Dad and Carolyn
Our dad, Robert Tully, died unexpectedly of cancer in March. That is, it was unexpected for his family and friends. He probably suspected he was ill for some time, but told no one. When, five days before his passing, Dad could no longer deny his illness, he fought it with all he had. Dad took Dylan Thomas’s advice to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
For Dad’s funeral service all of us—his wife of 40 years and our stepmother, Carolyn, and his five children—put together our thoughts and memories of him for the presiding minister. This remembrance is based on those anecdotes.
Dad was very organized; there was a system and plan for everything and every tool, trinket and piece of furniture was always in its proper place. His grandsons remember that one year he helped them build a tree house, starting with the development of detailed floor plans. Within these rigorous systems, Bob thought creatively about ways to solve problems and improve things. This attention to detail and creative drive made Dad an excellent cook and very demanding of his sous-chefs (Carolyn, me and whoever helped him in the kitchen or at the grill).
Dad loved any mechanical thing, particularly if it was beautiful and cleverly designed. He collected mechanical clocks and was curious about their operation. His expertise in repairing engines of all kinds stemmed from his love of beautiful, functional, complex machines.
I was staying with Dad and Carolyn one year when they purchased a new vacuum cleaner. There were three or four components to put together, and clear directions for what went where. I would have just done what the directions said to do, but Dad had to understand how it worked and why each piece fitted where it did. If I was a little impatient, I did not let it show. Dad was a contrarian and if he suspected you wanted him to do one thing, he tended to do the opposite.
Dad loved his home, including the yard, rose bushes, gardens and greenhouse. His spring, summer and fall hobby was mowing their acres of lawn. He and Carolyn were meticulous in their gardening, and strangers would often stop and compliment them on their lovely roses and manicured lawns. Dad took great pride in creating a lovely, well-maintained, and comfortable garden landscape.
Dad was an attentive and gracious host. At any gathering he always had the biggest laugh and the broadest smile. When he was in a room, he commanded the room. When we were little, we knew our dad was the youngest, strongest, and best-looking Dad on the street.
Fourth of July
Dad and Carolyn gave several picnics and parties each year for family, friends and neighbors. The biggest of all was the annual Fourth of July picnic. Dad brought us all together to celebrate Independence Day in style. Everyone brought a dish, beverage or dessert, and Dad (and later grandsons Tom and Joe) fried, smoked and grilled the meat.
Lisa’s fishing spot
Our cousin Lisa Loehl and Uncle Ernie would set up in their favorite fishing spots, and the kids would play at fishing too. Everyone lined up on the porch when the food was ready. Dad (Uncle Robert to our cousins) made sure everyone had what they needed and were comfortable. He often didn’t eat himself until late in the evening after most of the guests had gone home, he was so busy taking care of everyone else.
Each Fourth of July picnic was a little bigger than the one before and eventually included live music and, of course, fireworks. The fireworks display, organized by Dad and our cousin Ernie Loehl, was the talk of the neighborhood. The parking lot of the Mud Pike Baptist Church next door would fill up with people waiting for the fireworks to start.
When Dad knew he was dying, he insisted on going home. The lovebirds in the greenhouse were silent all that afternoon and evening, until Dad, surrounded by his family, took his last breath. For the first time that day the lovebirds began singing, serenading Dad on his last journey. He did not go far. Dad is buried in Mud Pike Cemetery, with his beloved house and garden visible from his grave.
Although complicated and sometimes difficult, Dad was a man of deep feelings and strong convictions. He loved his family, his home, his community and his life. We miss him.