Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Tribute to My Dad

February 25, 2014

Time softens some of the loss and settles the mind. It has been a whirlwind since my dad died on February 11. We left returned home to Chicago that day having shared our love for dad in his last hours. Shortly after on February 15, we left for our long-planned vacation to Anna Maria Island, FL with the blessings of my brother to go ahead with our plans knowing that his memorial was planned for March 1.

Now that I am back home and settled in from traveling, I turn my thoughts to my dad, Martin Blakley. He was a quiet and humble man who had a subtle sense of humor. Kind, caring and helpful, he had so many friends who loved and depended on him.

Having served in the US Army during World War II, my dad's Division landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on that fateful D-Day. Yes, he survived but he saw many, many of his comrades perish that day and never wanted to talk about it much. I am so proud of him and his bravery and can only imagine what it was like to go through a day like that!

Martin Blakley (R)

He returned home to Ft. Wayne, Indiana after his service.

Dapper young man; no wonder my mom fell for him!
That's where he met my mother, Dorothy, who he called "Dot." He loved her dearly and deeply; and they had 63 challenging and satisfying years together. I either didn't think about it or didn't realize the depth of his love until my mother died in 2009.

He was never quite the same after she left us. Maybe it was seeing how she suffered; he always hated hospitals and nursing homes in the best of times! The day before he died, he asked his Hospice nurse to play, "At Last," the song he and mom danced to the night they met. It was a 1941 song and was played that night by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Made popular by Etta James and sung at President Obama's inaugural ball by Beyonce,' I found it ironic. Dad was a die-hard Republican, but the politics of today had nothing to do with a memory he wanted to relive as he was dying.

My dad apprenticed as a plumber and raising a family during the Depression was not easy. When I was ten, he took a leap of faith and founded his own business, with my mother's continual support. It was called, Blakley Plumbing and in 2007 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the company my dad started. Now owned by my brother, Roger, Blakley Plumbing has had 3 generations of the family working there.

(L-R) Marty, Roger, Martin Blakley

Next to his grandchildren and great grandchildren, Dad probably loved his 1929 Model A Ford more than any of he hobbies he enjoyed. He delighted in taking family members, especially little ones, on rides during the family reunion each year. He exhibited it at various summer car shows and the car was even featured in a movie in which dad had to drive the car!

Family reunion
Local parade
Car in a movie
Dad's five grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren loved him dearly. He was always there at special occasions for the nearby grandchildren and enjoyed the family gatherings especially when we got a poker game going!

Mom, Dad and the 5 grandchildren

Mom and Dad loved playing poker and had lifelong friends who they played with regularly. I fondly remember those fun-loving games. We kids looked forward to having the folks come over because mom always made great snacks and we got to stay up a little later. All the friends were almost part of our family. Over time as the friends got older and older, there were less people at the poker table. The loss of his friends and poker buddies was a source of great sadness for my dad. He was able to continue to play now and then with my brother and sister-in-law and some of there friends, and he still did well and enjoyed it greatly!

One month before his death at age 93, my dad was still driving and taking his dog, Jack, on rides about 3 times daily. According to him, Jack really loved those rides and demanded them each day. Truth be told, dad was always looking for something to do during his lonely days. Jack has already found a new home with a 7-year-old child and he still has energy and lots of love to give.

You'll be missed by many, Dad. Rest in Peace and I hope mom was waiting at the poker table for you!

Updated March 3, 2014:
Dad's memorial was held on March 1 and it was a lovely service with many in attendance. Afterwards, we were able to visit with family and friends at my brother Rog's house. There was much food and conversation.

After everyone except the immediate family was gone, money from dad's wallet was used for him to "treated" us to carry-out ribs from his favorite place, The Rib Room. I love it when the five grand children are all together. The stories they tell about growing up with Nanny and Pop are hilarious!

Martin's Grandchildren, top to bottom: Nicole, Sarah, Martin, Bethany, Elizabeth
Great Grand-Twins: Paris & Marissa
Later that night, they all picked a hat from Pop's collection


Kathryn Vercillo said...

Beautiful tribute. Sending hugs.

Anonymous said...

Gwen - My sympathy to you and your family on your dad's passing. When I read your post just now, it rushed back memories of my mom and dad who are both gone. Same era - WWII duty overseas, meeting at a dance, played cards with friends (pinochle in their case) - and I had much empathy for you as today is his memorial service. The memories never die though, and you have so nicely written about those that are precious to you. What a wonderful tribute. Debbie Klein