchers.  He knew everything there was to know about birds and his backyard was filled with feeders of a dozen different kinds.  

But the world just kept closing in on him, every year he could do a little less and for a man that had been ever in motion it got harder and harder. 

The end came suddenly, an infection he just couldn’t shake, which led to congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and a dozen other things.  His heart stopped in the emergency room, but they got it going again. He had beaten the odds so many times in so many different ways and those who knew him figured the feisty little Irishman would somehow find a way to outfox fate this time too.

And for a while, it looked like he just might pull it off.

But it just wasn’t to be. 

On June 8th, 2013, at precisely 11:06AM, a beautiful Saturday morning, two days before his fifty-second wedding Anniversary, he finally stopped moving. 

His wife was at his side along with his sons, the Navy Chief Warrant Officer and the Air Force Master Sergeant. 

He was laid to rest at the Fort Custer National Cemetery with full military honors, next to his comrades in arms beneath the cold white granite, still at last.

His name was James Gordon Wright.

And he was my dad.

315 comments:

  1. Oh Jim - my parents were an Irish Catholic who married a Presbyterian Scot - in wartime 1941 - the parents were aghast! - and they had 63 years together - the mix sometimes works.

    Your father will be missed - as mine is every day. Thank you for the memories

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  2. A wonderful requiem for your dad. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. A very amazing man, and I am so sorry for your loss of such an awesome father. It explains a lot about you.

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  3. My deepest sympathies to you.

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  4. I am so very, very sorry for your loss. Your dad was a remarkable man, and as Lynne says above, that explains much about you.

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  5. Bless you and bless your father, and keep his memory green.

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  6. Ave Vale.

    And my deepest sympathies, Jim.

    My Dad's still with us--and my mother, who we expected to outlive him by over a decade (at least) has been gone for over a decade. We miss her.

    The wound is real. It may be numb--now and then--for a while. And like your father's electrical burn... it never really goes away. You learn to live with it.

    My deepest condolences. He sounds like quite a memorable character. And someday, when I get back to AK to visit my sister and her family in Anchorage, maybe I can meet you for a beer and the opportunity to tell a couple of those stories--with all the needed handwaving--in person. May he rest in peace. May you all find peace with this loss.

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  7. My condolences. Health and luck to you and yours, Jim.

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  8. My deepest sympathies to you and your family, Jim. Your dad was obviously a remarkable man and may I say, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. What a beautiful tribute. May your memories of him bring you comfort and peace.

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  9. That was beautiful, Jim. I'm sorry you lost him. But glad that you had such a rich life with him, and that he left such a legacy. I'd kiss you on the forehead if you were closer.

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  10. Your dad sounds like an amazing man. My deepest sympathies for your loss. I hope time brings you grace and comfort in your memories.

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  11. Patricia TalbottJune 10, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    Jim - I am so very sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like a hell of a man. Thank you for sharing a bit of him with us.
    Sending you good thoughts for health and peace for you and your mom and brother.

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  12. I'm so sorry, Jim. Losing a father is such a destructive experience. I can only say from experience that the love will continue and the pain will fade, over time. Good luck and take care.

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  13. Lovely requiem! Your father sounds like he had ADHD. He was a feisty bugger by the sound of...Farming suits us...though we generally lose a few fingers...I wonder what that button does :p or more likely the wrong spanner because it's there and how hard can it be, yeah :) We're impulsive, emotional, full of life and we aren't afraid of very much...We can and will attempt anything.

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  14. My deepest sympathies.

    Swear to God your father probably ran across my uncle at some point, a Catholic Navy guy who lived in GR most of his adult life. Hope my uncle is buying your old man a brew right about now, where the brew no longer messes with men of their kind.

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  15. What a wonderful and moving tribute to your father. Sounds like he was quite a character. Apparently the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Sincere sympathy, I still miss my dad almost twenty years after his passing. He will live on in the memories of your family and the legacy he shared with all of you.

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    1. Totally agree about the tribute and the apple and the legacy, plus he will live on in our memories about this beautifully expressed requiem. I'm sorry for your loss, Jim.

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  16. I've said the final goodbye to many people but saying it to my Dad was the hardest. The older I get the more I realize how much he influenced the man I became.

    He came back from his war, served in the WWII Pacific as a Hospital Corpsman, they called them Pharmacist Mates then, a very different person than the one who left the farm in Nothern Utah.

    That was no different than thousands of others but those others weren't MY DAD. I miss him but think of and thank him every day.

    May the memory of his life, his struggles, and his strengths help you through your life without him.

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  17. There are tears on my cheeks. May he have been in Heaven half an hour before the Devil knew him dead. I think it likely, and I'm an atheist.

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  18. Such a beautiful requiem. And no question how a father like that could help form a man like you. You have my deepest sympathies, the world is poorer for the loss of him, but definitely richer for having had him, and we are all richer for reading your account of the man.

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  19. I wish I'd known him. Peace to you and your family.

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  20. Thank you for sharing this. He was indeed a great man.
    Semper Fi.

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  21. Sounds like he had a hell of a life.

    Condolences for your loss.

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  22. I am so sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathies to your family.

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  23. What a beautifully written tribute to a wonderful man. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  24. Truly beautiful, and a real honoring of you father. Thank you for sharing him with us. I see a lot of him in you, the story telling, the many jobs or positions you have had, the deep caring about others and that they be treated with fairness, and so much more.

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  25. Beautifully written Jim. What a wonderful trove of memories.

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  26. I only hope I can write something so worthy for my father when he passes. My deepest condolences. It sounds like your father set a badass example for his badass sons.

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  27. Jim, so sorry for your loss. A great man with an amazing legacy. Thank you for sharing him with us. Sending love and light to you and your family.

    --Melissa in Houston

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  28. He sounds like a remarkable man.
    My deepest condolences to you and all of your family.
    Prayers lifted.

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  29. So sorry for your loss. Wonderful blog; I believe you have achieved your dream of being a writer.

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  30. That was beautiful, Jim.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  31. Condolences, Jim. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. We just had a memorial Sunday for my Mother after a crazy bacterial infection that went wild. It all seemed pretty surreal in the hospital. At the memorial, we opened the floor for stories and found a lot of laughter and great stories there. There are so many things that will always remind us of them. I wish you peace of mind that he is in a better place and out of pain. RIP James Gordon Wright!

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  32. Jim, please accept my deepest sympathies, for what little they're worth. He sounds as if he were a fine man, and a good father.

    Fisher #2 was located in my home town of Flint. I remember when they shut it down, in the 'eighties. Somehow, for me, that makes this slightly closer to home, but of course nothing at all in comparison to your grief.

    Whatever, if anything, exists after life, may he receive the best it has to offer.

    My very best, of course, to you and your family.

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    1. That was the Fisher Body Flint Plant No. 2. My mom and dad worked at the old Fisher Body Aircraft Plant No. 2 in Grand Rapids, usually just called Fisher Body Plant Number Two after it switched to car parts (specifically the fabric pieces for headliners and door panels according to my mom) instead of making aircraft.

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  33. I am truly sorry for your loss. The story of your father reminds me in so many ways of my dear departed grandfather. Right down to the Jack of all trades, garden tilling, pall mall smoking sob that not for one second stopped moving until he just did. I love that you can remember and speak not only of the good times but the bad as well. That in and of itself speaks volumes about you both. While nothing I say can ease the ache in your heart please know you and your family are in my thoughts.

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  34. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like a wonderful man.

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  35. A wonderful tribute. You and your whole family are in my thoughts & prayer

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  36. Your father must have been an amazing man to inspire such a deeply moving tribute. May his memory be a comfort and a blessing to you and your family forever.

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  37. I'm sorry. Thank you for sharing him with us.

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  38. No words, feel like someone punched me in the chest.

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  39. I am so sorry for your loss, but I think it's fair to say that more than a little bit of your father lives on in you. I hope that your family can take solace in one another, and in the incredible legacy that your dad has left behind.

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  40. Jim, Your father sounds a remarkable man,I am guessing your mother must be also. Thank you for sharing. My condolences.

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  41. The dash between those marble-etched dates hold the entire lifetime and who could ever sum up the full meaning of that? Or what it takes from you when it's gone...the hurt it leaves. There's just so much that no eulogy, no requiem, no obituary will ever be able to say.
    With my deepest respect, wishing you peace, hoping that you find solace, and extending my deepest condolences to you and your family. May your father truly, finally, rest in absolute serenity.

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  42. Sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute.

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  43. Heartfelt sympathies to you and your family.

    Both of my parents are long gone and no matter how old I am I still feel like an orphan.

    ave et vale Mr. Wright

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  44. Your dad didn't fritter his years away, he did good. May his memory be for a blessing.

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  45. You are lucky to have spent such time with him - my condolences, Jim.

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  46. Jim, I'm so sorry. My sympathies to you and your family. And I hope that some day you'll be ready to tell us some of those "stories for another time".

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  47. I am so very sorry for your loss.Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute.

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  48. Thank you! He was a incredible man!

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  49. My condolences Jim. Great tribute. He must of been very proud of his two boys. Thanks for sharing his life!

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  50. A beautiful tribute.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  51. When I read your post on FB, I had a Schrodinger moment, that if I did not read your Stonekettle post what I was afraid had happened wouldn't. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man. There is new hole in the world tonight.

    NaluGirl

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  52. Holding you and your family in my heart. Maybe write a book about your dad? (which, of course, would include your mom, brother, and you) Still missing both of my parents....

    Freckles

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  53. Reading this made me wish I was closer to my dad, a Marine drill sergeant. We are estranged and I expect a call at any time. I am sorry for your loss, Jim, you did him proud.

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  54. When I saw the title, Requiem, I knew that your father had passed. Thank you very much for telling some of the story of his life. May the memory of James Gordon Wright always be a blessing. Shalom.

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  55. My condolences to you and your family. What a wonderful, inspiring man, with a seemingly lifelong knack of turning set-backs into new opportunities.
    What a wonderful picture of his life you have given us. I wish that my late father had told me more about his life's experiences and what he did in WWII, but we weren't close, and he died in 1985 when I was 28 and he was 74.
    Celebrate his life, and remember the good times. Fill the void with good memories. My heart goes out to you and your brother, and especially to your mother, who has lost her love.
    May he rest in peace.
    Sarah Mooring (UK)

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  56. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing a little bit of who he was with us. I think he left behind a great legacy in you.

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  57. I was expecting something about the NSA leak, but figured out it was about your Dad about half way through (after which point my eyes started leaking). You are a truly prolific writer and I am so sorry for your loss.

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  58. That was a very moving tribute. I'm sure he would have loved it. I'm sorry, Jim. Take good care of yourself in these coming days.

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  59. You made me cry, you made me feel like you were talking about my Dad, who I miss very much, you out did your gift at putting words together. Beautifully written account of a loved ones life hats off to you for telling a small part of his life so eloquently....you have a gift my friend, and you use it wisely, I believe after reading this, something you learned from your Dad!

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  60. Jim,I seem to have something in my eye...You seem to have some of your father's story telling skills..even around this sad event...While I am sorry you have lost your father..I am jealous that you had that kind of father to lose....Cooperative Extension...next to the military and SSA is the best spent tax money there is...but that is another story..and you seem to have a year of those to tell, too...Thanks for sharing this beautiful paean about your dad...

    Marilyn

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  61. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing some of his life stories with us in this touching post. However the memories of him that you will share with your son over the years will be one of the best tributes to him that you could ever give. May he rest in well deserved peace.

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  62. Your dad must have been some kind of awesome, because at the end of your previous blog post, you thought that he would make it. This we know- we all die. Sounds like your dad lived a great and full life, full of love and pain, ups and downs. That you loved him and honored him, none of your readers doubt.

    I'm glad that I got to read that last post about him. He will be missed. Although we do not know each other, I still send my condolences.

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  63. Your father sounds like a wonderful man--you were lucky to have him, and he was lucky to have a son like you, someone to write such a thoughtful, loving tribute.

    You and your family will be in my thoughts.

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  64. My Dad died in 1997, and I still miss him. So sorry for your loss. At least he hung on long enough for his family to get there to say goodbye in person.

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  65. What an incredible tribute to an extraordinary man. How fortunate you were to have him in your life for so long. I know he had to have been so proud of you. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

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  66. Damn. You had said you thought he was out of trouble...that whole COPD/post-booze/CHF/kidney mess conspired to do in my mother in 2010. I am sad for you that he's gone, but it sure sounds like not moving was cramping his style. And now I know where you get at least half of your exceptional thoughtfulness, and your way with words. He sure grabbed Life with both hands! Sending warm, commiserative thoughts to you and family.

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  67. Beautiful, touching words. My sincere condolences to you and your family.

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  68. Jim,

    My condolences on your loss. Your writing, as always, was spectacular and painted a beautiful portrait of your dad. Hugs to you and yours and thank you for sharing this very personal piece of your life with us. Fair winds and following seas James Gordon Wright.

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  69. You were a lucky man, Jim. I would have loved to have known your dad.

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  70. sorry for your loss.

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  71. Rest In Peace, James Gordon Wright

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  72. I'm sorry for your loss, Jim. My sympathies to you and your family.

    Mike

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  73. I am sorry you lost him. But your vivid memories prove you haven't lost all of him.
    Look after yourself,
    BB

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  74. Your father lives on in you and everyone he touched. It's too bad this can't be his obituary. We finally get a glimpse of how you came to be.

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  75. A life well lived and extraordinary legacy created.

    Thanks for sharing

    Peace.

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  76. .

    Condolences.

    Ema Nymton
    ~ @ : o ?
    .

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  77. Thank you for sharing some of your Dad's remarkable life with us. He would have hit it off with my Dad, who I miss every day, but who also has left us with many stories. Sincere condolences to you and your family.

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  78. Your father was a man of fortitude and led a fruitful life...thank you for sharing his life and my deepest sympathy to everyone who knew and loved him. M Waldon

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  79. A beautiful tribute. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  80. That was a stunningly beautiful tribute.

    I lost my father suddenly 12 years ago and still grieve.

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  81. Pie Iesu Domine,
    dona eis requiem. Amen.

    My sincerest sympathy, it's a sad bridge each generation must cross.
    Jim Bailey

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  82. I'm so sorry Jim. I can empathize with you. I know what it's like to lose your father. You have honored him with your words and your life. My thoughts are with you and your family.

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  83. Jim, Words are useless, but they are all I've got. I'm sure he has the afterlife a-buzzing right now. Our thoughts are with you.

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  84. My deepest condolences.

    "Know that you will live, on the lips of those who knew
    What it was you had to give, and what it was they learned from you.

    This is my prayer for you, and maybe someday I will know,
    if it helped your journey home, or if it helped me let you go..."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vZ7gl_jbN4
    ...I will sing you home..."

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  85. Thanks for sharing your Dad with us. You'll never forget any of it, I know.

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  86. Thank you for this very vivid portrait; I can't help but think of the young Jimmy Cagney as you describe your father in his youth. Sincere condolences on your loss.

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  87. So sorry for your loss Jim... may he rest in peace

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  88. Sorry to hear, Jim. Peace to you and yours.

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  89. I am so glad you got there in time, and I am sorry for your loss. Losing your Dad is one of the toughest things to do. Thank you for that wonderful Requiem. RIP, James Gordon Wright.

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  90. Even though I knew what was coming, the impact of your words was not diminished. Your father would be proud Jim.

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  91. I am so sorry. After your last post I was sure he would be ok. It is a beautiful post.

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  92. So sorry for your loss! He really came alive to us with your written words and I think that we will all understand you a little better by your description of your father as you seem to be a lot like him. You are rather a jack of all trades also although I haven't heard you mention gardening. Your love of your family, the joy you take in your son and his accomplishments, your love of building things with your hands, your photography and your love of animals and nature. It all is a testament to what was demonstrated to you when you were growing up. Please let him live in your heart and your memory and pass his story along to future generations as he colored your life in so many ways.

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  93. Sincere condolences to you and the family. May the great memories you have of your dad help heal the hole in your heart. Thank you for taking the time to share his life with us in such a beautiful way.

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  94. Any dad would be very fortunate to have a son who could write so eloquently about his life.

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  95. Do not stand at my grave and weep,
    I am not there; I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the diamond glints on snow,
    I am the sun on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft starlight at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there; I did not die.
    M. Frye

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  96. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful tribute to your Dad.

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  97. I'm sorry Jim. He was clearly one hell of a man.

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  98. My condolences Jim. He sounds like he was a great Dad. Reminds me of my own, gone now 13 years. Take all the hugs we can give.

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  99. A life well lived. My deepest condolences, my friend.

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  100. A beautiful tribute, Jim. My condolences.

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  101. Thank you for sharing your father's inspiring spirit. I am grateful to have meet him through your vivid words. I did my dad's funeral because in the last awful days he kept grabbing my hand to look me in the eyes and remind me I promised I would before I had any clue how the ache in ones heart swallowed words. Your tribute was filled with laughter and tears- evidence of a life well lived. In your parent's church and mine, death does not win. Still hurts like hell for those left behind. Will keep your mom in my prayers. God knows the hole left behind for those who truly bonded for life.

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  102. My sympathies to you and your family over the death of your father. Your tribute to him is among the most beautiful tributes I have ever read.

    May he always remain where he clearly is presently: squarely in your heart.

    -Adam

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  103. Jim, I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  104. My sympathies for your loss, Jim. It's hard to lose a parent, I know. It feels like one of the supporting foundations of the universe has been suddenly ripped away.

    Bruce

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  105. A beautiful send off...I would like to think my dad, Navy, and yours playing cards on a ship somewhere. Irish tough ya say...Mine was Polak tough...Asbestos was the enemy...

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  106. My sincere condolences for your loss Jim.

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  107. That was beautiful. Your father appeared to live more lives than most people and I'm sorry he didn't bounce back from that last illness.

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  108. Jim, I am truly sorry for you loss. I think you just described most of our fathers. Its the little details that separate them from each other, but the strong foundations they were built on shine through. You will always carry a part of him throughout the rest of your life, and that will help through the hard times.

    Again, my deepest condolences Sir.

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  109. I am so sorry for your loss.
    Been there, done that, got the spitshine on my shoes.
    Bea

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  110. My sincere condolences. Your Dad sounds like a helluva man.

    Damn Jim, you made me tear up. A finer eulogy there never was. I feel like we've known your Dad now as well.

    I have no words to comfort you, or your family. But your Dad can go to his rest (Yeah, like he's gonna rest wherever he is now.) knowing he seized life by the throat and NEVER let it go, and left a fine man and sailor such as yourself (And the rest of your family, of course) as his legacy. For that we all owe him our thanks.

    Home is the Sailor

    Home is the sailor, home from the sea:
    Her far-bourne canvas furled
    The sun pours shining on the quay
    the plunder of the world.

    Home is the hunter from the hill:
    Fast in the boundless snare
    All flesh lies taken at his will
    And every fowl of the air.

    'Tis evening on the moorland free
    The starlit wave is still:
    Home is the sailor from the sea,
    The hunter from the hill.

    RIP, Mr. Wright. Fair winds and following seas.

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  111. I am so sorry. I lost my dad in 2004 and there just isn't anything that makes it better. Time helps a lot but it the loss is there for good. :(

    That was a wonderful eulogy. It did indeed make me cry.

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  112. We are so sorry for your loss, Jim. Your Dad sounded like an amazing man. Good Irish blood :) May the memories you hold carry your family through this sad time. And please let your Mother know that our thoughts are with her as well.

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  113. So very sorry for your loss. A beautifully written eulogy doesn't replace the person, but it does help share the burden. I lost my dad in 2010 and there are days when that pain still feels fresh, but they are fewer and farther between. My condolences to you and yours. - Betsy Marks Delaney

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  114. (copied from facebook)

    What a wonderful eulogy! I feel I knew him myself. I'm so sorry for your loss, he was certainly a remarkable man. I'm glad you have such a wealth of fine memories and stories to tell, it will keep him alive for generations.

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  115. My most heartfelt sympathies. What a wonderful eulogy for your father. I read it with tears in my eyes; it brought back memories of the ache I felt when I lost my own dear father, far too soon.

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  116. (Copied from facebook)

    Your dad was an incredible man and from your description of him it appears that a lot of him has rubbed off on you. So, he lives on.

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  117. Jim, I'm so very sorry for your loss. The eulogy was full love, and joy, and sorrow. It sounds like he surrounded himself with honest and interesting people who loved him. Many blessings to you who have been a part of his life. Many blessings that you are among those that get to carry his memory through time. Take care, my friend.

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  118. If I had a time machine, I would use it to go back to the 1940's to watch my now 87 year old father dance. Sounds like your father would have challenged mine for the "best dancer" title. What a beatifully written eulogy. Quite a man. My deepest sympathies for your profound loss.

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  119. My dad passed two weeks before my wedding back in 2002. He was 85 and a WWII vet. I don't think Andrew was as strong as your dad, but I know we're both very proud of the men that preceded us. I'm not military, but I salute you, your dad and all the vets who made this wonderful country possible. Thank you and please accept my sincere thoughts for you and your family. --Jonathan (NJ)

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  120. Jim, I am so sorry for your loss. Your tribute to him as a man, husband, and father will honor his life and will be here for all to see. Your words are eloquent and passionate. Thank you, Jim, for sharing this tribute with us.

    My deepest condolences,

    Connie

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  121. Fair winds and following seas, Mr. Wright.

    Jim, you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  122. That's beautiful, and your dad was awesome, and now I'm crying. I lost my dad in 2009. I wish I'd been able to come up with anything even approaching this. Instead, I choked out some stupid story about how much he loved to give calves to the area kids, to help them start their own herds. Yours is way better. I'm sorry for your loss, Jim. Someday, the memories will make you smile for a while before they make you cry, even though I know it doesn't feel like that now. I promise. xo

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  123. Please accept my condolences. Your dad sounds like a good man who never stopped moving and making a difference until there was no other choice. My thoughts are with you and your family.

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  124. An eloquent eulogy. Your words painted a wonderful portrait of a fine man. My condolence to you and yours.

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  125. I am so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful and loving tribute to your father. I lost my 88 year old daddy in December. Your dad is of that amazing generation that just did what needed to be done, like mine. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  126. This is a beautiful remembrance.

    My deep condolences.

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  127. Jim, I am so very sorry. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story about your father.

    Love and hugs and support to you always, my friend.

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  128. So sorry for your loss. My father was born in Milford three years later and, although he chose a different career path, sounds very much like you dad. It must be something about Michigan boys...

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  129. Sounds like a life well lived, lessons taught and learned. In writing of your Father, you touch all of us who have said goodbye to our own. I wish you and your family peace. SuznAZ

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  130. Jim, I'm so sorry for you and your family. My thoughts are with you. I too have that love for gardening. I will be thinking of you today as I plant.

    Thanks for sharing your memories. You're a lucky guy. I never got to meet my Dad.

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  131. Fair winds and following seas, James Gordon Wright. Your son has written the finest eulogy a man could have.

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  132. I am very sorry for your loss.

    As always, your writing is full of life; this is a fitting tribute and memorial to your dad. I chuckled several times while reading, and indeed teared up at the very end.

    May you and your family find peace and strength during this transition.

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  133. My heart breaks for your loss and the waterfall is flowing from my eyes. What a life he lived and what an amazing love story. Hugs. Terri

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  134. Jim, thank you for sharing your dad. We said good bye to ours two years ago this month. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  135. He lived a good life; he was a well-loved man. It's all anyone can ever ask. Condolences and comfort to you and your family.

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  136. Sincere condolences to you and yours from New Mexico. As fine an obituary as I've ever read, and one you'll treasure for all time.

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  137. You have my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies, sir.

    Now, if you don't mind, please excuse me for a few minutes to get something out of my eye.

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  138. Jim,
    You have my deepest sympathies. You did your father proud--both, I am sure, in general and in this touching (and well written) eulogy.
    I will think of you both this August on the Tooth of Time.
    Sincerely,
    Steve Lofgren

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  139. My condolences on your loss, and your family's loss. My thanks for the glimpses into the life of a wonder-filled man. And add my hopes to the list of those hoping you might one day share some of those stories for another time. But only when the time feels right for you.
    Gretchen in KS

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  140. Very sorry for your loss. This was a bad week for parents as you are the 3rd person I know (well to some degree) who lost a parent in the past few days. Never easy no matter how prepared we are. I hope you have many good memories that will keep him alive in your heart forever!

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  141. A life well and fully lived: he sounds like a remarkable man, and clearly his son takes after him in that. I don't think a finer eulogy could be written.

    I wish you sympathy and wonderful memories to sustain you all. Be at peace.

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  142. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like an incredible man, thanks for sharing those stories with us.
    ~viajera

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  143. Jim, there’s nothing I can say that can make any difference. All I can do is offer you my sympathies. I’m so sorry.

    -Paul Cooper

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  144. I am so sorry. Your tribute brought back memories of my father; gone 34 years now

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  145. That was a finely written and touching article. I am very sorry for your loss.

    -Kevin C

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  146. Jim, I'm so sorry you and your family are going through this. Even when you know it's coming, losing a parent is so very, very difficult. Your eulogy / requiem / obituary / memorial is so complete, so beautiful, so thoughtful, and as always, so well-written that it shows clearly what an outstanding job of parenting both your dad and mom did. I'm sure he was very proud of your accomplishments and I'm happy for both of you that you could be there with him this past week or so. Both of my parents are buried at Fort Custer; my dad was a WWII veteran of the Army Air Corps. Fort Custer is the perfect combination of military-crisp (a la Arlington) while retaining that west Michigan rural feeling, the place my parents loved so much. My deepest sympathies to you, your brother, your mom and the rest of your family. It's a profound line to cross, I'm sorry you've already reached it.

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  147. What a moving tribute.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  148. Extending my heartfelt condolences and thanking you for sharing a small part of your father's life with us. No life is ordinary to those who love and cherish that life and your words have widened that circle that will mourn his loss. You have done him the greatest honor a parent can hope for and you exemplify the best of both your parents. Marlene S.

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  149. What a beautiful memorial to your father. I am sorry for your loss, but it sounds like he truly had an amazing life and a wonderful family, both great blessings in the world today. God Speed.

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  150. I am so sorry for your loss - what a man and what a tribute.

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  151. The most beautiful thing about this is that all of us are thinking of our parents and grandparents now, living and gone, with love, tears and laughter. Thank you.

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  152. My Daddy passed 53 years ago and I still feel the loss. Memories of him are surrounded by laughter and joy that I hope remain constant for you. What a wonderful tribute! My deepest condolences.

    JaneE

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  153. Blessings to all and thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute to your Dad.

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  154. Thank you for sharing his story with us, Jim.
    All the best to your mom, your brother and his family, and you and yours.

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  155. I did not cry, Mr. Wright, I smiled! Your father lived through all the joys and vicissitudes Life contains. Others may not have been able or willing to turn these experiences into tools with which to learn lessons and then to pass that knowledge on to others. My guess would be that his sons are very worthy successors to that heritage. Carry on!

    Condolences to all of your family, and please convey my admiration to your mother!

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  156. What a wonderful tribute to your father. My condolences to you and your family.

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  157. Thank you for sharing and I'm so very sorry for your loss.

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  158. Jim --

    My deepest condolences. The best obituaries make you wish that you knew the person. I wish I had had the chance to meet your father.

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  159. I am so sorry for your loss, Jim. Your father sounds like the kind of man everyone would want to know - or say they knew.

    I wish I could say it, too. What an eloquent tribute.

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  160. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  161. Your elegy is a beautiful testament to your father's life and influence. Thank you for sharing a little bit of him with us. I feel honored.

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  162. Jim: I look each day (I thought) for a new blog post, and today read of your father's passing. Thanks for sharing his story, and thanks for sharing your ideas, feelings and rants with all of us. Obviously you were blessed in many ways and have taken the good with the challenges and moved forward each day. Peace.

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  163. Jim,
    You write so beautifully. Sharing the rich story of a man's life is the greatest testament anyone can make to his time on this Earth. When all is said and done, we are nothing more than a collection of images and tales for future humans to ponder. I had an amazing father. His story was quiet and simple yet unbelievably powerful. People who knew him feel blessed. People who never met him, wish they had. He and my mother had 53 years of near perfect synchronicity. Although he's been gone for almost 7 years, his loving presence is still a vibrant part of my life. I hope that you'll feel the same way 7 years from now.

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  164. I will raise a glass in his honor & memory. Sláinte!

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  165. He sounded like a wonderful father who brought up a son who sounds so similiar. My condolences...

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  166. Fair winds and following seas Shipmate. Your father sounded like a great man and the story goes a long way to expain and give insight into the Chief Wright I know.

    BTW - I googled Boy's life Feb 1975 edition. Is that you with the red backpace and glasses?

    Craig

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  167. Thank you. That was beautiful.

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  168. May a soft breeze blow gently away your grief, leaving what remains as bright and beautiful as standing on The Tooth of Time. I send comfort to you and yours.

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  169. My condolences on the loss of your Dad, Jim.
    He sounds like an amazing man.
    Your tribute to him was lovely.

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  170. We might all aspire to be the kind of person about whom such proud, warm, loving and honorable words are written in tribute. My condolences to you, Jim, and to all who loved your dad.

    In a few weeks, my church will host the 7th annual Concert of American Music, dedicated to the memory of Capt. Del Grantham, USN-Ret., who was also a brilliant music director. The concert always ends with The Navy Hymn. This year, as I sing, it will be in honor of James Gordon Wright.

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  171. Wow, impressive eulogy and probably the toughest thing you ever had to write, and that's saying something. Condolences.

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  172. Wow. What a beautiful tribute. It's easy to see that there's a lot of him in you. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  173. Many, many echoes of my own father's life, and a testament to a life well lived, fair winds and a following sea, Mr. Wright..

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  174. Please accept my condolences on your loss. You have written a wonderful tribute to your father Jim, he sounds like the kind of guy I’d like to have known. I expect it will be an interesting wake.

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  175. So often, it seems, our best writing comes when our hearts are laying raw and bleeding on the table.
    "Sorry for you loss" is such a lame-assed thing to day, though I am.
    I'm sober over three decades in Alcoholics Anonymous, your Dad sounds like a lot of the old timers who were hanging around when I dragged through the door, just waiting to offer a hand up if I was ready and willing to take it.
    I wish I'd had a chance to have a cuppa coffee with him; I'm glad you had the chance to be there when the time came. I was out in the Nevada desert when my old man went (he never did get sober) and didn't get the word until about 24 hours later.
    Watch out for your Mom. If she's like mine was, she's entering a country she doesn't really know how to navigate.
    My heartfelt wishes for peace and healing for you and your entire family.

    Respects,

    AC Smith

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  176. Jim - my love is with you and your family. I wish you strength and peace as you navigate this challenging time.

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  177. I am so sorry that he didn't defy the odds one more time. Please accept my heartfelt sympathies for you and your whole family. Take time to take care of each other.

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  178. That was beautiful. To paraphrase General Patton (and I think this one works well here), "Don't mourn that this man died, but thank God that this man had lived."

    I had something similar happen to me about ten years ago when my grandfather passed away. He was a Navy man, too (made Petty Officer 3rd Class before he was discharged after WW II), trained as a radio technician aboard a cruiser in the Pacific (back then, radiomen needed to be able to field strip and reassemble a radio transceiver from memory because the components were unmarked, and they also had to commit the code books to memory so they didn't have to bring them on board. Apparently, if the ship was going to be captured, the first two things the captain was supposed to do was destroy the radio (especially the IFF transponder) and shoot the radiomen so none of that information could fall into enemy hands. Fortunately, grandpa's ship never saw any action). He was something of a linguist (apparently, he'd study a new language every year and then read a translation of the Old Testament in that language, since it was a text he knew), and he had a fondness for gadgets (he took up locksmithing as a hobby, and he had this story about this one time when he was approached by some Japanese businessmen (this was just after the War) who were looking for investors for their start-up radio repair business, and they asked for $100 (which was a lot of money back then, especially in post-war Japan). He declined, but apparently this little radio repair shop became what is known today as Sony). He got married after the war, and went over to Japan as a missionary (where my father and his siblings all grew up, and also where the family tradition of giving all our children Japanese names in addition to our English ones began), and eventually retired here in the States.

    Unfortunately, his last decade and a half were marked by Alzheimer's and his descent into dementia (to the point where he could barely speak, and when he did recognize me, he seemed to forget that I can't read Greek), which was tragically ironic for a man who prided himself on his intellect and mental acuity. He eventually died, and had his ashes scattered out to sea.

    TL;DR, I know what it's like, and although you probably don't need reminding, I'll say it anyway: you are not alone.

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  179. Beautiful eulogy, Jim. I'm crying as I type this. My condolences. May your dad RIP.

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  180. My condolences for your loss.

    Your Dad was a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all who knew him and those of us who only knew him through your words.

    May James Gordon Wright rest in peace.


    What is it about the Navy and hell on wheels men?? Your Dad sounds like my grandfather.

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  181. Now we know where you get your salt. Fair winds and following seas to you and your dad, Jim.

    Your shipmate- C. Berkshire

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  182. I'm so sorry for your loss Jim- but thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing you amazing Dad with us the way you have. My love, prayers and thoughts go out to you and your family as you mourn such a giant of a man. xoxoxox

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  183. What a beautiful ride it was and what a fitting and moving tribute to a life well lived.
    I'm so very sorry for your loss, Jim, but how very lucky you are to have had him as long as you did.
    My deepest condolences for you and your family.
    -One of the Minions

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  184. A lovely and loving eulogy from a son who inherited his Dad's ability to tell a story. My condolences.

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  185. My sympathies, and a bit of empathy: my uncle Gene died in Ypsilanti a week ago. U.S. Navy vet of World War II, retired from GM's Hydramatic plant, then hunted and RVed and motorcycled and tinkered and gardened for decades more. Lost a son in 1995 and his wife last year, but he kept tinkering and gardening at least until last fall. Then he slowly faded away, and we buried him Thursday. Your dad sounds like he and Gene would have liked each other.

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  186. My sincere condolences. My father passed last August. A tough old boot as ever lived. Your father was cut from the same cloth.

    Such men created the world we live in.

    Remind me to tell you of my adventures in Philmont when life returns to some semblance of normalcy.

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  187. Well done; well said. My sympathies.

    /Wickersham's Conscience

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  188. That was a beautiful tribute to your father, and his remarkable life Jim.
    So sorry for your loss, but so glad you had such a fantastic father and scout leader!
    My father was also a veteran (RCAF)and an extremely accomplished and well known birdwatcher. I like to think, and it is not unlikely, that our fathers may have tramped around in the woods of michigan or Ontario together on a bird count, or search for an out of range bird that had made the birders phone tree.

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