I Remember Dad…
How do you measure the life of a man? Some people will tell you it's measured by the ones left behind. Some believe it can be measured in faith. Some say by love. Other folks say life has no meaning at all. Truth be told, I believe that you measure a man's life by who measures their life by his.
Dad was an underdog in life but succeeded nonetheless due to innate drive and perpetual perseverance. He set very high standards in education, professional conduct, marriage (as a dutiful, faithful husband), family life (as a dedicated father), and other endeavors that all should aspire. He was indeed the archetypal paterfamilias who was always there to help in times of need and quick to offer sincere congratulations in times of success.
Dad was born of hard-working immigrant parents, who had limited schooling, and he did not speak English until he went to elementary school. His father, who worked in heavy construction, encouraged Dad and his siblings to go to college to have a better life, although because of the Depression, there was no family money for higher education. Consequently, Dad worked his way through school, first earning a BS in Chemical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and later an MBA from the University of Chicago. During that time period Dad lived at the family home, as many did in those days until they married, and he contributed to the household finances to help his parents even though he was struggling to pay for college.
Dad began his professional career as a chemical engineer working on chemical-electroplating processes for Western Electric during the War, but he soon advanced to the Overseas Division of the Continental Can Company in Manhattan traveling the world conducting foreign trade, and later he rose to Director of Engineering for Libby, McNeill and Libby in Chicago. Subsequently he worked many years in his eponymous chemical and environmental engineering consulting business with dozens of industrial clients including Abbott Laboratories, Procter & Gamble, G.D. Searle, Navistar, Dietzgen, Alleghany Steel, American Metal Decorating, and Fedders Corp. Clearly this was an impressive career path for a poor Polish boy, an underdog from the working class neighborhood of Brighton Park in Chicago, who grew up during the Great Depression.
The ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven the guards asked two questions. The answers determined whether the souls were able to enter or not. “Have you found joy in your life?” And, “Has your life brought joy to others?” I believe Dad would answer both questions in the affirmative – that he found joy in life AND brought joy to others. Several joyous experiences I recall…
I remember Dad… taking the family more than once to the 1964-'65 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens; the symbol of the Fair was the Unisphere, which is still there in Queens where the National Tennis Center is now located; the numerous international exhibits at the Fair sure made us feel like ‘It's a small world after all.'
I remember Dad… taking the family camping in upstate New York, Montauk Point on Long Island, and Holland, Michigan; we saw Niagara Falls on the way back to NY from the latter trip, from the Canadian side too, rode the Maid of the Mist tour boat in raincoats and viewed all from the suspended cable car high above the river.
I remember Dad… taking the family numerous times to see the north-side Chicago Cubs play at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field; the ballpark hot dogs were always the best! Santo, Kessinger, Beckert, Banks, the infield third to first…
I remember Dad… taking the family to see the Cubs play the Cardinals in first row seats provided by Auggie (Anheuser) Busch in the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis; wow, a night game (!) as at the time there were no lights in Wrigley Field.
I remember Dad… taking the family up into the Gateway Arch during that vacation in St. Louis; the observation room at 630 feet was swaying in the wind that day; you could feel the deflection by leaning against the windows.
I remember Dad… taking the boys to the International Auto Show at Navy Pier on the Chicago lakefront, although racecar driver Mario Andretti, the 1969 Indy 500 winner scheduled to appear for autographs, was a no show.
I remember Dad… taking me to see the College All-Star Football Game against the World Champion Baltimore Colts with legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas in Soldier Field, also near the Chicago lakefront, in the summer of 1971; we saw many college 'Stars' including future NFL players Jim Plunkett and John Riggins.
I remember Dad… taking us kids several times to the Museum of Science and Industry; there we toured the underground coal mine and climbed through the U-505 World War II German U-Boat; I especially enjoyed the WWII aircraft hanging from the vaulted ceiling and the more than one hundred flags of the world nations inside the entrance.
I remember Dad… taking us kids regularly to the local library, first near our Orchard Hill, New York neighborhood and later in Homewood, Illinois; he taught us the importance of reading and emphasized the development of good study habits that were instrumental in our college studies and contributed to his children's nine degrees including two PhDs.
I remember Dad… taking the family for summer vacations to the resort at French Lick, Indiana, where we played golf, rode horses, saw movies, swam everyday (sometimes twice as they had an indoor pool for evening swimming), played ping-pong, and savored the fine dining, three squares a day.
I remember Dad… driving the family to Florida for Christmas 1975; we toured the NASA Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, rode a glass bottomed boat to view the fish AND alligators in Silver Springs near Ocala, and enjoyed Disney World too.
I remember Dad… and always will. With ‘joie de vivre.'