"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Of all the men I have known in my life, my father stands out among them as a true leader and as a fine example of what a man can be. Loving, nurturing, smart as all get out, a contributor to society and to his church, his legacy lives on in the credit unions he founded and in the work he did for the greater good. More importantly, for me, he was a "family man," someone I could count on for sound advice and who was always supportive of every dream I had whether that was having horses or going to college, something he never had the chance to complete.
Today, I am wistfully reviewing his letters to me when I lived in Pamplona, Spain. I appreciate his humor, most of all! He writes on 10-13-72: "Once in a while something comes along that is not really disturbing except only in a mild sort of way. For example, like drinking a cup of brewed coffee down to the last drop but then finding some coffee grounds upsetting the taste buds in the mouth or example #2 like putting on the last pair of clean socks - only one has a hole where it fits down over your big toe. You see, nothing very vexing but in the category of wondering what the letters E.E.U.U. that you add to your mail stand for. [E.E.U.U. is the Spanish abbreviation for Los Estados Unidos (the United States of America).]
He then congratulates me on my "A" achievement and adds, "The other kids are just dum-dums. Feel lofty!"
All of his letters were funny and in one subsequent letter, he speculates on E.E.U.U. again, thinking that it may stand for "Empire of Elated and Unrestrained Umpires" or maybe "Elegant Example of Underarm Undercoating?" I looked forward to his letters as they brought a bit of "home" to me in that faraway place where I found myself at a relatively young age as a university student.
I was gone for less than a year but when I came home, I quickly learned that Dad was actively dying of cancer. I only knew him for 23 years and when he died, in his early sixties, he was younger than the age I find myself at right now. In his relatively short life, he left a trail of love poetry dedicated to my mother, he was a constant learner who believed he could travel the world right from his armchair via the medium of books, and he led by example, always treating others as he would like to be treated himself and always going out of his way to help in any way he could.
From Dad I learned to appreciate music and he encouraged me in my attempts to play guitar. He was proficient on saxophone, clarinet, and piccolo and in his later years he learned to play flute. He was always learning and always trying to become something more, intellectually. He led a well-rounded life, planting a nursery of Christmas trees and ornamental shrubs for landscaping while holding down a 9-5 office job in the city. My memories of Dad are immense but most of all, I see him as an enabler in my life, always ready to support me.
Dad did not live long enough to know my son or to see the day when that grandson would become a professor of English and have two children of his own. Dad missed out on a whole lot due to his early departure. I treasure all that he left behind. Some of his artifacts and photos are now located at America's Credit Union Museum in Manchester, NH. The main credit union he founded and worked with from 1945-1973 now serves all of New Hampshire and is a major player in the industry, processing millions of dollars each year. Yes, he accomplished much. To me, he was "Dad," a title he seemed to wear best of all.
Patricia L. Grace Cummings