Monday, May 25, 2020

Philip Williams – 1926-2020

Dad and Tupper in 1954

He loved animal jokes. Take any story about a priest, a rabbi, and a pastor walking into a bar and recast it with a fox, a squirrel, and a raccoon, and he’d be rolling on the floor. There was something about the gentle world of “The Wind in the Willows” and the adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Woods that told us what a gentle and humble man he was: giving, loving, flawed, human, and who tried his best to do what he could for his family, his friends, and his community.

There are so many memories that he created with us. Teaching his children how to sail, taking us to baseball and football games, teaching us how to play golf, taking us skiing, sharing the little things that brought him joy, and giving of himself in ways that we didn’t realize until we were older, and setting examples for his children and how to raise their own children. Yes, of course we had our struggles; no family or marriage lasts nearly seventy-two years without them. He had disappointments and made mistakes. He would be the first to admit them. But through it all, the basic goodness of my father withstood it and came through to the other side.

He and Mom raised four children who could not be any more different from each other, and yet there’s something of him in all of us aside from the DNA. I know that for myself, my love of a good story about sailing and an appreciation of a quiet afternoon listening to the Tigers on the back porch or taking a walk to go bird-watching came from his side of the family. It melded well with the appreciation for jazz and certain art forms that I got from Mom to become what I am. I know my path through life probably wasn’t what he envisioned, but through it all I knew I had his support, guidance, and love.

He loved us all, even when we mocked him for it. In the middle of one our many raucous family “discussions,” he would plead with us to “love one another,” as if that would solve all our problems. We even found a sign that hung over our kitchen fireplace with that plea on it. But I think he gets the last word because when you get right down to it, that’s all he ever wanted for us. He welcomed the new members of the family: husbands, wives, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with nothing but unconditional love.

I am glad I was able to see him a few weeks ago through the dance of pixels and electrons of Zoom. All of us were there on the screen, and Dad looked pretty good for someone in his condition.  He waved to us and said he loved us. I hoped against hope that it would not be the last time I saw him; that after this was all over I would get to be with him and share the two books I sent him: “Swallows and Amazons,” the books from his childhood that he shared with me and taught me to love good writing and sailing, and the “Field Guide to the Birds” by Roger Tory Peterson, the book that we shared when we walked through the woods or watched them at the bird-feeders. Those books were on the shelf in his room when he slipped away. That was as close as I could be to him, and it was all I could ask.

One last thing: Hey, Dad, did you hear the one about the fox, the squirrel, and the raccoon? It’s a really good one.

Love, Philip.

28 barks and woofs on “Philip Williams – 1926-2020

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Phillip. Your father sounds like an extraordinary man and your beautiful words did his character justice. Good thoughts your way.

  2. Thank you for sharing your father. He sounds like someone I wish I knew. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  3. Wishing strength and courage to you and your family at this difficult time. What a wonderful tribute to your father you’ve written here. His gentleness and love shine through your words.

  4. You had a great dad, no question about that!

    I’m so sorry for your loss, on top of a malicious toad in the White House AND the plague too. My dad was also a great guy, he died on election day 2004, so I can relate to your feelings quite well.

    Take care and keep in touch, please.

    • I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Your Dad was a wonderful person who loved his family above all else. Your tribute is beautiful and moving.
      Jackie

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your father. I especially relate to recognizing gifts and lessons years after they are given. May his memory be a blessing.

  6. Beautiful picture. To read your description of ‘what a gentle and humble man he was’ is deeply moving. My sympathy to you and your family.

  7. It’s difficult to properly straddle the in between of wanting to mourn a passing of a great man, and wanting to celebrate who he was. You’ve done this, and I am of course sorry for your loss, but glad to have read your words about him. Love one another, indeed.

  8. Kindness is eternal, and in that way your father lives on. A beautiful tribute to a lovely man from his living son. Deepest condolences to you, your mom, and family.

  9. Kindness is eternal, and in that way your father lives on. A beautiful tribute to a lovely man from his loving son. Deepest condolences to you, your mom, and family.

  10. Philip, I can see your dad’s face in your own. I, too, was lucky enough to have a father who was a gentle soul. My dad’s sign would have been “why can’t we all just get along”, and I suspect that our dads would have gotten along famously. My condolences to you and your family.

  11. Oh, now I’m weepy for a man I never knew except in your tribute. I just may have to find a copy of “Swallows and Amazons” in his honor. My condolences on your loss.

  12. That’s a lovely tribute to a wonderful father.

    I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m also glad that you had each other for as long as you did. May his memory be a solace to you.

  13. That’s a lovely tribute to a wonderful father. I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m also glad that you had each other for as long as you did. May his memory be a solace to you.

  14. That was a wonderful tribute to a great father. His advice was perfect and hanging the sign was also a good tribute to him. My condolences.

  15. I haven’t dropped in for a few days, and I’m sorry I could give you my condolences earlier. I am not surprised your father was as lovely as you. May he rest in peace. Hugs to you in your sorrow.

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