I continue to be amazed at the things one can find on the Internet. For kicks, I Googled my Dad’s name today and was shocked to find the eulogy I wrote and gave at his funeral in 2000. How it came to be online, I’ll never know, but I’m grateful that it did, because it reminded me what a force for good he was in my life.

I miss Dad and think of him every day. Before he died, he told me to think of him when I see a flock of Canadian geese, because he’d be waving at me with their wings. So, when a flock of geese fly overhead, I always whisper a silent hello to him and smile. Here’s his eulogy; I hope it gives you an idea of what a wonderful man he was.


My brother, sister and I are very lucky people. Like many people, we were born to wonderful parents, who loved us very much. Sadly, though, our father was taken from us at a very young age. The victim of a sudden heart attack, he left a 15 year old daughter, a 12 year old son, and a 3 year old daughter.

For six years, mother raised us alone, first in Elk City and then in a house on Arlington Avenue, and she did a pretty good job of it. We were all happy and healthy. I spent my free time chasing my pet rooster, Chicken Little, who loved visiting our neighbors, Ralph and Mary Wolverton, who, ironically, became my special friends years before I knew Warren Wolverton existed.

Marianne got married and left home, Craig was soon to join the Navy and was moving away as well, which left me expecting to live alone with Mom as I grew up.

Then something amazing and quite surprising happened. Mom introduced us to Warren Wolverton. I’ll never forget that first impression…To me he looked seven feet tall…And I have to admit that, at first, I was a little scared of him, but that lasted only as long as it took him to grin at me and shake my hand. That grin was infectious–I swear his eyes actually twinkled, as though we were sharing a good joke, and my fear was instantly washed away.

I remember their wedding on October 3, 1968. Family and friends gathered at Gordon Winkleman’s home, and though I was still a little shy around him, I can remember Dad taking me aside to show me how well trained his bird-dog, Missy, was. I was fascinated by her. She obviously adored Dad, and when he put her favorite food on her nose and told her not to eat it, she didn’t. She shook all over in anticipation of it, but she wouldn’t touch the food until he told her it was okay. I knew, then, that he must have been a pretty all right guy if a dog would forego her own pleasure just because he told her to. That was real love.

In most families, the introduction of a new step father can be a very traumatic thing, but I don’t remember it being that way in our family. Sure…there was a necessary distance at first, as we became more comfortable with one another, but what I remember appreciating the most was the respect Dad gave me in those early days. He never forced a relationship on me. Instead, he waited patiently as I took baby steps toward him.

As the years passed, those baby steps grew to long strides, as we grew closer. As busy as he was in the store and with his civic duties, he always took time to spend time with us, and the lessons he taught us have shaped our lives in so many ways.

I’m reminded now of one of the first of many lessons. When I was nine years old–the age I was when Mom and Dad married–I was terrified of thunder and lightning. Dad recognized that and made it his job to calm my fears. Because of his care, the memories I have of childhood storms, now, are nostalgic ones, filled with evenings under the carport with Dad, as he explained the ionization of the air, which, in turn, caused the lightning. He and I would sit for hours as the rain (and sometimes, hail) fell just out of our reach, talking about the weather…our lives, hopes, dreams. I thought we were just enjoying the storm, but Dad was teaching me the first of many lessons: To enjoy every part of our lives, even those things we fear. You might just find beauty in the rain.

Dad taught us all so much. He loved and respected all life, from the lichen that grows on rocks to the birds that fly in the sky, and we grew to share that love. Through simple conversation, he taught us little things about the world around us and even a few interesting facts about the universe. Geese mate for life. Purple Martins eat 10 times their body weight in bugs a day. There are so many planets in the universe that the chance for life on other planets is more than good, it’s almost a sure thing. Make sure the hook is set before you try to reel ‘em in. Be honest. Be true.

Some of my favorite memories of my childhood involve Dad, fishing and our family barge, which we often took out on Lake Lawtonka on the weekends. I loved to go fishing with Dad, particularly when we fished for carp. He made Carp fishing an art! His chum recipe was so stinky I could hardly stand the smell of it, yet it was a joy to be chosen to go with Dad to chum the water, not only because I knew that it meant catching the big’uns in the afternoon, but because it was an honor saved for few people. It was yet another of those rare quiet times…yet another opportunity to listen to him talk about sending Morse code in the Allusions…or running electrical lines in Faxon…or bird-dogging some quail in the woods. Each story was fascinating and, in some small way, educational. I ate it up.

Some days, our family spent hours at the lake, catching fish after fish for the simple joy of the catch. Dad’s laughter would echo with glee when one of us hooked one, and later in the week, I proudly showed off the bruises on my stomach caused by digging the pole into the flesh there, during a difficult catch. They were my badges of honor.

We never kept the carp, of course. If we couldn’t find someone who wanted them, we’d set them free to fight us another day. That was just the way it was.

On those warm days, Dad taught me that I could learn as much from someone else’s experiences as I could my own and that there is nothing more sublime than a quiet afternoon filled with the laughter of family.

Dad taught us how to call mourning dove…and then years later, he taught his grandchildren and great grandchildren the same thing. When we hear dove song, we always think of Dad, and I’m sure that we will hear his voice in the dove’s call for the rest of our days.

Many things have happened over the past 32 years, but the greatest of these was that, over time, the words…the very idea…of “step father” disappeared from our thoughts. What we saw was a man who loved us with all his heart, who gave of himself freely to his friends and family, who loved our mother so completely that he was simply a part of us and we were part of him. Mom and Dad together taught us that a marriage is only a marriage if husband and wife are best friends.

We saw this especially this past year, as Dad’s health began to fail undeniably. I’m not sure I can adequately describe their relationship…it was so special…but to say that, when Mom and Dad were together, the love in the room was so strong that it was palatable might come close to describing what it was like for those of us watching. It was as though a bright light enveloped them both in their own special bubble, and when any of us stepped into the room, that light enveloped us with an undeniable love, as well.

In the end, Dad’s only concern was for Mother…that we take care of her after he had moved on. All we could do was assure him we would. The real truth is, though, that he hasn’t left. Real love endures beyond physical death. I can feel his love around us now. Stop for a moment. Can’t you feel it, too? This room, so full of people he loved, is pulsing with it. Dad’s physical body is gone, but his spirit will remain with us forever.

Our family is very lucky. Dad had two daughters that he loved very much. Heather and Maylan were a source of great joy to him, and though they had grown and moved away, they were always in his thoughts. He adored them both. Even so, his heart was big enough to not only share his love with them, but to also love his children and grandchildren who had none of his blood coursing through their veins. That love was so strong that each of us…even Marianne and Craig, who were grown when Dad and Mom married in ‘68…think of him as our dad. And that has been the biggest lesson of all: Love has nothing at all to do with whose genes you carry. It has to do with who we are on the inside. And, I know no one more worthy of great love than Warren Wolverton, the sweetest man I have ever known.

We love you, Dad.