Tuesday, January 22, 2008



January 22, 2008, Fort Scott, Kansas

~ Prelude Music, Peace in the Valley (Elvis)
~ Welcome, by Rev. Jared Witt
~ Opening Song, Church in the Wildwood (The Jordonaires)
~ Opening Prayer, by Sydney Vanatter
~ Family Memory, by Carrie Motley (and Introduction of that Dad and Tracy danced to at Tracy’s wedding.)
~ Song, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground (Willy Nelson)
~ Eulogy, by Scott Vanatter
~ Song, My Way (Elvis)
~ Closing Prayer, Carrie Motley

~ Masonic Service . . .

~ Interment Prayer (U.S. National Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kansas)

# # #


1. Why We Visit (“The Vision-Place of Souls”)

Many, though not all, families and friends naturally gather together at special events: graduations, weddings, reunions, etc. and, of course, births and deaths.

Sometimes we all are drawn to visit the places where those special, even sacred, events took place. Sometimes long after those who were there with us have gone on. Why do we visit these sacred places? This is where we were lived and interacted with our loved ones. Our memories are sparked there.

Joshua Chamberlain, hero of the second day of Gettysburg put it this way . . .

“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays.

“Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.

“And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream;

“And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls."

This is one reason why we visit our first little white house in Pasadena. This is why we visit Scott, Pasadena, the River Farm, the Goff one-room school house, etc. What ‘great things’ has he done? He may never have built a bridge across a great river; but he did build a bridges across the generations – linking us to those who went on before us. He never designed or built a skyscraper; but he conceived and built a family that has been able to soar to their own heights. He wasn’t a fearless naval commander on the open seas; but he raised us up and put us out to sea with the necessary skills and attitudes to weather the storms of life and find our way back to home port.

(You might also know of the hero of the second day of Gettysburg, college professor, and future governor, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. He and those he commanded from the state of Maine were given the command to hold “at all costs” the left side of the Union line – on Little Round Top, the hill on the left side of Cemetery Ridge. Southern troops from Texas and Alabama made several attempts to flank the Union line. If they had been successful, Southern canon could have been put on top of Little Round Top and decimated the Union line. After holding up under several southern attacks, but then ultimately running out of ammunition, Chamberlain ordered the remaining troops to “fix bayonets” and they charged down the hill to force the Southern troops off the slopes of Little Round Top and finally force them back into retreat. After the war, Chamberlain returned to Maine to be governor. Twenty-five years after the battle he penned these words. Please think of the times you visited historical, sacred places, and ALSO how we can create these types of sacred ‘places’ in our minds and hearts.)

2. “Trailing Clouds of Glory”

About one hundred fifty years ago, the poet William Wordsworth began writing one of his most inspiring and insightful pieces on what he deemed a crucial idea: that of man’s eternal nature; not only that we all would continue to live on after death, but that we, each of us, came from somewhere before we were born. AND that knowing where we came from, and who we were then and who we really are at our very core now, makes a big difference.

He got the poem to a certain point, setting the stage for illustrating his main idea, but then laid it aside for a year and a half while he continued pondering the subject. He came back to it and penned these words:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us (our life's Star)
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:

3. “In The Arena”

Teddy Roosevelt warns those who vainly attempt to point our where “the strong man stumbles.” Dad was a strong man.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(Excerpt from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.)

4. Undeveloped Observation on Famous People

Since we moved to the Washington, DC area almost twenty years ago, I have met a handful of the rich, or powerful, or famous people; people you see on the television; entrepreneurs, business leaders, politicians, generals/admirals, newsmakers and news-commentators; many good and honorable and talented men and women.

I stack my Dad (and many other dads like him) up against those who have garnered the praise of the world, and a share of its riches, and who are known to the public.

5. Undeveloped Observation on Being Like Him

Being my father’s son, I may have taken after some of his traits, good and bad. I hope I have adopted some of his best; the more I consider his life and mine, I see that I still have much to learn and much to accomplish before I have freely given what he has freely given. In too many ways I have not measured up to his best traits.

5. Undeveloped Observation on His Retirement

In retirement on one of his trips to northern Virginia to visit with us, he measured the seats of our kitchen chairs which were wearing out. Next trip to Virginia he brought back re-upholstered seat cushions which were better than new.

6. Undeveloped Observation on His Death

Tuesday night Dad went to bed early as usual. He had mentioned a headache and went to bed with a wet washcloth across his forehead, and his arms brought up onto his chest. Mom found him the same way the next morning, with his arms still on his chest, the same as he went to sleep – the washcloth fallen down off his forehead. He died peacefully in his sleep.

For some dying is a long hard process. Others are suddenly cut down in their youth. Not everyone will be fortunate enough to die so peacefully as Dad did. It affords us a measure of comfort to know that [after a life of battling this cold cruel world] he went so peacefully.

# # #


Bill Wruck said...

Hi Scott,
I was surfing around classmates.com yesterday out of pure curiosity and was saddened to learn of the passing of your father. Your Mom and Dad are really special people.

I remember Mr. Vanatter as a humble, yet steadfast pillar of strength, an example for kids--like we were then---to model ourselves after. Totally devoted to his family and simultaneously extending his concern and love to the community, he made a lasting impression on me.

I had a chance opportunity to speak with your Dad in 1992 that I thought I would share with you. In the early stages of planning for our 20 year class reunion I volunteered to participate on the organizing committee. Ultimately I had to resign from the committe and didn't make it to the reunion itself due to some personal matters. Anyway, as I recall it you and Becky were in southern California for a visit and I was assigned the job of making contact with you to obtain your current address and phone for the mailing list. So I tracked down your parents Duarte phone number in the white pages and gave them a call. Well, your father answered the phone and explained that you and your family had already departed to go back east. Your father was completely unhurried as we chatted for a few minutes. He asked how my life was going and made me feel like we were old friends. Although your father had not seen me in about 20 years he was gracious, warm and sincerely interested in what I had been up to. It might seem like a small matter to some but the experience is one I won't forget. Your father is still a role model.

Please give my best regards to your Mom. She and you Dad are in my prayers.

Bill Wruck

Scott Vanatter said...


Thank you very much for your sweet comments.

Please send me your email address, I'd like to send a personal reply.



Scott Vanatter said...


Are you the Bill Wruck listed here?

Bill Wruck, DC
7234 Agate Street
Alta Loma, CA 91701-5606
Home # (909) 945-3335
Work # (619) 242-8000