Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In Memoriam #3


January 2, 1917 - April 12, 1995

Today marks the last of my family's Memoriam-In-Triplet. In month sequence, Dad was last. But in year sequence, he was first, followed by Bennett the next year and then Mom a year later. All 3 within 2 years minus 2 weeks! Besides that, Dad died on the Wednesday before Easter, so 11 years later we have come full circle.

I have no idea how old Dad is in the above photo. I think it may be a high school photo (Ruth, if you know, pray tell). But this photo next to the Ford Woody is from 1951 when he was 34 and I was 6. By that time there were 6 of us 8 kids, so Dad needed the stationwagon, given to us by Mom's step-dad who was a Ford salesman in NYC.

In those days, Dad was a poor preacher. Always was, if you go by what some preachers make today. But of course, Dad was never in it for the money. It was always his "calling" and he did it for all the right reasons, as far as I ever saw. He simply was a Man of the Cloth--a spiritual leader.

His dad was 70 (YES!) when my dad was born the youngest of 3 kids (his mother was 47!). And died when Dad was 9. His mom never remarried and raised the 3 kids. Uncle Jimmie died the year before Dad (which means 4 in my extended family died within 3 years!) but Auntie Sue (the oldest of the 3) is still alive in Virginia at 95!

Dad attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville but never graduated because he had to go home to take financial care of his mother. He was already preaching by 18, receiving calls from small parishes in Virginia before moving to Michigan in 1946 when I was one. He was there till he died of lung cancer in 1995 (never a smoker a day in his life). He joined no denomination but became essentially a Bible Preacher in baptist churches that had no affiliation with any conference. That was his style--to just preach after the conviction of his heart.

Everything I know about conservation, making a good bargain, saving a penny, and giving back what I don’t need, I learned from Dad. If given payment for weddings and funerals or speaking engagements outside of his church, he’d either give it back or to charity. He felt it all belonged to God, not him, no matter what. If he needed to supplement his income, as he did in the early days, he did professional sign-painting odd jobs. He was an artist in his own right (Mom was the musician!) and did this pen-and-ink drawing of his own bookplate (used on his tombstone below).

At home Dad was a man of few words, often staring off into space while working on his next sermon. He loved nothing better than making a point through a good story and preferably one that drew a chuckle. So his sermons were made up of good stories, many of which I remember to this day.

The night he died, he was in a hospice bed set up in the dining room with all us kids and spouses gathered around him. Mom, in her beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, came in and with great exasperation asked, “WHEN is the funeral?!?” I was at the foot of the bed massaging Dad’s feet and looked up at her with a chuckle and said, “We don’t know, Mom, because Dad hasn’t kicked the bucket yet.”

You need to know that I wasn’t being disrespectful of Dad or Mom in that moment. I was kinda pulling a Dad on her. Immediately he started laughing and said, “That reminds me!” He then started to tell a kick-the-bucket story he had told in his sermons. But as he started the story, he also started the 6-hour coma before his death and kept fading off after the first sentence or two. We’d start laughing, which would wake him up, and he’d start the story from the beginning, fading off again. We knew the story but he never finished it. Six hours later he kicked the bucket…and that’s exactly how he’d love us to tell it. We all in unison turned our heads to the hospice nurse who simply nodded her head, making “official” what we already knew.

It was the sweetest, quietest, most precious memory of Dad I can ever tell. He chuckled his way into Eternity.

Dad and Mom close to 50 years ago.

Today, after 11 years, I am quite sure he gets a little congregation together from time to time to retell that story. He knows now, of course, that Bennett and Mom followed him shortly thereafter and probably gets a kick out of telling his new friends that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

I guess you had to be there!


  1. Tears again! I just love that picture of G'Pa with G'Ma -- smiling so genuinely as he always was. The only time I remember him NOT smiling was in his casket -- looked nothing like him. I miss you, G'Pa!

  2. Lots of thoughts, but I'll relay 2:

    That first picture of G'pa is incredible! I see a lot of Nathan Carl in him...hmmm

    Mom would frequently tell me how G'pa would give back to the church in his own way. (In Pulman, MI?) he received produce from farmers to help feed his large family because he was paid so little. Mom remembers him then going to the market to price what those items (let's say x # bottles of goat's milk) would have cost he and G'ma to purchase. He would then turn around and give back to the church a portion in real money! He even had a ledger recording every gift received and it's monetary equivalent.


    I agree with Amy--he had such a genuine smile, and he just LOVED the babies! Except for my next younger cousin, Todd (2-1/2 years), I have memories of all the rest being smiled at and a foot wiggled as he hummed in affection.

  3. That was a great story. I couldn't imagine having a father that was 70 years old when I was born. And taking care of his mother quite early also. Incredible man for sure!

  4. i inherited many things from this man. his name, his passion for sermon-writing and delivery, his love of stories, and some of his looks.

    thanks for posting this.

  5. Wow, Bootsie, great history here. Thanks for the post. I hope we can have stories like this all over the family website. Would you mind contributing it?

    I DO see a resemblance between Nathan and Grandpa. But the first person I thought of when I saw that pic was Peter! Don't you agree?

  6. Amy: I love that your memory of G'pa is smiling. I don't think I ever knew that!

    Mrs. M/Shari: Yup, nate AND his dad, Jim!

    I'm sooo glad you shared about Dad's ledger. I actually had a hard time picking and choosing what to include before being way too lengthy. I figured some of it would come up in comments. And YES, thanks to you, it did!

    ET: That his own dad was that old never ceases to amaze me. His dad died at 79; my dad died at 78. But I was much older than 9!

    Nate: Yes, you are all over those first 2 photos! Definitely.

    Pablo/Paul: Thanks for your visit and comment! That means a lot to me. Feel free to use this in any way you wish, as well as Mom's and Bennett's. I'll leave that up to you (since I'm not sure what you're talking about!).

    I was talking to Ruth this morning and SHE said she saw Peter in that first pic of Dad. So you're not alone!

  7. actually, my wife sees a closer resemblance to Paul in these pictures.

  8. Thanks for such a beautiful tribute to Grandpa Hart. It brought tears to my eyes as well. He was certainly a man of God....such rich inheritance for the Hart family. Thanks again Bootsie.

    And yes, Nathan, does remind me a lot of his grandfather.


  9. Ginnie, what a beautiful tribute! I read this one and reread the other two and felt so touched by the wonderfulness of your parents and your brother. These are people who had busy lives and who touched the lives of others in such positive ways. I'm proud to have learned about them. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

  10. Instead of answering you at my blog, I decided to come and read your tribute to your father. A real religious man! Not somebody using religion to make bucks. I find this is great!

  11. Great stories Aunt Bootsie...I want to read more. I feel like I never got to know Grandma and Grandpa as much as my other cousins did because I barely made it out of grade school by the time they passed, so I love reading anything people have to say about them. Oh and the first person I thought of when I saw that first picture was Paul...HUGE resemblance in my opinion.

  12. What a great story. And what a special guy. But then, as special as you are, I would expect nothing less.

  13. Wonderful story, again!

    Your dad was a very talented man (I love his bookplate, of course!) and the memoriam you have made is a great tribute!

    My God Ginnie! How many people is there in your family! It seems that they just appear from all the places, like little bunnies! LOL! Very nice family you have there, though it's a little bit difficult to understand who is who, but I'm beginning to get it. Now, I know that when somebody call you Bootsie, he is in the family...

    Working on my hubby's one... it will be on Saturday, 15.

  14. I haven't had a good cry like this in a good long time...thanks.

  15. I really do love reading about your family. Your father was obviously a very talented artist, and that is a wonderful gravestone!!

    There is an intensity about him that comes through in that picture of him when he was younger, and what a lovely face. He was clearly a extraordinary and inspiring person. A wonderful post.

  16. That was a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I can relate to how he was when I read your posts. And I second Mr. Fab's comment: "as special as you are". I hope we get to meet someday ;-)

  17. Thanks Bootsie, I'm so glad Joe and I was there that day dad "kicked the bucket" You brought a freshness to a sweet Memoriam. Thanks again.
    Dee Dee and Joe

  18. Nate: I guess there's a family family resemblance then :)

    Wilma: Thanks so much for your kind comment. It looks like YOUR family and Ruth's are neck-n-neck on the resemblance thus far :)

    Dixie: Your words, too, have touched me. Thank you for taking the time to go back and reread the other Memoriams!

    Mei: You're right--he was a spiritual man who knew the difference between that and religiosity!

    Peter: You and Paul and Nate are "tied" on resemblance, I think :) How fun for us to see G'pa in you all. Since you were too young to be in the stories, I guess resembling him is the nbext best thing--if not better?

    Mr. Fab: Aww. You're just saying that 'cuz it's true :)

    Clo: I thought of you and DreamWalker when I put in the bookplate! Yup, even WE get confused over whoi we are in my family. Sometimes I go through 3 or 4 names before I say the right one! I very much look forward to YOUR Memoriam on Jacques. It will tell me so much about you both, I'm sure.

    John: Now I'm crying again! Thank YOU.

    DW: Thank you, thank you. It really is amazing how people can pick up on a person by the few things they read. He WAS an intense man, which is why his humor was so wonderful.

    CS: You are way too sweet and kind! I have a feeling we WILL meet someday, in Switzerland :) I can hardly wait.

    Dee Dee: I had forgotten you were there, but of course you were! You've been there all along, it seems like. So much a part of our big family!

  19. Boots,

    I've just spent the last hour catching up on your blogspot. Your 3 memorials are very touching. Thank you so much.


  20. Tears and joy and pride. You did it perfectly, and I love it. You really captured Dad.

  21. Nancy: Thank YOU.

    Ruth: Thanks to you, too!

  22. Thank you- Beautiful! Now I know where my generous nature comes from, and my willingness to work hard for what I believe in, even if I don't make a dime!

  23. BY THE WAY- I think Abigail Hart might bear a closer resemblance to G'pa Hart than any of you boys! She has those eyes!

  24. You definitely do have some special memories of your dad. Thanks for sharing them. They are heart touching.

  25. Obviously, your ability to be kind and loving to those around you must come from your parents. It is lovely that you show them such great respect. I wish all families were like this- the world would be such a different place.

  26. Rachel: I often see a lot of Dad AND Mom in me and ponder how that happens. We imitate what we see? But we also have some of the "genes," I think.

    I love what you said about Abby!

    Tim: Thanks for your kind words!

    TO: Sometimes we forget what we get from our parents. Or maybe we just don't think about it much. But you're absolutely right, Kim. We do owe so much to them and I agree that the world would be a better place. We were certainly not a perfect family but in retrospect, I'm clear on the fact that we all love(d) each other.

  27. Ohh Ginnie, que bonito recuerdo para tus padres. Se aprecia que estábais unidos. Yo tambien perdí a mi hermana hace 9 años, ella tenía 36. Un maldito cancer de colon se la llevó. Pero lo mejor de todo es que ellos siempre están y estarán con nosotros. Mis respetos, Ginnie.

    Ohh Ginnie, that pretty memory for your parents. It is appraised that you were united. I also lost to my sister 9 years ago, she had 36. A damn one cancer of colon took it. But the best thing of everything is than they always are and will be with us. My respect, Ginnie.