Archive for December 2013

Eulogy for Memorial Service for Stan Slocum, August 10, 2013, First Congregational Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

December 10, 2013
Stan Slocum, 1930-2013

Stan Slocum, 1930-2013

Stan Slocum, my Dad, had many interests and enthusiasms, but I’m going to talk about two of his greatest passions: the wide world, and the people who live in it.

Having grown up during the frugal era of the Depression and the gas rationing of World War II, Dad had to indulge his fascination with travel in unusual ways at first.  In his mid-teens, he travelled alone by bicycle from his home in Rockaway Beach, New York, to visit his relatives in eastern Massachusetts.  (His father allowed him to do this only after he had shown he could take the bicycle completely apart and put it back together again, which was a real accomplishment for a boy who grew up in the shadow of a very handy father but had inherited his mother’s affinity for people rather than machines).

When it came time to go to college, he set his sights beyond New York City, drawing a circle on the map at a distance that he thought could be a long day’s journey from New York, and looking at where that might take him.  Deciding on Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he developed his skills as a hitchhiker in order to save money making the trips back and forth.  On one of these trips, a truck driver picked him up and admitted that he was unfamiliar with New York City, never having driven there, and since Dad was a native, would he mind driving once they got there.  Dad happily obliged, omitting to mention that, although he had lived New York for the better part of two decades, he had never driven there either.

At Antioch Dad met my Mom, and they were married in their final year, knowing that, with the Korean War on, Dad would be entering the military upon graduation.  Spared overseas service, Dad was able to take Mom with him to his duty stations in Baltimore and Alabama.  Hearing Dad’s stories about the service, it sounds to me like it was a grand adventure in living in new places and meeting wonderful people who became lifelong friends.  I met many of these people because travelling to visit them continued to be a passion for my Dad, along with trips to enticing destinations here and abroad.

He treasured the souvenirs of these travels. In his frugal bicycling and hitchhiking days, he would buy a newspaper in each new city so that he could cut out its nameplate and add it to his pinned up collection on his bedroom wall.  After taking a photography course in the army, he took pictures, organizing them into narrated slide shows that have entertained audiences from our neighbors in Dansville, New York in the 60’s, to the Robin Run Community in the past few years.  When he discovered the National Parks Passport program, he developed a new passion for visiting any national park he came near, so that he could add its stamp to his passport and move ahead in a competition with an army friend who had developed the same passion.

While he never was a serious gambler, he was fascinated by state lotteries, so if we passed through a state that had one, he would buy a ticket and find a way to hear if he had won.  (I believe he convinced the clerk in one of the stores to call him with the winning number.)  Once Indiana had begun its state lottery, Dad would scour the ground for lost change and, when he had saved up a dollar, he would use it to buy a lottery ticket, which never paid off.

He visited six continents in all, and made new friends even in these far-flung places.  In Japan, Dad handed out copies of their photo Christmas card to anyone they met, and they formed a close friendship with the young woman who showed them around the Noritake factory, inviting her to visit them when she came to the United States, and cementing the friendship when her husband was posted in Chicago. After she had moved back to Japan, she timed a visit to Chicago to allow her to come to their 50th wedding anniversary in 2001.

It was at that celebration that I realized how all the visits to friends (always made with return invitations to visit Indianapolis, especially at the time of the 500 mile race), and all the photo Christmas cards sent faithfully each year, could pay off, as friends from high school, college, the army, his various jobs, the Clover Drive neighborhood, the newcomers club that they had joined when we moved here in 1968, and the church, all joined us here for the celebration.

His manner was warm, but could also be very straightforward.  In college he was known as “Honest Stan”, partly because of his fulfillment of Antioch’s value of personal integrity, but also because he could be quite outspoken about what he thought was right regardless of whom it might offend or inconvenience.  This could be helpful, as when he once had to fire an employee and made sure to tell the man just how he had failed to meet the job requirements, only to hear the man say how helpful it was to finally hear someone tell him these things.  This trait could be frustrating as well, when in meetings he could be the sole thorn in the side who would speak up against something that everyone clearly wanted to pass.

We know that he would love to be here for this gathering of his friends.  When we were in school he made a special effort to see us perform in any way, telling us that he was our “number one fan”.  When I gave a speech at my graduation from sixth grade (a big deal in Dansville, New York), he always regretted that he couldn’t be there because he had to be working in Pennsylvania that day.  And it saddens me now that he can’t hear me, Rick, and Ben give these talks today.  But I know that, wherever he is, he’s proud of us.

Eulogy delivered at Robin Run Community memorial service for Stan Slocum, August 7, 2013

December 10, 2013

Cropped dad with crossword puzzle

 
Stan Slocum, my Dad, had many interests and enthusiasms, but I’m going to talk about two of his greatest passions: the wide world, and the people who live in it.
Having grown up during the frugal era of the Depression and the gas rationing of World War II, Dad had to indulge his fascination with travel in unusual ways at first. In his mid-teens, he travelled alone by bicycle from his home in Rockaway Beach, New York, to visit his relatives in eastern Massachusetts. (His father allowed him to do this only after he had shown he could take the bicycle completely apart and put it back together again, which was a real accomplishment for a boy who grew up in the shadow of a very handy father but had inherited his mother’s affinity for people rather than machines). Decades later, when Parkinson’s disease was limiting his mobility, he could still revel in the independence of riding his tricycle around Robin Run.
When it came time to go to college, he set his sights beyond New York City, drawing a circle on the map at a distance that he thought could be a long day’s journey from New York, and looking at where that might take him. Deciding on Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he developed his skills as a hitchhiker in order to save money making the trips back and forth. On one of these trips, a truck driver picked him up and admitted that he was unfamiliar with New York City, never having driven there, and asked Dad to drive the truck once they arrived. Dad happily obliged, omitting to mention that, although he had lived New York for the better part of two decades, he had never driven there either.
At Antioch Dad met my Mom, and they were married in their final year, knowing that, with the Korean War on, Dad would be entering the military upon graduation. Spared overseas service, Dad was able to take Mom with him to his duty stations in Baltimore and Alabama. Hearing Dad’s stories about the service, it sounds to me like it was a grand adventure in living in new places and meeting wonderful people who became lifelong friends. I met many of these people because travelling to visit them continued to be a passion for my Dad, at first on road trips, and later by air. One year, he and my mother bought passes on Continental Airlines which allowed them to fly anywhere in the system for an entire year, with restrictions on the number of flights one could take in a single week, and on how often one could fly in or out of a particular airport. He was determined to get as much as he could for his money, so he arranged long trips, or flights into and out of airports within a few hours’ drive of Indianapolis, so they visited not only Continental’s more exotic destinations, but the cities whose major distinction was that a friend from college, the army, or a previous job lived there. I think they were away more than they were at home during that year.
In later years they took Elderhostel tours or organized their own travel, visiting six continents in all, and managing to make new friends even in these far-flung places. In Japan, Dad handed out copies of their photo Christmas card to anyone they met, and they formed a close friendship with the young woman who showed them around the Noritake factory, inviting her to visit them when she came to the United States, and cementing the friendship when her husband was posted in Chicago for some years. She timed a visit to Chicago from Japan so that she could be at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 2001. They also formed ties with several Australian couples that they met on a tour of China, paving the way for a lengthy trip they made to Australia to visit these people, and for some of the Australians to come visit them here.
Any time we would visit someone there would eventually come my father’s pitch to the hosts to visit us in Indianapolis, with a vivid description of the festivities around the Indianapolis 500, and quite a few people who probably never thought they would travel to see an auto race did in fact come then, often making a houseful that could spill into cots in the basement and people sleeping in the camping trailer in the backyard.
One of my favorite stories of Dad inviting someone to our house occurred when we were living in upstate New York and were taking a vacation in New England, visiting his relatives and seeing sights, including a small skyscraper in Montpelier, Vermont. We rode up in the elevator with a young Asian man and by the time we were riding down after the visit, Dad knew the man’s name and that he was from Malaysia, and he eventually arranged with some Massachusetts cousins to bring him along with them when they came to visit us later that summer. Jimmy Bowie stayed with us for about a week and we no doubt took him to Niagara Falls and some of the more bucolic attractions in the area. He got to see a part of the United States that he might otherwise have missed, and we got to think of Malaysia as not just a place on the map but as someone’s home.
Dad had a special rapport with children, being in some ways a big kid himself deep down. He loved dressing up as Santa Claus for friends’ kids and eventually for his own grandchildren, managing to keep them somewhat unsure for some years as to whether there might really be a Santa Claus. He could also use his adult persona to play games, telling children there could be “no smiling” with such a silly grim face that of course the children couldn’t help giggling. When we finished our supper he would feign disbelief and insist that we must have thrown it on the floor. This had its downside, as more than once we would be visiting someone and he would wind up the hosts’ children with such laughter and fun that bedtime could be a real struggle as they insisted on more of “Mr. Slocum.”
His manner was warm, but could also be very straightforward. In college he was known as “Honest Stan”, partly because of his fulfillment of Antioch’s value of personal integrity, but also because he could be quite outspoken about what he thought was right regardless of whom it might offend or inconvenience. He told me a story from his days as a personnel manager when he had to lay someone off. He gave the man very specific reasons for why his performance had not been satisfactory, only to have the man say how helpful it was that someone would finally tell him these things, as no one else had done so. This could be frustrating as well, when in meetings he could be the sole thorn in the side who would speak up against something that everyone clearly wanted to pass.
While he enjoyed physical activities like ping-pong and water skiing, he particularly liked games that mixed human interaction with strategy, such as bridge and poker. While he never was a serious gambler, he was fascinated by state lotteries. He would scour the ground for lost change and, when he had saved up a dollar, he would use it to buy a lottery ticket, which never paid off. For years he would buy a lottery ticket for each family member’s Christmas stocking. There would usually be one winner, who rarely won even as much money as all the lottery tickets had cost in the first place, but I can’t think of a better way for the grandchildren to learn how unlikely one is to get rich by winning the lottery than by years of seeing how many tickets lose.
The Parkinsons disease that he developed in the final ten years of his life slowed him down but he continued to travel when he could and he always enjoyed getting to know people, and I know that having so many good people to meet and talk with here at Robin Run was a great joy to him. We all knew that, as the disease progressed, it would be more and more difficult for him to travel and to talk with people, and so, while the leukemia that took him from us last week shocked us with its speed, we are glad that he was spared the continued decline in quality of life for such a vibrant and positive-thinking man as Stan Slocum. In his final days at the hospital and finally at the hospice we could only communicate with him in a limited way, but we hope that, as he saw death approach, he was experiencing it in the way that Robin Run resident Samuel Pugh described in his poem:
So this is Death!
This calm, this joy
This newborn sense of peace
‘Til now unknown

So this is Death—
No Pain, no grief,
No fear of anything
That life has shown.

So this is Death;
No breath, no speech,
No hurry through the hours
‘Til day is done.

So this is Death.
I feared it so;
But now I find that Life
Has just begun.