After a year long fight with heart disease my Dad passed away peacefully in his home in Scottsdale. He was cared for in the end at home by my loving Mom and caring sister Kate. I was lucky enough to spend many many days and nights in his company over this last year, and discovered many things about my Dad I did not know and reaffirmed those things about him that Iloved so much.
Even to this day I am warmly reminded of our close relationship and can still feel his prescence in my life. My Dad had a profound influence on me and my work and will up until the day I see him again, at the shores of heaven.
It has been 3 months since the funeral of my good friend Bob McLaughlin and now I have been asked by my family to do for my Dad what I did for Bob; to give his eulogy.
Not only was I honored to do this but I felt in doing it, it brought even closer to the man I call, "my Dad."
My dad was born September 28, 1928 the day after his mother's birthday. He was the only child of Ralph Sr. and Mayme Tansley. He had a large family of Cousins, Uncles and Aunts and most of his Saturdays, Sundays and holidays growing up in Lombard, Il. was with his extended family. The Tansley's were printers and typesetters by trade and his Dad was the foreman of a small print shop in Chicago, Il.
When my Dad turned 12 years old his Father decided to show him the grave effects that cigarettes can have on a young person. He took my Dad into the basement with a pack of cigarettes to get my Dad try them in hopes heÕd get sick. They both came out when the pack was all gone and my grandpa had to give my grandma the bad news that my Dad was now a smoker.
My Dad didn't take to the printing business like his own Dad. Instead he enlisted into the armed services when he was 18. That was 1946. He was first assigned to the ski patrol in Italy during WWII occupation as a Sharpshooter and also served in Japan and received the WWII Victory Medal. He never told me that he skied.
During his release from service they rounded up all the enlisted and told them they could all go home as long as they signed a document stating that if they were ever needed again they would be called back to active duty. Some of my Dad's buddies walked to the back of the room and disappeared. They never signed their documents. My Dad signed his and was called back to active duty to serve in Korea and was sent to serve in Company "A" 772nd Battalion. His final assignment was being a Military Police Guard to the gold in Fort Knox, KY. He never told me he guarded gold at Fort Knox.Ê
One story he did tell me took place while he was in service in 1947. He was in Italy and on a train. Outside in-between the two cars to be exact having a cigarette with one of his buddies.Ê They chatted for awhile and his friend was pretty quiet. Then out of the blue his friend says, "Well, this is about where I get off" and proceeded to jump the train and run through the Tuscan hills. My Dad tried in vain to call him back. It turned out his friend had been to that area before and went awol for an Italian girl. My Dad found this out after the investigation.
As a civilian he worked as an Engineer for Western Electric, part of the Bell system in telephones, and later worked on designing closed circuitry surveillance systems. My Mom tells me that the stress was so high that each floor was equipped with it's own stretcher in case someone needed to be taken to a hospital.
He stayed there 22 years before coming to Arizona and becoming a Security Guard for another 20 years.
Anyone that new my Dad new that he worked hard. It was what he did, he loved it. His rock solid character was built and formed from his faith and his tireless work ethic. He wanted to serve God by serving others.
My Dad loved physics, cosmology, astronomy and math. Growing up I was introduced to rocks of all variations and photographs of nebulas and quasars. He was often engrossed in books on quantum mechanics, worm holes, energy theories or chaos theories. He believed intensely that God was the great author of these mysteries and I used to spend time on saturdays with him as he showed me example after example of this fact.
One stone he had that was my favorite was a piezoelectric crystal about the size of baseball, clear and dense. This was my favorite rock my Dad had because as he said, "if it was placed under applied mechanical stress it would generate electrical potential."
Imagine the look on the faces of my sixth grade school mates when I brought this to school and explained that. Awesome. My dad was pretty cool.
Dad loved great classical music and Rachmaninov, Mozart and Tchaikovsky were some of his favorites.
He thought the saxophone was an illegitimate instrument and he wasn't afraid to say so whenever he heard one.
One of my Mom's fondest memories was at her grandparents 62nd wedding anniversary which also happened to be her Dad's birthday. She was not married to my Dad yet but on that night my Dad presented her with an engagement ring. She wanted to wait because the occasion didn't seem right, but my Dad insisted that she take it and it would make the day all the more memorable. She did and that day has been special ever since.
It is true that my Dad was engaged to another woman when he met my Mom on a train and fell head over heels in love with her. He asked for her number and she said, "it's in the book."
It is true that they were married on June 25, 1955. The exact same day and year that my own wife's parents met and had their first date.
It is true that my Mom and Dad were married 52 years. 104 years collectively.
But to more fully understand and appreciate what kind of a person my Dad was I need to remind you that he was a man filled with devotions.
He was a man who had a profound dedication and consecration to the Holy things. He had earnest attachments to the mysteries of our Church and I would often find my Dad kneeling in prayer.
It really should have been his knees that gave out and not his heart.
He was a devoted Catholic, daily communicant and Eucharist adorer. He was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and had all of his kids devoted to her at their baptisms.
He was devoted to the Rosary and prayed it daily.
He was devoted to God the Father all things and to His Son. He was devoted to the Holy Spirit and would tell me often to pray to him when I had a test coming up in school or if I had to give a speech.
He was devoted to Saint Joseph and carried his prayer with him.
He was a 3rd order Carmelite and member of the Holy Face Society. He was devoted to his guardian angel and to the Archangel St, Michael.
And he was devoted to my Mom.
He came from a time in our church when true devotions were second nature to anyone. Coming into a Catholic Church, kneeling down before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lighting a candle and asking for her protection was as germane for him as it was for many Catholics of his time.
Devotions in our church today do not compare to then. But that is beginning to change.
My dad lived through a time of extreme sacrifice. He was a young man during the rationing years of World War II and gave himself to service for his country on two separate occasions.
This may have seemed a noble gesture to us now but for him and others like him, his friends and neighbors, it was what a young man did. Sacrifice.
His devotion to Christ grew out of time when freedom was a volatile idea. The world was threatening daily to break out into open violence and people clung to their faith out of necessity. It was during this time that he formed many of his devotions he would have later in his life.
Growing up I do remember times that there were tough for us financially, but what I really remember is...
our nightly rosary as a family,
what I would give up for Lent,
serving as an altar boy at the Latin Mass,
his Easter tie he wore every year that said St. Joseph,
his lapel pin he gave me when I became an altar boy,
my first brown scapular,
my first red scapular,
my first green scapular,
my box of Holy cards ( that were way cooler than any baseball cards ),
our paintings in our home of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Mary Immaculate Queen of Heaven,
our statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on our fireplace,
our Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary right in front of our home,
our large crucifix that he hand painted that hung on the wall,
and my Dad's collection of Holy relics; all authentic.
These were all outward signs of his devotion to his faith that he was always trying to pass onto us, his family. Now, thankfully many of these devotions permeate my own family life and with them even if Dad is gone, my kids will know what kind of a person he was because of his devotions.
I truly believe that this is one of the many gifts our Church brings us.
My Dad wrote an essay on the understanding of our role in creation, here is an excerpt I leave with you...
"It is said anything is possible with God., What a fantastic destiny we have. Literally, to become sons of the Lord of Hosts, and to learn of, and plumb, the depths of God's infinity for all eternity, all the while being consumed by God's burning love.
Small wonder the death wish of so many Saints, while alive here on earth, realizing that they were destined to possess the infinite God of Love that no created intellect, no matter how lofty, could fathom or imagine....beauty beyond belief. Infinite perfection. The core of all created desire without which all else fades to oblivion. The literal Sine qua non "without which it could not be." The beatific vision.
Thankfully, I was able to spend a lot of time with my Dad this year one thing he said to me that I will always remember is this, "Well, I guess ( he said ) what life comes down to is make sure you are a good friend with God and don't disappoint him.&quoy;
In life he lived as we all should live surrounded by the people he loved and friends that cared.
In death he died as we all hope to die with honor and respect, nobility up until he gave his last breath.
My good friend Bob McLaughlin died last October from losing a fight with diabetes. In his memory we planted a tree in our yard. I won't be planting a tree for my Dad.
I don't need too.
His memory lives on in his 5 soon to be 6 beautiful grandchildren. As they grow, so will my memory of him. I will see my Dad every day in the things they do and say. This is the true gift he gave me, my family.
My third son Gordon summed it up best he said, "Grandpa is so lucky Daddy because he gets to be with Jesus now."
My Dad has now reached the shores of heaven and is back to work. Working to prepare the way for us, his family, his friends, to one day join him.
Dad, I'll miss you.
Thanks for being my Dad.
This is a glimpse of some of my professional and experimental work.
Alot of people ask me about my car.
It's just plain fun. Read about it here.
These are people in my life who have
had a major influence upon me and my
work. I owe them much.