On the morning of June 4, 2010, my sister called me, saying that Dad was unresponsive. Monkey Toes had already left for work. I called his cell and he said he would turn around and come home. In the meantime, my fingers dialed the number of a family I know from church. I don't think I realized I knew their phone number by memory, but that's what I dialed. In a few minutes, J was over to watch my kids. I jumped in my van and headed to the hospital 14 miles away. I was almost to the hospital when my cell phone rang. It was my sister asking where I was. I told her I would be at the hospital in about 5 minutes and she told me that Dad was still at home. Deep down, I think at that point I knew my Dad had died, but I just wouldn't let my mind go there. I pulled up to my parent's apartment at the same time my nephew arrived. I asked what he knew about the situation and he said Grandpa had died. My knees went weak and my nephew grabbed me and helped me walk into the building.
As I entered my parent's apartment my mom immediately came to me and hugged me and said Dad had passed while praying his Rosary. I went to my Dad's side and took his hand. I didn't want to let it go. From there, the day is a blur. I remember leaving the apartment and lined up in the hallway were the First Responders. My sister and I hugged each one and thanked them for being there with my Dad in his final moments. Many of them cried with us.
I only record these memories because it is an event that has altered my life forever. Death is a part of life. I don't think anything can really prepare a person for its effects. Through my faith I have hope. It is a true and real hope that gets me through my days. It is the hope that my Dad is in a much better place and is pain free. It is a hope that I will be reunited with him one day. It is a hope that my Dad may not be here physically, but is with me spiritually. It is a hope that I (my whole family) have an intercessor who can pray for us unceasingly.
The following is the eulogy I shared at my Dad's funeral. It is just a small piece of the man my Dad was and the influence he will continue to have on my family and I.
Dad was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, an uncle and a friend to many. As is testament to all of you here, he touched the lives of many. Simply put, he loved God, he loved his country, he loved his family – he loved life.
Some of Dad’s passions were Fords, auctions, the NBA, and politics, not necessarily in that order. He grew up in a Ford loving family and stayed true to that most of his life. Imagine the shock when his last purchase was a Dodge Caravan. Our phones were ringing with “Did you hear what Dad has done?”
He enjoyed basketball, playing in his younger years. He was mine and both of my sisters first coach and biggest fan. You could hear him yelling from the bleachers “hands up!” and “defense.” He spent many evenings watching the NBA games. This year he was rooting for the Celtics and pulling for Kevin Garnett to once again claim the championship.
Auctions were ingrained in him. He was proud to share that passion with his son, eventually passing on the business to Tim. Dad had been retiring from auctions since 1985. Each year he would say this will be my last auction season, and yet he would always be back. There was always a place for him, whether working the ring, clerking, or giving Tim a break and crying the auction. He enjoyed meeting new people, learning about them, and working with them.
As some of you may know, Dad had some strong political convictions. You could always tell when the conversation in the room had turned to politics because he would become a bit more lively and a bit more outspoken. He and Arnie B. enjoyed discussing politics and they shared the belief that this country should have a two party system – the Republicans and the Conservatives.
Dad took delight in so many things; He adored his grandchildren, he liked classic country and blue grass music, gardening, visiting, coffee with friends, going for drives through the country side, family get-togethers, reminiscing about the good old days, watching EWTN, Fox News and RFD TV, just to name a few.
Dad had a work ethic that was hard to rival. He always stressed the importance of a firm handshake, looking someone in the eye, and following through on your word. His philosophy was “always take pride in your work, even if you don’t like the job, because you leave your mark on whatever you do” and “Why put off ‘til tomorrow what can be done today.” He believed in a hard days work. There were times when he would put in a full day and come home with little compensation and he would say, “well, that‘s more money in my pocket than I left home with this morning.” When dad was chief of police, people would often stop by our house wanting to talk with Officer Benoit. He would take them out on the porch and over a glass of iced tea they would talk like old friends. When dad came back into the house I would ask, “Who was that?” and he’d say “just someone I pulled over last week.” He believed in second chances and that people truly could redeem themselves.
Even with Dad’s involvement and participation in so many different facets of life, his greatest legacy is that of faith. He was a man of deep faith. One of his favorite Bible verses was Joshua 24:15 that says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve; . . .as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” We grew up in a home where Jesus was talked about and loved. Dad may not have been outspoken theologically, but shared his faith by example. He loved the Mass, attending weekly and on Holy Days, and in retirement, attended daily Mass. He loved Eucharistic Adoration. He and mom prayed the rosary daily at 6:30 each morning. Whenever he was asked what the key to his long lasting marriage was, he replied “God first, Char second, family third and the rest just falls into place.” He often went to the Poor Claire’s with our family’s prayer requests and would bring them ice cream as an offering. Many mornings, as I was growing up, I would come downstairs and Dad would be sitting at the kitchen table reading his Bible, even after being out all night on a call. Each year he looked forward to going on a silent men’s retreat at Kings House to refresh and rest.
Dad believed in the importance of serving others. That was evident in his service in the National Guard, his career choice of law enforcement and pretty much everything else he became involved with. He also loved this parish and served on various committees and councils, volunteering his time and talents. Even in death, Dad continues to serve others. Through Organ Donation, his eyes are helping someone else see the beauty and the sanctity of life.
Having all of you here today, Dad would be humbled and honored; his family and friends gathered to pay tribute and say farewell to someone whose smile would light up a room. As one friend shared, “God could see your dad’s great smile in Heaven too.”
Well Dad, you now have an eternal smile that we look forward to seeing again someday.
We love you Dad!