I’ve been asked to come up with some things to say about you to try to let others know the type of person you
were. I am not sure I can do you justice, but I will try. I feel kind of odd tagging people for this, so if I miss you, I apologize.
My dad was one of 5 kids, born in Louisiana in 1929, at home. He used to tell me stories of growing up in Louisiana and South Texas and how he and his friends would hide out in the graveyards as it got dark and scare people cutting through them. They loved to torment the people that were slightly drunk by wearing white sheets and acting like ghosts. I spent many afternoons as a child, snuggled up against him on the couch, listening to his stories of being on a farm, living with 4 brothers and sisters and the funny things they used to do to each other.
He joined the Navy at age 15 and went to fight in WWII. He spent time in China and Guam. We still have many of
the Buddha’s and artifacts he brought home. He loved his days in the Navy and often spoke of being on the ship at sea. He bragged about getting lots of practice by shooting the rats on the ship. The men of the Navy loved to play practical jokes on each other. The two terms he served were some of the hardest and most profound moments in his life. Much of what he experienced he took with him from then on.
My dad was a dreamer and a true storyteller. I look back now and I know that much of my odd way of looking at things and relaying my point of view really came from him. He wasn’t highly educated, but in many ways he was one of the smartest people I ever knew. He learned much about mechanics and engineering from working on the railroad for a time. He moved to Dallas, TX in the 1950’s and bought a small house. He built a large den and back porch onto that house, and made the garage into a room until it was big enough for the family he raised there. He could look at things, take them apart in his mind and figure out how to put them together or fix them up, though he might not be able to completely explain it all, but he still knew what he was doing.
He worked for General Motors for 30 years, and though the job was challenging, with long hours, and was
physically hard on him, he didn’t really complain about any of it that I can remember. He would come home with
stories about playing practical jokes on different people at times, and now and then some supervisor would tell him he couldn’t do something. His answer to that was always to show them that he could do it and do it better than they thought, and get it done his way. I guess that’s where I get my stubbornness too.
My dad was the ultimate protector. He was knowledgeable in firearms, swords and just about any other kind of weapon you could think about. He was also very careful to not keep them loaded and to make sure that we didn’t touch them without asking. He taught respect.
My parents both taught me to cut my own path in this world, that no matter how well worn the easy path was, it
isn’t necessarily the path you want to take. When I got to high school my brother was already in drama and the music
program. It would have been easy to follow in his footsteps. It was my dad who pulled me aside one day and asked me what I really wanted. I was being silly and worrying about hurt feelings if I didn’t go into music, and he knew that, he told me “you just be you and don’t worry about anything else.” I took Commercial art and Journalism instead. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. Thanks, Daddy!
When my mom was so sick while I was in my last year of high school many times it was just daddy and I at
home. There was a time when everything felt so very dark and it just seemed too hard to keep going. My dad would get up and go to work and come home so tired he would just collapse many of those days. He noticed me sitting and just staring at my homework one night and asked me what was wrong.
I asked him, “what’s the point?”
He sat down beside me and said, “the point is, when things get hard, you keep moving. I learned that in the Navy. There are times you sit still and you wait for the enemy to pass, and there are times to move. You have to learn to do
both.” Well, I was 17 at the time and I wasn’t completely sure what all that meant, but it has stayed with me and I
know he was right, there are times in life when you wait for things to pass and then it’s time to move forward. This
insight that has carried me through some of the darkest days in my life.
My dad was far from perfect. He had his moments like everyone else. He believed in discipline and honesty. He believed in hard work and safety. We always knew we were safe with him. He would check every door, window, and gauge or dial every night. There was never a question if anything was left on or unlocked because it wasn’t. When I had night terrors as a child, he figured out I would wake up around the same time every night with nightmares
and would be there every night to wake me, make me walk up the hall then put me back to bed. I still wake up at 2am a lot of nights.
He wanted to make sure I was safe when driving to and from work at the mall. Many times they would turn the lights in the parking lot out and we would be walking across in the dark to our cars. Every night I worked late, my daddy would meet me at the door of the mall and drive me to my car, then follow me home. Sure, this might seem over protective, but I loved him for it. Cell phones were not necessary. He wanted to know when you left and which way you were coming home. He knew how long it would take and if you didn’t report back, he would be along shortly to find you. When I had a flat or the car died, I just waited and sure enough he would be there to help.
My dad had a kind heart and gentle touch when needed. He put up with me bringing home any and every kind of animal. If it was hurt, he’d try to fix it. He taught me a great respect for life itself in how he treated all of
God’s creatures. He loved them all.
I could go on and on and never do justice to this man, so I will say this. Daddy, you taught me so very much about people, animals and just life in general. You were mostly a quiet and observant person, at times a gentle spirit and also as stubborn and hard headed as they come. God knows if you wanted to get a point across you’d hammer it home, then come back a couple of times to make sure it stuck. The most important thing you taught me though is the one thing I feel in every breath. You taught me faith. You taught me to never look at the church or the people, but to just look past all the humans that make mistakes to God the Father. People fail, but God is perfect and He is always there. I love you, Daddy, and the next time I see you we’ll share a big piece of chocolate cake and it won’t have sugar or calories. Forgive me my inadequacies, for this is but a small glimpse of who you were.
John R Coley 09/11/1929 – 09/21/2011