Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Eulogy for Dad

Eugene Russell Vanatter Eulogy
August 17, 1932 - January 16, 2008

Eulogy delivered by Scott Vanatter, his son, January 22, 2008, in Fort Scott, Kansas.


My Mom, our dear mother Dorothy May (Lifer) Vanatter, my sisters Gina and Tracy, the entire family, including Dad’s sisters Loretta and Kathleen, and I . . . thank each one of you for joining with us this morning. Thank you for your loving expressions of care and concern.

The good people here at Cheney Witt Funeral Home have offered the most kind and comforting service; our heartfelt thanks to you, Jared, and the whole staff.

Tears of Sadness and Joy

Today we are here to remember Eugene Russell Vanatter—“Gene” to most of you, including to our Mom . . . but Dad and “Grandpa Gene” to us. It is entirely appropriate that we shed tears of sadness—and also tears of joy—as we remember Dad.


Faith whispers to us that life is eternal; that our personal existence does not end upon our death . . . we live on as a spirit.


It whispers that Jesus provides each and every one of us the promise of the reality of the resurrection, the miracle of the reuniting of our spirit with our body.

“Upon entering mortal life…we…live by faith and further prepare for the everlastingness of [life]. This mortal body, in which our spirit now dwells, is subject to pain, to difficulties, to death. For it is in opposition that we grow in strength of character. We must know pain to appreciate well-being; difficulties to develop courage; death to understand eternal life. . . .

“Like every member of the human race, we are born and we must die. Our birth is a matter of record, we take it for granted. But death, that uncertain door that leads ahead, has been for man an awesome mystery. Life's greatest test comes with the death of a loved one. . . .

“After death, though our mortal body lies in the earth, we, our spirit self—being eternal—continue to live. . . .

“Like coming out of a darkened room into light—through death we will emerge in a place of reawakening—and find loved ones [there] waiting to welcome us. There with our loved ones, we will await the resurrection—which is the reuniting of our spirit and our body. There we will continue towards the limitless opportunities of everlasting life.” (Richard L. Evans, Man’s Search for Happiness)

While faith does not erase immediately our sense of loss, it can be an effective balm that helps heal the hurt and soften the sting.


Yes, Dad is now in ‘a better place’—a beautiful place; a place of love and of family, and of the light and presence of God. Dad is now relieved of physical problems; relieved of pain and suffering and worries. He has been reunited with loved ones and friends that have passed on before him. He awaits there to be reunited with loved ones and friends that still remain here on earth.


Today I will offer personal insights—and some shared family remembrances—that might shed light on his Dad’s life and character. I will do so from the point of view of a son. I realize that I am bound to him, son to father, one male to another.

I realize that he also related in his own unique/personable way to the women of his family: his mother and grandmothers, his sisters, his daughters, and, of course, to his wife, our dear mother. I know he was very proud of who these women were, how strong they were, and what they have accomplished in their lives.


Each one of you, and his many friends over the years, has, in your own way, unique, personal relationships and conversations with him.


His young great-grandsons know him one way; his older grandsons know him in another way, with more years of interaction. Gina and Tracy, his two grown daughters, my sisters, know his every mood and have recognized his many strengths. His own two sisters, Loretta and Kathleen, have seen him grow from a boy into a man, and then grow old. Time takes its toll on us all, sometimes hastened by lifestyle choices or by chance circumstances. Doctors said that he didn’t have anything particularly wrong with him, just that he wore out. He was specially loved by his mother-in-law, and by his parents and grandparents who have passed on. Finally, of course, he was known best by his wife of over 55 years. They both depended on each other for different things over the various phases of their lives together.


We all have our own experiences with him that are personal. Please hold dear all of the best personal memories of him. I wish we could share today a thousand personal memories of my Dad.

It is my hope that a few of the things I say today may enlighten your mind and touch your heart as we ponder our personal relationship with our own father, with our loved ones, and with our God. I will discuss this afternoon various aspects of my Dad, his character, his life, his involvement with the community, his work, his roles in life, his impact. I will conclude by offering some thoughts on Dad on the other side of the veil and his desires for us now. I pray that we all feel Our Father in Heaven’s loving Paternal care.

I pray that any sorrow would be tempered by faith, and that our joy would be full as we remember and celebrate the life of Gene Vanatter—my Dad, our Dad, your friend . . . and Mom’s husband.


Dad was one of those tough, strong, stoic, dependable men who—born in the midst of the Depression to parents who had moved to California—worked hard all his life. He well took care of his family providing every necessity and protection, at every stage of our lives. He planned for their retirement and has provided Mom a comfortable life, free of financial worries.


Some forty years ago, Erma Bombeck, a nationally syndicated columnist and a favorite of my Mom’s, wrote a piece on how some fathers never said they loved their family. This tongue-in-cheek piece chided loved ones who yearned for more verbal expressions of love—when there were scores of personal non-verbal expressions offered every day. Erma wrote at length about the long list of all the things fathers did to show their love, things that probably only a Dad would do. Then she ended the column with the line, “And never once did he say, ‘I love you.’”

Dad loved us with that love that was of deeds, if not flowery words. In the final analysis isn’t that the real love? Over a thousand years ago, a great theologian said something like this, “Preach the Gospel always…sometimes even use words.” I might adapt the kernel of truth of this saying to Dad: “Love your family always…sometimes even use words.” And he did; mostly with deeds.

While words can sometimes fade and even be forgotten, the results of his deeds and his actions stand as a testament to his love for his family and friends. There have been a few poignant exceptions where his fitly-chosen words have punctuated his demonstrated love for his kids, his grandkids—and especially for his wife.


Three years ago, our usually-healthy mother was in the hospital battling for her life with a life-threatening attack of acute pancreatitis. About that time Dad was already weakening a bit and was somewhat worried that she might die before him. He called our house, perhaps, thinking to talk to me. As I was not home, he ended up talking for quite a while to Becky, my wife, rather than leaving a message as he otherwise might have done. They spoke for quite a while, longer than he had ever spoken to her over the past 40 years. He overtly spoke how much he loved Dorothy, his wife, our mother and how he couldn’t stand to lose her. Speaking his love like this was not something he did very often. But with the possibility of Mom leaving this earth before him, and his feelings closer to the surface than usual, he put to words what he lived for so many years.

Gina and Tracy, having visited here in Fort Scott more than I have over the past ten years, have seen a few of these special moments. Their rarity makes them all the more memorable.


Either way, Dad was there for us—to help us through tough financial times; but most importantly he was there for us all through the years—steady, dependable, totally trustworthy, and dedicated to us and to Mom. Real men take care of their loved ones. Dad was a real man.

One indication of a good man is how his mother-in-law views him. Dad and his mother-in-law, Mary Labrucherie, had a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Both were hard-working, get-the-job-done, take-responsibility kind of people.

Over the past few days, I have read and have further organized the numerous personal cards and letters that people sent Dad over the years. Basically, he kept two boxes of letters and cards---a larger one for those where the person wrote something special. He kept yet another smaller box for the letters and cards where the person wrote something particularly poignant. More than one of these letters were written to him by his mother-in-law, where she declared how grateful she was that her daughter Dorothy married someone as responsible as Gene.

I shed tears of appreciation and admiration that I come from such good people. I am keenly aware that I still have much to live up to, to carry on such an honorable tradition.


Gene was a carefree, curly blonde-haired southern California boy of only six years old when his father died of cancer. He had to grow up fast as an older 11-year old young man when he moved with his sister, his mother and new stepfather to live and work on a farm outside Uniontown, Kansas. There he and his sister attended the one-room Goff Schoolhouse. At Uniontown High School he played some football and ran track.

A SIDE NOTE: As a young boy, I often used to look through his high school memorabilia; his high school ring, his yearbooks, his football practice jersey, a medal he won running track. (Later, when I was in junior high and high school, he would come to all my baseball games, all my football games and wrestling matches.)

I wish I could have seen him run when he was young.

After graduation from high school, he joined the Navy and married Dorothy May Lifer. The two of them started a family and moved to southern California.

Always Active

We saw him as a young father staying physically active enjoying water skiing with his cousin and his brother-in-law. They skied in rivers and lakes all up and down the West Coast—and even the ocean—from Lake Tahoe, to the Colorado River, to Balboa and more. Dad could jump-start from the pier, land in the water on his skis going full blast—without having to wade in the water to start, being pulled up out of the water like most people. After skiing for a while, when finished, the boat would speed by us on the shore near where he took off from, he would let go of the ski rope and time his landing just so he ran out of steam so he could step off the skis and walk onto the sand to join us—never getting wet. Amazing.

As a young father he and his cousin also bought and rode mini-bikes.

A SIDE NOTE: Later he bought me a motorcycle—a small street bike which he converted to a still street-legal dirt bike with knobby tires and a custom aluminum motocross front fender which he made from scratch in his workshop. It is hard to overemphasize how cool it was to have one’s own motorcycle as a teenaged boy. This is one of those male things that came so naturally to him in interacting with me, his son.

All through the years he always seemed to love working on our cars—partly out of wise use of financial assets, but also I saw him enjoy making things work and keeping things in working condition. For a good year or so he spent much of his free time working with his growing collection of tools trying to keep my metallic-green ‘55 Chevy hot rod running. Like many things, I am confident he enjoyed the journey as much as the destination.

He also worked on his own and my sisters’ cars for many years. He loved puttering around in the garage. He had at least one or two or three or more of practically every tool imaginable of all shapes and sizes. You never know when you might need that special tool of just that particular size.

While we still lived in Pasadena, I remember Dad and his cousin Sonny driving floats for the City of Pasadena in the Rose Parade. His cousin took the wheel and watched the lines beneath the float in the middle of the street, while Dad watched out the front of the float through a small, strategically placed rectangle-shaped hole somewhere in the colorful flowers. One of my first neat memories was the time he stuck his hand out of the small hole and waved to us. We saw this on live television, no less.


We often took family vacations back here to Kansas to visit Grandma Bert (Alberta Vanatter/Barlow), Grandpa Tru (Truman Barlow) and Aunt Kathleen on the farm near Uniontown—and also Grandma Mary (Mary Labrucherie, his mother-in-law) here in Fort Scott. When driving across country we’d often take in the historical sites near the Mother Road—the old Route 66—which also happened to run right through the middle the town of Duarte, California where he raised us. We visited Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Four Corners, and Carlsbad Caverns, on some of our many trips back to Kansas. We ate in roadside cafes and stayed in roadside motels along the way. What adventures!

In other trips we traveled up the West Coast taking in the mighty Redwoods of northern California, and camping near crystal clear cool rivers. We made it up as far as Coos Bay, Oregon to visit friends and eat piles of juicy fried oysters.

Family Connections

Dad constantly kept us involved and connected with his parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, in personal, fun, and important ways.

He was not one to stay at home alone. Some of the most looked-forward to and most-exciting visits were the frequent trips we shared at Thanksgiving and Christmas—and many other times—with his sister Loretta Boyd’s family.

Often he would also drive us from east of Los Angeles where we lived to the west side of southern California to personally care for, cut the hair and clip the finger clips of, his grandfather, our great-grandfather, Grandpa Leigh Vanatter—his dad’s dad. You can imagine being a young boy, perhaps 10 years old, and seeing your father’s loving care, concern, and respect for his elderly grandfather who lived into his 90s.

On one such visit Dad discovered Grandpa Vanatter had lost the tip of his cane. Gina remembers Dad taking her with him as he drove right over to the store to buy a rubber tip. He came right back and repaired his Grandpa’s cane right then. Gina remembers there was no dilly-dallying when people were in need. From an early age Dad felt the responsibility of—and went about—taking care of others.

Dad was in his early 30s when his grandfather sent Dad to Seattle to represent the family in attending the funeral of his son Ralph, my dad’s uncle. Dad was also sent to retrieve the family Bible. This family Bible –and the family tree contained in it—has been instrumental in prompting my mother’s and my sister’s keen interest in genealogy.


My sister Tracy said that somehow we “always knew” that Dad respected his elders; that he would take care of family, that he had an innate sense of doing the right thing.

Dad taught us kids—by precept and by example—to do what is right, follow the rules, work hard, do a good job.

We always knew that he loved animals—especially dogs. Tracy recalls that every dog that Dad ever met liked Dad—and took right to him.

We always knew he had a genuine love and fondness for—and took much pride in—his grandchildren.

We always knew that he loved his country. Those who have served in the military have a special love of country. As much as the rest of us love America, perhaps theirs is a love earned and appreciated in ways we have to imagine.

A SIDE NOTE: I was in high school during much of the Vietnam War. I broke my hand playing football and painted my cast red, white, and blue (with white stars)—reflecting a flag motif. At the time, I thought it was kinda neat, kinda cool. Somehow though, without his saying much I got the impression that it made him uncomfortable. After growing a little older myself and experiencing a bit more of life and other’s self sacrifice, I caught a glimpse of his unease and his heartfelt patriotism. Like most Veterans, he loved the flag.

He loved all things western, cowboy hats, cowboy shirts, cowboy decorations on the walls and on his bookshelves, and cowboy stories. Dad introduced us to Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and all the greats of the golden age of country and western music.

He had quite a collection of baseball caps with all kinds of company logos and sayings on them.

He really liked his friends. He had scores of them, more than most people I know. Of course, he had a few really good friends. After we grew up, Dad enjoyed fixing up and riding dune buggies in the deserts of southern California. He often had many friends over for neighborhood parties and/or organization get-togethers.


Wherever he lived Dad usually participated in some way in the local community. Where did he learn this habit? Why did he do this? Again, I believe it sprang from his sense of doing what’s right and lending a helping hand. He had no ulterior motive. He was not a local business man that was really only interested in selling his services by sponsoring the local team. He pitched in just to help out. Not all of us do this. He did.

Fraternal Organizations

Over the years he joined a couple fraternal organizations, for example, in 1954 he joined the Eagles here in Fort Scott. After moving to California he continued his membership and participated for years in both Pasadena and Duarte.

He was an active member of the American Legion for many years, further honing and showing his love of country and for those older veterans who wore out their lives serving their country. He participated in honor guards attending many funerals, dedicating a significant portion of his free time—where he otherwise might have just kicked back and relaxed. In this he showed respect to those who served. He also was an active member in the Elks. Later in life joined the Masons and helped in the good work they do for so many.

Youth Sports

From the time I was in Little League baseball, and then played high school sports, football and wrestling, he pitched in to help with—and then ended up running—the local youth sports organizations for Little League and Pony League baseball. He wasn’t my coach—his best friend, Jim Wilson, was my coach. But Dad ran the whole sports organization, helping to organize the annual fundraising pancake breakfast, the draft days, the game schedules, and the snack bar. Well, he had Mom do much of work of the snack bar.

Later, he also participated in and then became the President of our local high school sports Boosters Club. They raised funds to get better workout equipment for the teams, and to provide small scholarships for graduating athletes. Before home football games, the Boosters Club fed the whole football organization in our back yard and on our long driveway—a racially-mixed team of black, white and Hispanic players and coaches.

We ate real good: steak cooked to perfection to order on his backyard gas grills, baked potatoes with all the fixings, mixed green salad, and iced tea.


Coming off the farm in the mid-50s, he took his small family and plunged back into busy, sunny, smoggy, hectic southern California and wended his way through the traffic and hustle and bustle of the hectic 60s, 70s, and 80s and beyond.

Upon his arrival in southern California he went to work for the Pasadena City Schools, and became an upholsterer. He later re-upholstered one of our couches, and our beautiful red ’56 Chevy pickup.


Within a short amount of time, though, he went to work for Sears in sales and sales management. Sears quickly moved him from store to store, having him help set up and get new stores up and running as they expanded south into Orange County. In Costa Mesa he once waited on John Wayne and got his autograph for my Mom. We looked at it just last night.

Finally, though, Sears brought him into work at the large Boyle Street store in downtown Los Angeles—where ultimately he was put in charge of half the store departments and sales. After many years of this, he gave up the hassles of management and went back into sales—in the automotive department. Ultimately Sears was good to him, even though as with any large corporation, there are headaches. Heavens knows he was good to them—giving (and expecting from those he managed) more than an honest day’s work, day-in, and day-out for 30 years.


Dad lived a full life of 75 years—a particularly worthy and honorable life. It was “a wonderful life” filled with service, and giving, and in doing good in the world. (In many important ways Clarence the angel might have mistaken him for George Bailey.)

The older I get the better I understand how wise is the saying that observes, strangely, that our fathers get smarter and smarter the older we get. This is particularly true with my Dad, and me.
I’ve adapted a similar truism that goes something like this: “We spend the first five years of our lives thinking Dad can do no wrong. He is our hero. We spend the next 50 years thinking he can do nothing right. Then we spend the balance of our lives figuring out we were closer to being right in the first place.”

I am now a few years over the age of 50, and have known for several years that my Dad, at an early age, was smart beyond his experience, and wise beyond his years.


He was the oldest son of goodly parents and devoted to them. His grandparents knew him to be a caring grandson. He was the older brother to Loretta and Kathleen.

He was a dedicated husband to Mom; and she to him. At different phases and trials in their lives they took turns caring of one another in various ways.

We all depended on and trusted Dad over the past 50 years. However, during the past couple of years Dad, in turn, depended more and more on Mom. Though he was generally healthy and had nothing particularly physically wrong with him, he seemed to be weakening the past couple years. Still he had a strong firm handshake. Still he had strong opinions. Recently, Mom cut back from her regular work schedule at the local genealogical library to stray at home, closer to Dad. Mom commented yesterday that their past six months were a particularly peaceful time.

Dad was a good man and a caring father to Gina, Tracy, and to me.

He was a proud grandfather of Carrie and Sydney, Thomas and James. And he was a proud great-grandfather. In about 3 months he will be a great-grandfather for the third time. We can consider that this soon-to-be-born great-grandson and Dad who has just left this world to return to the heavenly realms, will have crossed paths and are now sharing a few brief moments together between their times on earth.


The following is a brief excerpt of the ending of a poem my angel Mother wrote when she and Dad had their first child (me). It offers beautiful insight into who my parents were and their keen desires for their young growing family. It reveals why the three of us children led such a charmed childhood—we were so loved!

. . .
What he’ll need is a pup
To tag at his heels,
And as he grows up,
Share the love that he feels.

He’ll grow up like Dad –
Be big and be strong.
He’ll know what is bad,
He’ll know right from wrong.

We’ll teach him in love
The best that we can.
And too soon he’ll grow up
And he’ll be a man.
. . .

Is it any wonder we were and are so blessed?

I pray I have learned he lessons of right and wrong as was so perfectly taught me. I testify that they taught us in love.


Now that Dad is on the other side of the veil, I can imagine him there in what is called Paradise. I can see him busy dividing his time in a glorious reunion with his family and friends. Especially with his mother—and with his father who died about 70 years ago. I see him welcomed home by a loving Heavenly Father.

Sullivan Ballou

You might remember the famous Civil War letter written by Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah a week before he died at the battle of Bull Run. (By the way, Bull Run is just a quick 10-minute drive from our house in northern Virginia.)

Will you imagine with me now, Gene sending this letter from beyond the grave to Dorothy? Note: I have inserted my Mom’s name in place of Sarah Ballou’s into the letter, and have changed only two or three words.

“. . . [Dorothy], my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing . . . could break . . . . The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons [and granddaughters and grandsons and great-grandsons] grow up to honorable manhood [and womanhood] around us. . . .

“My dear [Dorothy], never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escape[d] me . . . , [I] whisper[ed] your name. . . .

“Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have often times been. How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . . . But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with [our] precious [family], and wait with sad patience till we meet [again] to part no more.

“But, O [Dorothy]! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

“[Dorothy], do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again. [Gene]”

In my mind’s eye, I can see Dad on the other side of the veil waiting and preparing for his family to arrive—for all of us to arrive.


Not that it is a determinant kind of thing, but growing up I never remember seeing my father cry—that is, not until my best friend died when we were both twenty-four years old. He drowned at the beach. He was a star athlete. His parents came over to my parents’ house to plan his funeral around my Mom and Dad’s dinner table. Half the way through making the plans, Dad had to excuse himself. I saw the tears well up in his eyes.

The next time I saw him shed tears was in this very room. He and his sisters had just turned and walked back down this very aisle together, away from the open casket of their dear mother, Alberta Vanatter/Barlow.

I have subsequently learned from others in the family that these were not his only tears.
Especially in later years he was prone to letting poignant feelings find expression in tears—if the occasion was right.

A Sacred Experience

But, the last time I remember seeing him cry in person was a night in November 2002 around our kitchen table in northern Virginia when I shared with him—and the rest of our family—my confidence that one day we will all be reunited as an extended family with our loved ones in Heaven. That Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if it were otherwise. Even to God. I related to them my testimony that God was a loving God of mercy and not one of vengeance. I related a sacred experience my wife and I had in one of our Temples where we had the opportunity to seal together forever Dad’s father to Dad’s grandparents. I told him that I was confident he would see and know and enjoy the close association with his Dad once again—someday in Heaven.

Things got very quiet for a brief moment. He was sitting to my left there at the table. He reached over with his right hand and held tight my left arm in love and affection. I felt his love and saw his eyes well up with tears. He excused himself, got up from the table, and went immediately to the bathroom to have a good cry in private. Things got even more quiet. Mom reminded us how much he loved and missed his father. It was a moment I will not soon forget, and a sacred experience for our family.


For his birthday a little over three years ago, I imagined in a poem a future meeting between three Dads: my Dad, his Dad, and me. I noted in the poem that we all were, at one time, sons. We then all became grandfathers. In the poem we would, all three of, us get to know each other again in Heaven, and talk over what we experienced on earth.

My poem, titled:

A Dad and His Dad:
Links of Love in a Chain of Remembering

Looking back with love, and sweet peaceful longing,
Into the long ago past,
We discover anew what he did and what he saw—
And what will last.

And “what will last” are . . . gentle thoughts and warm feelings,
Of all that he loved;
Links that connect us all in a “chain of remembering”—
Of those that have gone “back home” above.

Grandfathers long gone, and new ones becoming, may not have met
Here on this earth,
But will meet once again one day in the distant future—in a glorious reunion
And look back on our birth.

We'll get to know each other once again, and muse about the trials and struggles
We faced.
Father and son and son; we'll look back and speak of what we learned
In this place.

That . . . dealing with all the struggles and all the trials and all the pain
And yes, some loneliness,
Makes the deep burning reunion
All the more glorious.

Dads introducing their Sons to their Fathers that have helped to make them
What they have become.
With the deepest of satisfactions, all of us Dads will see
How each of us Fathers was once a Son.

Scott L. Vanatter, 14 August 2004


The Sweet Promise

To Dad’s family and to my Dad’s gathered friends, I testify that the ultimate, sweet, sure promise of Jesus is “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23)

Reap the Fruit of the Tree of Life

Dad experienced, as we all will in some way unique to ourselves, a portion of the bitter fruit of this world’s earthly struggles. At the same time I bear you my witness that my Dad will reap what he has sown through his everyday character a significant portion of the sweet fruit of the tree of life.

Our Sorrow Turned to Joy

Jesus offers us all consolation in trying times like this when he said, in John 16:

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now . . . .

“Ye shall weep…and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. . . .

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:12, 20. 33)

Dad has now overcome this world and has passed to a better.

I pray we remember him with honor and with fondness and with love . . . in the precious name of Jesus the Christ, our Exemplar and our Friend.


# # #


January 22, 2008, Fort Scott, Kansas

Prelude Music, Peace in the Valley (Elvis)


Opening Song, Church in the Wildwood (The Jordonaires)

Invocation, by Sydney Vanatter

Family Memory, by Carrie Motley

Introduction of the song 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)

Benediction, by Carrie Motley

Masonic Service . . .

Interment Prayer, U.S. National Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kansas

# # #



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.

# # #

Music at Dad's Funeral

Peace In The Valley
Elvis Presley
(Thomas Dorsey)

Oh well, I'm tired and so weary
But I must go alone
Till the lord comes and calls, calls me away, oh yes
Well the morning's so bright
And the lamp is alight
And the night, night is as black as the sea, oh yes

There will be peace in the valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There'll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me

Well the bear will be gentle
And the wolves will be tame
And the lion shall lay down by the lamb, oh yes
And the beasts from the wild
Shall be lit by a child
And I'll be changed, changed from this creature that I am, oh yes

There will be peace in the valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There'll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me


The Church in the Wildwood
The Jordonaires
(Words & Music: Dr. William S. Pitts, 1857)

There's a church in the valley by the wildwood
No lovelier spot in the dale
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale

(Oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale

How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning
To listen to the clear ringing bells
Its tones so sweetly are calling
Oh come to the church in the vale

(Oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale

There, close by the church in the valley
Lies one that I loved so well
She sleeps, sweetly sleeps, 'neath the willow
Disturb not her rest in the vale

(Oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale

There, close by the side of that loved one
'Neath the tree where the wild flowers bloom
When farewell hymns shall be chanted
I shall rest by her side in the tomb

(Oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale


Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
Willie Nelson

If you had not have fallen
Then I would not have found you
Angel flying too close to the ground

And I patched up your broken wings
And hung around a while
Tried to keep your spirits up
And your fever down

I knew someday that you would fly away
For love's the greatest healer to be found

So leave me if you need to
I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground


Fly on, fly on past the speed of sound
I'd rather see you up
Than see you down

So leave me if you need to
I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground

Leave me if you need to
I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground


My Way
Elvis Presley
(Paul Anka)

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the words he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!