Home > Death, Dying, Fathers > March 23, 2006

March 23, 2006

Dad
On March 25 we held my father’s funeral services in Baltimore. Most of the family and his friends were able to make it to the services and the reception afterwards, and it was really a pretty nice experience.

My father was a simple guy. He was more comfortable in a blue blazer, gray flannels and loafers than wing tips and a suit. He helped me to memorize that a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrift, brave, clean and reverent. And that is just about how thought a man should be. A man of few words and was fond of saying, “A closed mouth gathers no feet.” I keep this in mind as I think about all the things I could say about my Dad, his accomplishments, his challenges, and the way he died.

My Dad taught me to value fundamental things like accountability, punctuality, frugality and good execution—that is, trying always to do things well. He taught me to always question and analyze, but not be paralyzed. He summed this up by quoting Abraham Lincoln, who said, “First be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

My Dad wasn’t entirely with us in the last few years. There was a lot of speculation about the reasons that led to his problems. I don’t know why, but he was ravaged by alcohol and seemed to have no willingness to fight it. For a while I used to think he was raging against the darkness, as Dylan Thomas advised. I reread Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night a few times, and came to understand it better. But raging doesn’t explain how alcohol seemed to amplify his loneliness and despair. In the end, it only made him weaker.

It took percolation to get to where I am now. I do not want to dive again into his personal dark world. I’d rather concentrate on the aspects of his life that inspire and teach. For a while, I felt the need to talk about addiction, darkness and all of that, but Sandy helped me to see that this is not what other people want to hear. I can see now that there is very little meaning in despair and it makes for horrible conversation. So, in remembrance of him, I am working on some pages that include photos and other documents, including some fantastic photos he kept from his war days.

I had plenty of time to prepare for this experience and so I felt pretty comfortable, in an ironic way. My advice is to remember it is not too early to begin preparations. Most of us have a huge role to play in the drama of death. The more details out of the way in advance, the more you will be open to the experience, which is quite moving and powerful.

Thanks to all who have been so kind and caring to my father and to our family.

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Categories: Death, Dying, Fathers
  1. Donald L. Allewalt
    April 17, 2006 at 9:27 PM

    Rob:

    I want to share with you some of the thoughts that went through my mind concerning my association with your Dad some fifty years ago.

    First, Robert W. Baker was only a few years older than I so we had many things in common, i.e. going to school in “the good old days”, serving in World War II, recent college graduates, new parents, and an anticipation that we were going to take the world by storm and make it better for everyone.

    I began work at Dunloggin Dairy in 1943, fresh out of high school and waiting for Uncle Sam’s call. Dunloggin eventually sold out or merged with Royal Farms Dairy and became known as Royal Dunloggin Dairy. I’m not certain when your Dad became Manager but I rejoined Royal Dunloggin in 1951 as his assistant.

    During our association, I witnessed a leader who led by example. He took over a business which was in deep trouble and in an industry that was highly competitive with the market changing almost daily. He tackled the problems with great resolve. He first encouraged the deliverymen to be salesmen, offering incentives, explaining the composition of the products they sold, giving them ideas on how to approach a customer and how to close the sale. These were not lectures but communications between men who had a desire to improve.

    Bob was a mediator who calmly settled differences among employees – not using his position as a whip but being one who was deeply interested in seeing that employees liked their place of employment, their job and their fellow employees. He rarely lost his patience and the door to his office was open for anyone who had personal problems or needed re-assurance.

    Under his management, Royal Dunloggin became successful. Although small in comparison to other dairies, he personally was respected for his ability and demeanor. Being successful meant profits and he convinced the owners to share by creating a profit sharing trust. Many employees benefited from this in their retirement.

    To me, your dad was more than a boss – he was a friend. We traveled to business conventions, played golf, occaisonal dinners when we worked late and many sales programs at downtown hotels. Through him, I learned how to respect those who worked with us, to be kind and understanding, compassionate and interested in the lives of co-workers. His attitude and devotion to every detail took a losing business to a profitable venture and making all who worked at the dairy happy, contented people. That was not an easy task, but your dad did it easily.

    May all your memories include the knowledge that he was respected and admired for they shall always be my memories.

    DON ALLEWALT

  2. October 23, 2006 at 6:49 AM

    October 28th will be the 3rd anniversay of my father’s death and I think about him all the time. He was an aircrate carrier based dive bomber pilot in World War II and Korea and flew over 85 missions nearly losing his life many times. His entire Sigma Nu fraternity at Iowa State all enliste at once. What a generation! He taught me most of the values that you speak of in your blog regarding your father.

    My mother is here visiting and she is the last surviving grandparent of my four daughters. The cirle of life is inevitable and rolling right along!

    It was great to see you in Moab and park City and I appreciate Sandy and your hospitality. I am going to be out there in Mid December to hopefully taste

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