More on Don Baird 5/21/10
I wanted to put up the eulogy I gave for my dad at his memorial service which was held almost a year ago. It will be a year on June 7.
Today I want to offer some words of praise for my Dad. To me, he was a larger than life figure. He was a mainstay of love, support and devotion to family. Even now, his passing comes as a shock because of his presence, his resilience, his energy and his never-say-die spirit. He was a force.
He overcame so much in his life. He had more than his share of ups and downs. He knew tragedy, but what I find compelling was his unwavering optimism. In the face of adversities that were crushing, he found a way to remain positive. As one e-mail we received from a business associate put it, he was the kind of businessman you don’t find these days, one full of passion and integrity.
My Dad was a totally passionate man. He had so many life enthusiasms. I remember very competitive golf, tennis, ping pong, pool, horseback riding, fishing on his boat, Any Old Rags, learning to fly a plane and body surfing and the seashore.
He took me to Eagles and Phillies games for virtually my whole life. He taught me an appreciation for sports and a love of athleticism. When I was 10 or so, he took my friend, Hank Fried and me to Phillies Spring Training in Clearwater, Florida. We got autographs of Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn and Curt Simmons. That was pretty cool for a kid.
We listened to Stan Hochman talking Philly sports on the radio on the way to school in the morning. Later, it was sharing Bill Lyon columns from the Inquirer. Whether it was Richie Allen, Randall Cunningham, T.O. or Donovan McNabb, he loved talking sports, always hoping for that Eagles Super Bowl win that has never happened and that Phillies World Series victory that did.
As probably some of you know, my Dad and I still talked about 20 times on the phone during every Eagles game. He would call me in NH and keep me on the phone literally doing play by play. I loved my Dad’s enthusiasm for the play and players. Those memories are precious to me.
I think of my Dad’s passion in other contexts as well. When my brother Rich died, my Dad felt it so much. He talked of Rich frequently and how Rich got cheated out of life. It always bothered the hell out of him. It was his wish to be buried next to my brother.
When his dad, Phil, my Pop-Pop died, he went to a minyan at Adath Israel every morning for a year to honor him. He had tremendous feeling for his own dad. He always told a story about how he took cream to the prison for his dad when he was incarcerated. Dad paid off the prison guard to make sure cream got to Pop-Pop for his coffee.
My Dad completely supported his parents financially for many years. He did this selflessly and generously. Generosity was one of his signature characteristics. He gave even when he could not afford to give. He paid for private school, college and part of law school. When I graduated law school in 1985, he drove up a new Honda Civic that he gave me as a graduation present. When Debra and I bought our house in Wilmot, NH in 1989, he and my mom gave us the downpayment. We could not have closed on the house otherwise. He pretty much let me off the hook when I cracked up his fiberglass body Corvette Sting Ray in 1967. It was crazy how much he gave. No one knows.
My Dad was also passionate about my Mom. He was very proud of my Mom and would lavish praise on her whether it was her superb cooking or her 24/7 care-taking of him. He would often say that he did not know how she had put up with him for so many years and, in truth, he was not an easy man to oppose.
He and I had our conflicts. I remember one blow out argument in a restaurant in South Jersey. Dad was doing business in Chile. It was after Gen. Pinochet and the Chilean fascists overthrew Salvador Allende. We were center stage arguing about the Chilean revolution. Another time around 1971, dad was upset about sleeping arrangements at our house on Melrose Road when I had a girlfriend over. His face was beet red and the vein in his forehead was bulging out. I called him sexually repressed. I put him through a lot in a 1960s kind of way.
Still, I feel very fortunate that we were able to work through early conflicts. We had a chance to reconcile. My own life experience has given me a much deeper appreciation of how lucky I was to have a Dad like him.
He took incredible pride in the accomplishments of his children. So much so that it went completely over the top. He would tell every Tom, Dick and Harry about his Jonny, Lisa and Rob. That was cringe time.
I can safely say that I will never in this lifetime have a booster or fan who compares to my Dad. No one will ever be that loving, vocal or complimentary. Dad carried on this quality with grandkids as well. He bubbled over.
He always kissed me fully on the lips my whole life. There is only one other guy I know who does that – my NH friend Steve Cherry. It leads me to think there are 2 types of people. The full lip kissers and the people who give cheek. He was a full lip kisser. I believe it perfectly reflected his passionate embrace of life and living.
I miss him. I used to call him everyday. I tangibly feel his absence. I feel pride in the man he was – a man’s man. I was blessed to have a Dad like him.