Eulogy for William G. Shields
Tom Brokaw has written a bestselling novel entitled “The Greatest Generation” detailing the many achievements of my father and mother’s peer group. I remember having a conversation with my mother after seeing her reading the book and asking her opinion about it. She said “oh it’s good, but there isn’t anything in here that your dad and his friends haven’t experienced. There is nothing special about this.” I have learned that it is never a good idea to correct my mother to her face for several reasons. But on this one, I have confidence. Here, mom, I think you are wrong.
My father stayed married to the same woman for 61 years, saw all his children graduate from college, built our home mostly by himself, was a plane commander during WWII responsible for the lives and welfare of a crew of ten men. He had a group of buddies that held together for most of his life and theirs. He thought his children the value of doing things the right way, all the while finding time to have fun.
What makes him special is the example he gave for 86 years, never wavering from the understanding that his job was not to change the whole world, but to make the part he touched better.
Lest you think that this was accomplished without a touch of Irish humor, a couple of stories will I thin tell what kind of person he was. Our father was never one for a fancy meal, preferring instead simple food surrounded by family and friends. My mother, seeking to expand his culinary horizons, fixed him a meal that Julia Child would have been proud of. Dad ate everything on his plate and my mother seeking some acknowledgment of her labors asked him what he thought of the meal. Dad went over to the calendar, pointed to a date 6 months in the future and turned to mom and said “See this date? Don’t make this again until that date”. The fact that he lived several decades after this scene also speaks well of my mother’s forbearance.
Our garage door has borne the brunt of many drivers’ education experiments. One of us, who shall go nameless to protect the innocent (my sister in law), had never driven a stick shift before and accidentally drove into the garage door. Dad, who always seemed to know what to do in situations like this, called my brother and informed him that the offending door had leaped out of its hinges to attack the car and not to worry that he would punish the offending garage door.
I never saw him get angry about situations like this and with five children there were plenty of occasions. I think he always knew what, or perhaps who, was important at those times.
On behalf of my mother, my brothers Mike and Bill, my sisters Jeanne and Mary, and our families, thank you for being here to share with us the life experience of a truly special man. He loved his family and friends; he liked golf, dogs named Lady, a sweet Manhattan, and Louie Lamour westerns. He will be missed.