Remembering Dad

February 8, 1994, I will never forget the evening of this day.  Jennifer, who was 2 at the time was already in bed for the evening.  In my living room, I sat teaching a Bible study to a young woman named Dawn.  In the middle of the Bible study the phone rang.  I quietly chided myself for forgetting to turn off the ringer as I answered the phone.  "Hello, Carol?" a voice on the other end spoke.  "Yes," I replied.  "This is Theresa, your stepmother Laura's sister."  In my mind I thought, "Laura's sister, why is she calling me?Laura?  Dad?  Something's wrong!" She asked if I was sitting down, and when I responded "yes", she proceeded to tell me that my dad had passed away a few hours ago.  "What?" was my shocked reply.  Dad had been out shoveling snow, during one of those common Chicago snowstorms.  After he was done, he came in, took off his boots and sat talking with my stepmother for a few minutes.  He then went into the restroom, and that was when my stepmother heard a loud crash.  My dad had fallen over as a result of a massive heart attack.  It was so hard to believe.  Dad, who always seemed so active, gone at age 56.  The next few days were filled with  sadness and the busyness of making preparations to fly back for the funeral.  Once all of Dad's six kids were together, we had to make a decision about who would speak on behalf of the family at the funeral.  I wish that I could have, but at the time, I felt too crushed with grief to attempt it.  Tom, my oldest brother volunteered to do it.  We all agreed that we would be in prayer for Tom.  He only had one night to prepare before the funeral.  In memory of my dad, I want to share Tom's eulogy, for it so portrayed the man that my dad was.  Although I'm sorry to say that my dad never experienced Biblical salvation, he was a kind and giving person who cared very much for his family and friends.  I cherish the happy memories that I have of him.  God really anointed my brother when he gave this eulogy.  Even the Catholic priest that presided over the service(and was elderly)said it was the best eulogy he had ever heard.  Amidst the sadness of that day, I felt an immense pride in my brother and a thankfulness to God for giving him these words.

Dad’s Eulogy 

Somebody said it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied

That maybe it couldn’t, but he would be the one

Who wouldn’t say “no” till he tried

So he buckled right in

With a trace of a grin on his face

If he worried, he hid it

And he started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done—and he did it.

In my mind, one of the toughest things to tackle in our days, perhaps something where not a lot of men with children place much weight of importance on, but nonetheless a challenge to be tackled—is that of being not just a father with children, but a good father to children—and in the case of my dad—a very good father—the best.

-Always putting his kids and loved ones before himself, he would rather be uncomfortable than see us be uncomfortable.  He’d rather go without than see one of us suffer need.

-Always there to lend an ear.

-Dad spent time with his children—not only at home but also taking us away from, and outside of, the homefront:

.  Taking us kids to the store via dad-powered toy wagon

Castle ice cream place for cool summer treats

.  Brookfield Zoo, where dad would often act like some of the animals.

.  Morton Arboretum and the Old Grau Mill where we hid amongst the trees and trails to                     hide from martians and other aliens.  

Museum, where we climbed in and out of old war tanks with dad.

.  Fun fairs(used to be called Free fairs)with Gram and Gramps and others.

-Then there were turkeys and hams carved by dad.

-Writing on dad’s back with multi-colored pens—dad seemed to love that.

-Dad’s pizza bread, spaghetti sauce, deviled eggs and other (usually Italian)delectables.

-Back massages—by dad—he gave the best, Aunt Mer.

-Dad the gardener—from building his own greenhouses indoors, to growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and zillions, it seemed of other fruits and vegetables—oudoors.

-Dad couldn’t fix much—just TV’s, refrigerators, antennaes, air conditioners, thermostats, cars, bikes, flat tires, leaks of all kinds, old trailer home porches, squeaky doors, doorbells, heaters, new accessories that needed putting together, clocks, radios—you say, “It’s broken,” the norm was – dad tried to fix it.

-Dad the comforter—when certain of us flunked our first driver’s test, dad comforted with the words, “all successes come through failure,” and then Karen passed her 2nd test.

-Pony rides on dad’s back—although he did fall a little short on that with us these last few years.

-Gifts and money on Christmas and birthdays.

-Dad took us out on Father’s Day.

-Dad loved to barbecue—for us.

-Dad treated us on his birthday.

-Treats at Old Country Buffet.

-Picking up friends—our friends-from the airport.

-Station wagons and vans—how dad loved them.

-Popsicles in the summer.

-Games like Trivia Pursuit, Scattergories, Outburst, Pictionary—to name a very few.

-Computer Wit—always upgrading, finding new games, new features, figuring out new ways of doing computer functions.

-Never showing favoritism or partiality toward any one of us although we KNOW the Big Kids were VERY special to him.

-Helping us with homework.

-Taking us blueberry picking and apple picking when we were young.

-Attending our graduations and for some of us – weddings—with gifts and money.

-Always working on crossword puzzles.

-Loved flea markets—and those tools!

-Bingo player—rarely won a dime but played anyway.

-Wildly delirious line dancer—that is—if he had just eaten a 4 lb. burger—with fries, at Dumas Walkers.

-In the early Atari days, dad was up at the crack of dawn playing Frogger.

-Always caring, always unselfish, always running for others.

-Dad found time for books too—science books, science fiction books, mysteries, hard bound books, paperback books, book-shelf builder.

-Dad the driver—always felt safe with dad driving.

-Dad the house fixer-upper.

-Dad the paneler.

-Dad the lawn mower.

-Dad the twig and tree branch picker-upper.

-Dad the pooper-scooper—he loved those dogs—Thunder, Mayling, Hawkeye.

-Dad the patio builder.

-Dad the closest I know of anyone to being an overall Jack-of-All-Trades.

-Plus, always working overtime, but still finding time somehow for friends and loved ones.

I thank God for the treasure He gave us when He gave us my dad.  Although today, we’ll be burying an earthly body, in my mind, this treasure of memories—and really more than just memories, but also labors of love that touched many lives—this treasure will never—Capital N—Never be buried.  I thank God for my dad.

Tom Contino      

7 thoughts on “Remembering Dad

  1. Oooh what a truly awesome tribute for a wonderful man. You just reminded me of some things I need to put on my dad’s list. I’m giving it to him tomorrow at dinner. He’s so amazing.

    Someone told me a long time ago that the best thing I could do for her (just having lost her husband) is to make sure I always cherish my parents and love them. I do and I DO.


    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Carol,

    Thanks for reprinting this. After reading it again, I feel like your precious pup-all Misty-eyed.


  3. Sissy:

    I always get teary-eyed and sentimental around Father’s Day and Christmas thinking about and missing Dad. I’m so glad we all got to be together for the funeral and draw strength from each other and even some laughter in the midst of our deep sorrow. Thank you for sharing this.


  4. Sissy,

    Thanks for blogging about Dad . . . I’m going to put it in my album . . . I tried to get Tzeetz to let the kids write on his back the other night . . . but he made them leave the caps on the pens!


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