After a long illness, my dad died last week.
I wasn’t sure that I’d want to write about this, now or ever. The more I talked about him to my family - who didn’t know him well, primarily due to geographical distance and my mom’s aversion to traveling when they were both still healthy, I realized that I was the only one who could or would tell his story.
His story isn’t complicated and if I were stingy with words I’d simply say this:
He was a good man. Never got into trouble of any kind. Never cheated on his wife. Never hit his kids. Never did a dirty business deal. Didn’t cuss. Didn’t drink.
You could reach back across the 87 years of his life and find no one - not a single person - who would speak ill of him. I got my sense of humor and love of motorcycles from him.
I can recall seeing a photo of him on a Triumph as a young man of perhaps 22 or 23 and instantly deciding I, too, would ride motorcycles. His purchase of a Cushman scooter when I was 10 was the key next step. For reasons that today aren’t clear, I thought for years that he was on an Indian motorcycle in that picture. That became the root of my love of Indians, particularly the Chief. Funny how a misunderstanding as a kid can impact our adult decisions decades later.
My dad took us on so many epic road trip vacations when we were young. Glacier National Park. Banff. Winnipeg. Sault Ste. Marie. Mackinac Island. Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. Dozens of camping trips in Missouri.
More than anything else, my dad taught me that your integrity is the only thing you truly own & control. It’s your most important possession - the one aspect of ‘you’ that defines who you are. He was quiet about this, but anyone who knew him realized that my dad’s word was rock solid.
He spent his professional career as an advertising photographer in St. Louis, notably producing iconic imagery for Anheuser Busch for many years. He and his art director conceived the Budman character. He turned photographs of Clydesdales into pieces of fine art. He was really, really good at his craft. The times I got to visit his studio in downtown St. Louis are special memories.
During my last visit with him a little over a month ago, I gave him a coffee-table style book of photos of me & my family. It wasn’t anywhere near the quality of his work - virtually every picture was from an iPhone - but he loved it. It’s fitting that our last face-to-face conversation centered around photographs, as that had been such a big & meaningful part of his life.
I may write more at another time, but this is all for now.