I know that some of you couldn’t make it to the funeral or celebration of life for my dad. So, I’ve decided to upload the magnificent video my brother put together (see below). The video is about 7 minutes…and has lots of great pictures and music.
Below, is the eulogy I gave at the celebration. The eulogy is a flavor of what my dad was like. It’s very difficult to put into words what kind of man he was, but between the video and the eulogy, perhaps you’ll have a better idea (that is, if you didn’t know him well)!
What do you say about a guy who was larger than life? If it were up to Dad, he’d say, “Tiff, just tell ‘em your old man was cute!”
We all know that Dad was a guy who everyone knew….in Corcoran that was magical. I couldn’t believe that Dad could go into the Mercantile or Farmers Lumber without so much as signing a slip of paper. He’d pick something off the shelf, wave it up in the air, and off we’d go. And the magic continued when I was old enough to buy candy at the R&M or Square Deal Market or gas for my car at Union 76. Tell ‘em your Gary LeMay’s daughter and you could buy just about anything in town…and magically at the end of the month Mom and Dad would get the bill.
Of course, the flip side of being Gary’s daughter is that there wasn’t anywhere to hide. If you got into trouble, people knew where to find you (or him)!
For those of you who don’t know some of the basics – here’s what you need to know.
· Dad was one of seven kids….the youngest boy.
· He was raised in Corcoran his entire life…
· His parent migrated from Oklahoma; think dustbowl times. I could tell you stories about how hard they had it; and believe me, times were hard. Imagine a family of 5 living in a tent with a dirt floor.
· His parents worked hard, but he was blessed by three older sisters who helped raised him. I know they are a big part of the man he became.
Mom would probably like it if I skipped the teenage years…the hell raising, trouble making boy he was. Like the time he and his friends skipped class, hauled their buddy’s car to the second floor of the high school….and get this….started the car and drove it down the hall!
The stories are endless. And I hope, at the end of the night, you will come up and share some of your own with me and my brother….as these are the kinds of stories we cherish.
Mom, of course, didn’t know any of this when Dad caught her eye at the Tulare Bowling Alley. Yes. The Tulare Bowling Alley. Romantic, isn’t it?! But caught her eye he did and before she could blink they were hitched. Susie and Gary. Together, their names form the word “Sugar”….
And too much of that Sugar created ME and then my brother Brandon!
When it comes to a one of a kind Man….it’s hard to put into words simply the kind of impact he had on my life. Basically, he was a simple guy. He loved his family, he worked hard, and he loved his country. But, when it comes down to it….any guy can become a Father….but only a Man leaves behind a legacy for his children and his grandchildren. So, my goal tonight is to give you a flavor of My DAD.
Gary LeMay – isms.
Dad had a saying for lots of things.
Breakfast: Dad’s word for breakfast was “eee choo”. The story goes that I actually coined this name as a youngster and well, it stuck. And so, for the rest of my life, whenever we’d drag ourselves into the kitchen in the morning (Dad was always very Chipper in the AM)….he’d ask if we wanted any “eeee chooooooo” for breakfast.
And so, when became a hay salesman, you know, selling food for cows….it was only natural for that license plate on his truck to say “moo choo”. And now you know….the rest of the story.
A particular favorite Gary LeMay-ism of mine was “Tiff, you can marry more money in 15 minutes than you can make in a lifetime”. If only I’d listened to that one! J
First Grandson: “The Little Air Bubble”
Lesson Learned: A life with fun is a happy one.
As a parent, my dad had this little trick down pat. Imagine being a 16 year old kid and having your dad answer the phone “LeMay’s firehouse, you light ‘em we fight ‘em.” Imagine the horror of realizing your dad is going to make it to the phone before you do.
Mom had a hand in this too. We all know how Gary and Susie can dance. Let me tell you about a little trip to Disneyland. Mom and Dad learned that a band would be playing one night and so, they sat us down in the chair, Me only 10 yrs old, Brandon only 8 and they said, “Kids, stay here. Don’t move.” We sat there watching people dance…..when the crowd literally parted….there was my Dad, on his knees….with my Mother “shimmying” her way to him. At that moment, I would have loved to have had new parents. The embarrassment continued the next day when we were standing in line for rides and people recognized us!
Lesson Learned: Having a little embarrassment in life not only brings laughs, but makes you tough.
My dad saw the good in everybody and everything. He never doubted that I’d pass the CPA exam on the first try or that my business would be successful. But, two passages out of my scrapbook say it all:
Basketball 1985: Score – a loss of 39 to 17. “The best game Tiffany has played – she was Dad’s choice for outstanding player of the game.” Brandon had 10 points…..Tiffany dribbled very well.”
Basketball 1985: Score – a win of 26 to 13. “The LeMay family scored half the team points – Brandon had 12 and Tiffany had 1, but…. she played great defense.”
Lesson Learned: Having someone as great as my dad as my biggest fan, was wind beneath my wings. He was going to be there, no matter what (even if you sucked at it!)
We all know that Dad worked hard….and played harder. And he taught us the same.
It’s a little known secret that my dad taught his girl how to use an iron. Yes, a clothes iron. And I was paid .20 a shirt to get his ironing done.
But, one of the greatest gifts my Dad ever gave me was to put a hoe in my hand when I was 15 years old and to send me out to the fields to chop cotton. Sure, he could have used that “LeMay magic” to get me a job in the office or somewhere else in town….but nope. He was perfectly happy to drive me out to the fields each summer morning, no matter how hot it was supposed to be or how tired I might have been.
Lesson learned: Nothing in life comes easy. Everything in life must be earned. And hard work will pay off in the end.
So, with a little fun, a lot of encouragement, and a mix of hard work and embarrassment, Dad raised a couple of decent kids and well, his grandkids are pretty much near perfect.
But there’s more. And it’s the most important one.
In my opinion, Dad’s biggest legacy was the one that said, “Even though you are a girl from Corcoran, it does not mean you cannot become the President of the United States.” He meant it. If you can dream it, you can be it. If you set your mind to it, it will happen. Fake it till you make it.
Now, isn’t that the true gift? The opportunity to live a life of purpose and meaning outside of the comforts of home and the people that you’ve always known?
To know that no matter where you go, the people who love you will be there. No matter what.
He didn’t promise a rose garden. He didn’t promise it would be easy. He only promised that he had our back and when we didn’t believe in ourselves he believed enough in us to make it happen.
I only hope he made us tough enough to survive a future without him.
So, let’s toast my DAD. Forever “My Main Man.”
Dad’s Video, by Brandon LeMay
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