“Work smarter, not harder”. “Measure twice, cut once”. “Did that hurt? Guess you won’t do that again”. This is the legacy imparted to me by my Dad – the life lessons that stuck. A product of the depression, one of ten children, my dad believed in hard work, sacrifice and the ability to laugh at one’s self. He left us too soon at the age of 65 in December, 1990.
My brother, William L. DeAndrea (also gone too young at age 44) wrote my dad’s eulogy. It was one of the most touching and fitting eulogies I have ever heard and it paints a vivid portrait of the man who was my Dad. I found it when cleaning out my mom’s apartment after she passed last year:
“By the world’s usual standards, my father was not a great man. He was never famous or rich; never led troops into battle; founded no great charities; never found the cure for any disease. So, as I say, by the usual standards, he wasn’t a great man.
He was, however, something much more important – he was a Good Man.
Great men change the whole world. True, but they do it from a distance, from a height most of us never think about reaching. But a Good Man walks among us. We see him every day. And it isn’t until a time like this that we realize what he has given us.
My father wasn’t a famous man, but in the town in which he spent almost all of his life, he was honestly liked by everyone who knew him–which was practically everybody.
My father wasn’t rich, but he was (in that homey old phrase) a good provider. A depression and two wars got in the way of higher education, so my father provided for us by selling sweat. And he worked so hard! Both my parents worked hard. I don’t hesitate to say that they and you among their contemporaries accepted hard work of a difficulty beyond the comprehension of my generation.
I remember my father heating up a sewing needle, sterilizing it in a flame to let the fluid out of the blisters on his fingers, so he could go back to the foundry the next day and raise a whole new crop of blisters. He did it for the same reason so many of you did similar things: he wanted a better life for his children. Finally, his natural intelligence was recognized and he took on a white-collar job which he handled superbly.
My father never led troops into battle, but he served his country during and after two wars, and he was proud to have done so. He loved this country, though it sometimes bewildered him (as it did all of us) and he taught his children to love it too.
My father founded no great charities. But his life was filled with thousands of small charities. Did you need a ride to the doctor or the bank? Need furniture moved? Were you just lonely, hoping to hear a friendly voice? Did it matter if you were a stranger? New to the neighborhood? You could count on a welcome.
But it was more than that. My father had the simple, but nearly miraculous gift of being himself in any company. He never put on airs, he never tugged at his forelock. He was at ease and he put the people that he met at ease. I never saw my father treat anyone of any nationality, religion, skin color, physical or mental condition with anything other than ungrudging respect…until the person proved not to deserve it.
He respected his wife and he respected my sisters and me. Respected us – not praised. Praise and declarations of love came hard for him. It used to drive me crazy that he had so much trouble putting into words what he was constantly showing us.
A minor flaw all in all, because he did show us,in one way especially. When we screwed up, when any of us was in a mess up to our neck – created by our own stupidity or worse – he never criticized. He’d do whatever he could to pull our worthless carcasses out of the fire, say ‘I hope to God you’ve learned a lesson from this’ and go on – the incident forgotten.
There must have been many times when my father was afraid. Layoffs at work, too much month at the end of the money, illness – especially during the past 10 years, but he never showed it.
And then we come to the last point. Maybe he never found the cure to any disease, but he was a masterful dispenser of good medicine: laughter. He was a genuine wit and a great joke teller. He could, and frequently did, make people laugh at funerals. I keep thinking of all the crying that’s been done over my father in the last few days; and while I’m sure he’d have been touched, I’m equally sure he would have kidded us all out of it.
A lot of you meeting me for the first time ask me if I’m ‘The Author’. Well, yeah, but that’s only what I do. What I am is a husband, a father and a man. And if I am good at any one of those things, it’s because of what I learned from Bill DeAndrea.
I loved my father, I admired him, I am proud to be his son. I know you all loved him too. And while it is natural for us to be sorry he’s dead – it is infinitely more important for us to be happy he lived, and that we all got to share part of his life with him.”