Monday, June 27, 2011

A tribute to my father...

In loving memory of Jay Lutey
As delivered June 25, 2011, in Ironwood, Michigan

We Luteys were fortunate for several years to live close together. And then seven years ago, Sarah moved to Indiana... and three years ago, Mom and Dad moved to Ohio.
So home became wherever we could be together.

A Lutey tradition during the holiday season is to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We love Clarence the angel, who taught George Bailey that

“No man is a failure who has friends”

and told him:

“Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”

Standing here today. . . surrounded by so many who knew and loved him. . . I feel that my father was the richest man I’ll ever know.

One of my earliest memories is riding on Dad’s shoulders up the hill to watch the Michigan Tech Huskies play hockey.

Dad spent his life lifting us up — with his strength of character, his strong work ethic, his commitment to his family and friends and through his unique and witty sense of humor.

There’s a perfect expression for it, but we’re in church, so I’ll call him a smart aleck.

Dad had what he called the imp of the perverse in him, from his puns, to practical jokes like burying a neighbor’s car in snow, to picking up his nearly empty dish of Mom’s chocolate mousse and licking it clean in front of company, and then looking innocent over his lack of table manners.

Sarah and I were so blessed to have him for a father.

Dad was the steady hand on our backs as he taught us to ride a bike. A firm grip on our hands as we walked from house to house trick or treating on Halloween. And a gentle touch washing our hair. Mom was always in a hurry to rush us through a bath and get us into bed… so we’d raise a fuss and demand that “Magic Hands” wash our hair.

I bought my first camera when I was nine, because I wanted to be just like him...

He had the patience and creative eye to capture some gorgeous photographs — from waterfalls, to sunsets over Lake Superior, to mountain views and lots of family portraits.

If you have a photographer in your life, grab the camera now and then to snap a few pictures of them. For every picture on display today of Dad, there are at least two dozen pictures or slides without him.

Dad taught us to be self-reliant. He made us learn how to change the oil in the car, how to change a flat and how to drive a stick shift.

He taught us the value of fiscal responsibility, which became especially useful as we inherited Mom’s shopping instincts.

When a sisterly squabble broke out — and there were some epic battles — one of us might complain that something wasn’t fair.

Dad would tell us that life isn’t fair.

I don’t think we needed the lesson carried this far.

When I have any decisions to make in my life, I can ask “What Would Dad do?”

And the answer will be the right choice.

Dad was very organized and always trying to improve himself.

He kept a planner, where he tracked his life in his neat, precise print. He logged his exercise routines, and kept a list of his references and business contacts. He stored a copy of his favorite margarita recipe in his planner, and tucked in a photo of Teresa and a love note from her.

He kept a list of his friends – most of whom are in this room today, or whose families are here.

Dad wrote down his values — from having close relationships with Teresa and his family and friends, to having security and a meaningful job and having free time to enjoy his hobbies.

Dad also wrote down his dreams.

Perhaps someday we’ll understand God’s plan in not giving him enough time to achieve them all.

If we can learn anything from losing him, please let it be this…

Writing down your dreams and goals is important, but don’t wait for some future date to pursue them.

Buy that home in the mountains or on a lakeshore.

Travel to Alaska… Yellowstone… England… or France.

Visit the Apostle Islands.

Drive a Corvette Stingray.

Live each day as if it may be your last, and always let those you love know how much they mean to you.

We know how much Dad loved us, and how much he loved his grandson, who shares his first name. I treasure the memory of the first time Dad held Jace, or his smile whenever a little voice called him “Buppa.”

Thank you, Dad, for telling me how proud you were of the job I’ve done raising Jace.

The greatest gift Dad ever gave us, though, was the love he shares with Mom.

I wish every child could grow up surrounded by that much love.

Dad loved it when Sarah and I returned from a trip to Chicago, where our great aunt Helen, affectionately known as Hudgie, filled our ears with the story of how Mom chased him shamelessly.

Those who knew Dad in his youth know what a great athlete he was.

He let her catch him.

There are those who’ve asked if I’ll ever get married. I don’t think my standards are too high, I’m holding out for someone who will look at me with at least half as much love as the way Jay looked at Teresa.

I miss you already, Dad… but you don’t feel that far away because I’ll carry you with me in my heart forever. 123