We lost one of the good ones on Friday.
My father-in-law Tom was a great guy. He grew up on a fox farm on the East Coast, went off to war at the tender age of 17, and flew B-24's on dozens of missions. He came home, tried college for a bit, and then went to work. He made his name in plastics, met and married his beautiful bride Ali, and raised four kids, the youngest of which I'm quite fond of.
I didn't get to know him until very late in his life, but we sure made up for lost time. Tom (or "Geno", as I came to affectionately call him) could fix just about anything, was quick to lend a hand or ideas on projects, and was always interested in what was happening in my professional life. My friends all loved him, he loved them back, and no one could believe he (or Ali, for that matter) was as old as he was.
He walked daily, rain, snow, or shine, to stay on top of his weakened heart - multiple bypass operations couldn't slow him down. We often joked that he had been playing with "house money" when it came to his heart, the miracles of modern medicine keeping him with us for as long as possible.
Sunny days would find Geno sitting on the porch, enjoying one of his cigars, and chewing the fat. We would talk football, the Rockies, my Sun Devils, merits of the designated hitter, his struggling Jets; and his favorite subject of all, politics.
Tom loved listening to Rush, watching Fox News, and reading all the books from the various network personalities. If we hadn't spoken for a few days due to my business travel, we'd go over the list of stuff he wanted to catch up on. He was able to vote in the last election, and was thrilled on election night to see the Democrats receive a good thumping. He was a daily reader of WAMK, wore his t-shirt everywhere, and loved the random stuff I would find and post.
He volunteered at the zoo, processing the various items that went out to schools on loan. He'd make sure everything was put back in its proper place, and get the next batch ready to go out. He'd keep us up to date on the inner workings and gossip of the organization. We'd joke that he was the CEO, his passion and knowledge of the place. He loved the work, and the ladies he worked with.
He was a devoted man of the Church. Rarely missed a Mass, was buddies with Father Chris (they had an inside joke in which Father would speak to him in a tortured "New Yawk" accent, a tradition the continued when Father Chris spoke about Tom yesterday at his memorial), and was my go-to guy for questions on anything religion-related. He was so proud of the little Duper at her first communion last year.
He was deeply in love with his wife Ali. 64 years of marriage on this planet before she died last year, and we watched Tom change from being waited on to becoming her caregiver during the last year of her life. He learned how to shop for them, cook for them, and take care of her in a way he never had to before. He'd make sure she had her meds, got her to her appointments, and tried to keep her happy and comfortable.
He moved in with us for a few months after she passed, a new chapter and experience for all of us. We set him up in the front room, learned just how high the volume on our TV went, and included him in our semi-weekly DJ night in the kitchen. He'd cocktail with us, dance with the Duper, and egg us on. He was always up for an adventure into the mountains, to Home Depot, or to school for pickup. We found him an apartment in an independent living facility, he made some new friends, and would still join us for cocktails, conversations, and a home-cooked meal.
His health began to slip over the last month or so. His heart had a lot of miles on it, and things were beginning to break down. He was in and out of the hospital after stays of a few days several times. He came home for good last Thursday. I had been out of town on business, and we caught up a bit on Friday morning. His oldest son was coming into town on Sunday for a few days, so we knew we would have lots going on.
We got the call that he passed a little after 7 pm, exactly one year to the day as his wife. If that wasn't amazing enough, he died within an hour of Ali to boot.
We had a small ceremony yesterday morning, attended by his fellow residents, zoo co-workers, our friends, and our family. He was surrounded by love, and Father Chris gave a wonderful memorial.
He was a pilot, a father, a child of God, a grandfather, and most of all, my friend.
I'll miss him terribly.