Saturday, June 16, 2012

For My Father

Daddy and his sister, Barbara, circa 1940

My father never served in the military, wore a badge, drove an ambulance or put out a fire.  But in my eyes he was a hero.  As a minister in the 1960s and 70s he spoke from the pulpit against racial inequality and social injustice.  He put his words into actions as a social worker with the Cleveland Christian Home, the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Center, and the Cuyahoga County Welfare department.  A news reporter described him as “idealistic and compassionate.”  I totally agree.
            But lest you get the idea that daddy was stuffy and pious, he was anything but that.  He had an offbeat, often corny, and sometimes risqué, sense of humor.  Spike Jones was a favorite of his, and had he lived longer he would have loved Monty Python and Benny Hill.  He had an amazing collection of big band records on old 78 rpm records and newer “stereo”33rpm recordings of Nat King Cole.  

Left to right: Jack and Ruth Herrington, Dick Herrington, Dave and Lois Thompson

            He was born December 5t,1933 to Donald and Ruth (Herrington) Thompson who named their first born son, David Herrington Thompson.  On his father’s side he was a 6th generation Clevelander.  The Thompson family lived on Gorman St. on the Southeast side of Cleveland near the place where his 3xgreat grandfather, Elijah Gunn, had built his home in 1800.  Elijah and his wife Anna had been part of the surveying party led by Moses Cleaveland.  Anna was one of two women in the party and received land in her name from the Connecticut Land Company for her services to the party.  The land was then in the township of Newburg, but by the time Daddy was born Newburg had long been a part of Cleveland. 
            Daddy grew up attending the Miles Ave. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), went to Bethany College in West Virginia (where I was born), attended seminary in Lexington, Kentucky and then went on to get his MA in Social Work at Western Reserve University.  But he always had to ask my mom how to spell!

Daddy's ordination, Euclid Ave. Christian Church, 1963

             Daddy loved gadgets and electronics.  I am convinced he would have an IPad, IPod, smart phone, etc. even at the age of 78 years old, if he were alive today.
From my father I learned to accept and embrace diversity, his friends came from all different backgrounds.  He told me never to judge anyone until you’ve walked in their shoes, cliché I know, but Daddy truly lived this way.  He also taught me never, never to talk to an elephant in a tree, or there would be dire consequences!  (Ok for that one I guess you had to be there)
Daddy and me, Lexington, Kentucky

            My husband was stationed at Fort Knox, so we were living in Elizabethtown, Kentucky with our 6 month old son in February of 1975.  Since we did not have a phone the police came to the door to tell us that my father had died.  As I walked down to the street the next morning to use the office telephone, the birds were singing.  This surprised me.  My world had just crashed and the birds were still singing.  It did not seem right. 

            It still does not seem right that my amazing, gifted, compassionate, funny father was only given 41 years on this earth.  I miss him every day of my life, but he left me with an inheritance.  He bequeathed to me his zest for life, his optimism, his compassion and his love of people.  I imagine him in Heaven, making Jesus laugh with his corny jokes and off the wall humor.  Thank you, Daddy, for all that you gave me.  I love you.
Daddy and me, 1956