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Life and Death Intrudes

November 11, 2010

I have a lot of the work on the books done, but life intervened. My father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure some years ago. After breaking his leg, he was in a nursing home. Being off his feet for so long while the break healed aggravated the heart condition and pneumonia brought him down. I spent the last week in Cleveland, came back this morning and got the word he died this afternoon. The service will be Monday in Cleveland and I’ll be there for some time afterwards with my mother

Like so many fathers in the 1950s, my father worked too hard and let mom handle my upbringing. My memories are more of him and I when I was an adult. He was a wonderful man, though, kind and charitable with a deep abiding faith and wonderful sense of humor.

The nursing home where he was staying asked me to write about him for their newsletter. It is hardly my best work, having been written in just a short time last month while I was home,  but I’d like to share:

My first work experience was at New Central Market where my father had a stand, Howard’s Meats, that sold lamb. It was located across from one of the main entrances for the downtown market, which made him a sort of unofficial greeter for shoppers. But that was something that my father, who has always liked interacting with people, loved to do.

My dad was born in April 1924 and raised on the near West Side during the long lean years of the Depression. When he was young, his mother and father, younger brother and sister lived with his maternal grandmother in a bungalow on Mapledale Ave. After his mother died of rheumatic fever, his father remarried and moved out of that house. Howard felt much closer to his grandmother than his stepmother and eventually moved in with her, staying there through his years at St. Ignatius High School up until ( though he was and is rather blind without his glasses) he was drafted for World War II. By then he had spotted my mother, Eleanor (Kiraly), found out from friends where she lived, stopped by and, with persistence, got on the good side of her Hungarian mother and eventually with her. He and my mother corresponded through the war.

He served in North Africa and Sicily and took part in the invasion of Italy and Normandy. He was wounded twice and, after Normandy, was one of the earliest soldiers to return home. He and Eleanor were married in October 1945 and stayed a bit at her parents’ house on 92nd St. before moving into a duplex on 82nd near Denison Ave. I was born in December 1946 and am their only child. 

Dad used his GI education benefit to become skilled in dental technology, and worked in a dental lab for a time. However, he also had a second job at New Central Market. It was work he liked much better and, when his employer died, he bought the business and operated it until he was in his late 50s when the market was purchased and razed to make way for Jacob’s Field.  Much of his lamb was sold to the Lebanese and we attended many of their summer picnics, church functions and occasional weddings. On the way home from work, he would make deliveries throughout the West Side, giving credit to those who were a bit short on funds to pay right away. I learned charity from him (the scene where Irena heads off the butcher making a delivery is lifted from what I saw him do one night just before Christmas). I also learned thrift. I can still recall my parents counting the money and calculating the profits every Saturday night, and her asking, “Are we rich this week?” They had lean months and more prosperous ones, but years of doing without when they were young made them naturally thrifty, and they did well. This month, my parents will have been married for 65 years.


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  1. Teresa A Townsend permalink

    Elaine, My father was born in 1924 also. I was born in 1946 (Nov.) eldest of 5 children (4 girls and 1 brother (died Nov. 2003 @ 48 yrs of age). My mother was born in 1927. My heart goes out to you in losing a parent. My father died a few years ago. He had sexually molested me for years when I was (it started before I) was a teenager. My mother held it against me until 2 years ago – she called me out of the blue and announced that she “believed me” – I asked what she believed and she said, “You know” to which I said no I do not. She said “With your father”. At that point all I could think was – Thanks – just 50 years plus too late!
    So all of this to say to you, although this may be very difficult for you losing your Dad, but be count your blessings that he knew you loved him and you know that he loved you!
    I can almost be certain that you and your mother have a loving relationship also.
    Bless you and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Siiri permalink

    Losing a parent is hard, especially when it’s sudden. Did you base the shop owner who lets the Savas keep a tab in Nocturne on him?

    • Absolutely. That was lifted right from that night.

      • Siiri permalink

        Oh yeah — I see it in the original post now. Duhrrr. Dunno how I missed that.

  3. You were blessed with a loving father which makes it all the harder to lose him. My thoughts are with you and your family in this difficult time.

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