Raymond T. Batina 1922 - 2013

Raymond T. Batina

This Guest Book will remain online until 10/23/2014.
Friday, January 10, 2014
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.'
Thursday, January 02, 2014
Followed by "Who are you?" upon arrival and his meal time jokes, two topics of discussion were guaranteed every time I got to see Grandpa; They were, "How are your grades?" and football.
No matter how old we were Grandpa always needed to know how our grades were holding up. (Of course they were always A's and maybe one B, grandpa) Followed by our admission of our past report card was the importance of quality education and hard work in the classroom.
With priorities in the right place as always, Grandpa moved on from grades to sports. He loved football as do I, so the latest game/season was always discussed. He would always take me back to his playing days as well as how the Bears and Boilers were doing that year. I will always remember and cherish football talk with Grandpa.

You will always be loved and missed Grandpa.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Dad, who graduated high school in June 1939, is recorded in his senior yearbook (The 1939 – 1940 Lamplighter of Thomas Kelly High School, Brighton Park, Chicago) as follows:

RAYMOND T. BATINA, “Ray”
Varsity Football Team, Varsity Tennis Team, Varsity Swimming Team, “K” Club, Ushers' Club, Fire Guard.

The first three activities are self-explanatory as Dad was a three-sport athlete in high school. The three other organizations are described from his yearbook below.

Boys' “K” Club - - - - -
The Boys' “K” Club is an exclusive group of students granted the right of a school letter as a reward for their perseverance and hard work in attaining the athletic points deemed necessary by the coaches. The group stimulates the interest in athletic activities and promotes the furtherance of leadership. “K” is an honor coveted by every boy in school, and represents unusual ability in that line. There are approximately forty boys out of a possible seventeen hundred in Kelly wearing the particular form of letter – The Big “K”.

Ushers' Club - - - - -
Mr. McKeag started the Ushers' Club in 1936. Now twenty-five efficient members serve as ushers at the Friday night social dances, and at all Kelly's performances and proms. Their polite and courteous manners are the pride of Kelly. The club is eligible only to upper classmen.

Fire Guards - - - - -
The Fire Guards, consisting of twenty-seven boys under the leadership of Chief Fire Marshal Henry Karczmarczyk, act as marshals during fire drills to keep order, discipline, and to direct traffic in the corridors. Every year they aid in an inspection by the City Fire Department, and have always been complimented upon their able assistance. The club was organized in 1935, and is under sponsorship of Mr. Barry.

I recently discovered the following hand-written notation by a fellow student in Dad's yearbook that I thought interesting. Maybe others will too.

To Ray –

One day,
I met a little boy.
He said to me –
Sit with me in Physics.
I said –
Okay.
We sat.
Everybody did.
One day,
This little boy
Went on a trip to California.
He came back
As we all do.
He had many many stories.
Wow!
Are my ears red!

- (signed) Nicholas Kushta
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I first met Ray senior (aka “big Ray”) when I became engaged to his eldest son Ray (aka “little Ray”, and “Ramie”). That was such a long time ago, but I remember feeling welcomed into the family, and soon enjoyed meeting my Ray's brothers, and sister. It now strikes me how, over the years, we kids have all taken a variety of different paths. Still, the bonds of family have always remained. I have never been anything but certain that all of Hellen and Ray's children, and extended family, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, have been anything less than kind and committed people – all of them. It may be the greatest accomplishment Ray and Hellen could have achieved, for this is how the light and soul of a life is carried on.

I remember many things about Ray senior. I remember that at my wedding to his son, he said that I was a “survivor”. I think he might have been thinking of his own life, having been an immigrant's child (we had that in common), and having survived the great depression era. He definitely possessed the work ethic of his generation. There was more to this, though. It seemed not enough for him to work hard. He also valued travel, and learning, and understanding how things worked, and making the world a better place. He was one of those men who found it difficult to “retire”, so he really didn't. After all his many years as a company man, he developed his own successful consulting business instead of retiring, since he had become an expert in helping manufacturing businesses meet regulations to avoid polluting the environment. As an environmentalist myself, I very much appreciated the importance of his expertise.

Apart from the job, Ray was also committed to doing good deeds for others. He was a volunteer in his church, and also read books aloud on recording for the blind. It was always clear that he felt that we are each part of a community, and that those who are fortunate have a duty to give back to their community and to their own family. He lived this example, and imparted his sense of duty, his value of reading and education, and his sense of curiosity and fairness to all around him.

I also remember that Ray loved to golf, and he loved to tell a story or a joke or two. He would tell a good joke, and have a bit of a crooked smile and a twinkle in his eyes. He also loved to explain the solution to a problem. I also remember a few goofy and endearing things, like that he would send Christmas packages to us that were so wrapped in an impenetrable armor of tape that we would have a few words about it. I remember he loved trains, and often heard about the train table in the basement. I remember him patiently wiping the dog's paws after her run outside, and I remember that bizarre shoe-shining contraption that was quite large and was a total mystery to me. I have never forgotten that it is important to have good shoes, well shined, to make a good impression.

Most of all, I remember Ray senior's love of being a father. He was so incredibly proud of all of his children. He shot many hours of film as they grew from children to adults, and he loved to show them. “We are here to raise our children”, he once told me.
Friday, November 01, 2013
My Dad loved football. In the late 1930s he played high school football at Thomas Kelly High School in Brighton Park, Chicago. In 1938 he was selected in a poll conducted by the Chicago Herald American newspaper as a citywide HS All-Star and traveled by train to Los Angeles to play the LA city HS All-Star team. They played on Christmas Day in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the site of the 1932 Olympics. Dad had an opportunity to play college football (at Indiana University) but decided against it when it became clear there would not be enough time to pursue chemistry, his chosen field of study. He also played semi-professional football with a team sponsored by Niske Rank Realtors. Dad enjoyed rooting for the NFL Chicago Bears and reveled in their Super Bowl XX victory after the 1985 season.

My Dad loved sports. In high school my father lettered in football, swimming, and tennis. Yes, tennis! Years later my Dad would play catch (baseball) with Ray and me in the backyard of the Orchard Hill, New York house. He coached the Buzzers Little League team that Ray played on (I was too young but served as unofficial batboy) and the three boys later participated in the Homewood, Illinois leagues for a number of years. Dad's father was a Chicago White Sox fan and would listen to games broadcast over the radio on Sunday afternoons. So Dad became a fan too. In the fall of 2005 it was especially coincident that while he was recuperating from heart bypass surgery his Chicago White Sox won the World Series for the first time in eighty-eight years and the first time in his lifetime.

My Dad loved golf. He played golf for roughly six decades from the early days with persimmon woods and forged shafts to later times with oversized metal heads and graphite shafts. For years he played weekly during the summer months in a men's golf league affiliated with the church and later played with the local Elks and Lafayette Elks as well. He was proud of the hole-in-one he made at Cherry Hills Country Club (now Coyote Run Golf Course) in Flossmoor, Illinois in August of 1973. He hit a 5-iron on the 153-yard 17th hole and it went in for an ace! Dad subsequently got his name printed in Golf Digest and received a trophy and case of beer from Schlitz. His favorite PGA professional golfer was Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear. After Nicklaus left the tour to play some Senior Tour golf and design golf courses, Dad took an interest in the Shark, Greg Norman.

My Dad loved to read. For many years Dad was a member of the Book-of-the-Month Club and consequently he built a large library of the classics and more. I recall my father often taking Ray and me to the Greenburgh Public Library in Elmsford, New York near our Orchard Hill neighborhood where we would check out books to read. Later in Homewood, Illinois he did the same; Dad took us kids to the public library on a regular basis. Dad always emphasized reading and education repeatedly saying to us children, “We have no ‘C' students in this family!” He read nonfiction books mostly: history, war, biography; but also he enjoyed novels by best-selling authors such as David Baldacci and John Grisham.

My Dad loved to work. Originally by necessity because of the depression and later by habit my father always worked. As a boy he delivered daily newspapers. As a teenager he helped his mother in their first-floor grocery store beneath their apartment in Brighton Park. During this time he also worked as a messenger for Western Union at the Northwest RR train station in downtown Chicago taking orders for telegrams. In those days, telegrams were the fastest way to send short messages a distance; basically, the 'Twitter' of the times. He worked at Eagle-Picher Lead and Carnegie Illinois Steel to afford college and worked professionally for sixty-five years for Western Electric, Continental Can Company, Libby's in Chicago, and later R.T. Batina & Associates, his chemical and environmental engineering consulting business.

My Dad loved Polish cuisine. Raised by a Polish immigrant mother (and Croatian immigrant father) he enjoyed all the Old World recipes from Poland from the pork/veal sausage or kielbasa to pierogis and golumpkes (stuffed cabbage rolls) to pastry desserts such as chruscikis and paczkis. Years later he would occasionally take the family to the Warsaw Inn in Lynwood, Illinois for Polish food. Once when Maxine and I were visiting Mom and Dad in Lafayette, Indiana, we suggested a road trip north up I-65 to the Warsaw Inn one evening for dinner, which they agreed. We drove nearly two hours to get there, treated them to a sumptuous Polish feast, and drove another two hours back to Lafayette. What a treat! Every year on Shrove Tuesday my Dad would send an email to remind me to celebrate our Polish heritage because it was Paczki Day, the last day of indulgence before the start of Lent.

My Dad loved Scotch whisky. Originally a Chivas Regal drinker, he later switched to Johnny Walker Black Label. In 2006 as a token of my appreciation for his mentorship with the startup of my aeronautical engineering consulting business I gave Dad a five-bottle sampler pack of Johnny Walker Scotch: Red, Black, Green, Gold, and Blue Label in increasing order of age and quality of malts. I am sure that he enjoyed it; as usual, over rocks with a little water.

My Dad loved Snickers candy bars. For years his fatherly advice was to always have a Snickers candy bar on you “in case of an emergency”. I recall one time when we were young; we left the Homewood house on a car trip to, maybe, visit grandparents in Lafayette, Indiana. My Dad passed out a Snickers bar to each family member before we pulled out of the driveway. However, we barely got a block from the house when my father declared an “emergency” and the candy bars were eaten. He loved double-chocolate-covered peanuts too.

My Dad loved telling stories. The consummate raconteur, he regaled us often with tales of adventure growing up during the depression or traveling overseas to Europe, South America, or Japan. He loved telling jokes too. As described in a recent entry by Dad's son-in-law Mark, one ‘joke' was that there were so many jokes that they could be numbered. Then, rather than retell the joke over and over, my Dad could just say, “Number 47!” And everyone would be familiar with the joke and laugh; talk about comedic efficiency!

My Dad loved his family. And he loved life. But his earthly work is done; his life is complete. Dad can rest now, safe in the hands of God in heaven, a blessed eternity well deserved. He will be remembered.

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