Sunday, March 02, 2008

Jeanne's Dad

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.



DEN said...

Losing a family member that has been a pillar and foundation to that family is most difficult and to watch that family member deteriorate from Alzheimer's makes it even more difficult.

carey said...

Dearest Jeanne,

Death from Alzheimers is a complex experience for loved ones to endure. Very complex and unsettling.

My father died of the same affliction. I know what you all went through and will go through for years to come. Our hearts reach out to you and your family. Relief has come for your father, he'll be so much happier now. He no longer must experience the suffocating cobwebs of Alzheimers.

OUR LOVE AND SYMPATHY TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, JEANNE. A beautiful, loving tribute from the deepest parts of your soul, it is lovely.

micki said...

“May the road rise up to meet him, may the wind be ever at his back. May the sun shine warm upon his face and the rain fall softly on the Shields. And until you meet again, May God hold him in the hollow of his hand.”

Our sincere condolences, Jeanne, to you and your family.

Micki and Bill

Jeanne said...

Thank you, thank you.

My dad was the greatest. Even in the deepest of comas at the end he kept his heart beating and kept breathing until my mom came, after a good nights sleep, to his bedside. She said "Bill, I'm here." A minute later he had died. A perfect ending.

I feared losing him so much. People always said I had a bond with him. It was eternal. I felt as if I'd known him for centuries. How could I let him go to death? But now I know I haven't. He will always be at my side. I still feel him.

Jeanne said...

Oh I should mention, my brother Kevin wrote the eulogy and read it during the mass. Believe me, he struggled even with my brother Mike making smiley faces to get him through it. My family is a little nuts. Thank goodness Kevin didn't look up at Mike. He was afraid to. In the end people knew what a great character my dad was and how much every one of us loved him.

Jeanne said...

Oh and by the way, my dad didn't vote for Nixon and he sure wouldn't have voted for that numbskull Bush and his buddy (ducks are safe with me around but my friends should run) Dick Cheney.

Just so you know.

Alan said...

Jeanne, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sending my best "big hug vibes" your way.

" the end he kept his heart beating and kept breathing until my mom came, after a good nights sleep, to his bedside. She said "Bill, I'm here." A minute later he had died. A perfect ending."

My father did the same thing for me and my brother. Mom called us at school (I'm 14, my brother 16), said my uncle was coming to pick us up to bring us back up to the hospital. At my locker upstairs, I saw my Dad's car coming a 100-mph towards the school and I just knew he had died already from the Leukemia.
We finally got to the hospital and were made to wait around the corner in the waiting area. My Mom came to get us and said he was still alive but in a coma. I went on one side of the bed and my brother the other, but just stood there for a few seconds in shock. My Mom took her spot in the chair beside him and held his hand, then said "Aren't you going to say Hi to your Dad?" So I did, while bending over to kiss his forehead. As I raised up, Mom said "he's gone". He waited till his sons got there to say good bye. It still makes my eyes mist over to think about it.
Muchluv to you and your family Jeanne.

DEN said...

Do not click any links from Akicage!

Just deleted a spam comment that did some strange stuff including dropping malicious cookies in my browser.

Run Security scan too if you did.

carol said...

So sorry to hear about your dad, Jeanne. My condolences to you and your family.

David B. Benson said...

Jeanne --- Vaya con Dios.

Carey said...

You have the correct intellectual outlook of how you should react to your father's death. Actually going through the grief is a whole different ball game. What do you bet your dad will eventually come to you in your dreams?

Be good to yourself Jeanne, that's the most important thing. You are vulnerable now and for a long while.

tytandanmar said...


A fitting tribute to what is obviously a remarkable man, husband and father. While he may no longer be with you physically, I know he will always be with you and all the others he touched deeply in his life, spiritually forever.

Thanks for the post, Den. It is a great reminder that politics are not a life changing experience. Those we love such as family and friends matter most.

DEN said...

Jeanne, it looks like you have many friends here at DWF, thanks for sharing.

Jeanne said...

Thanks again so much for allowing me to share my dad with you. And thanks for the concern.


Hajji said...

hajji said


I think my Dad would've liked your Dad a LOT!

I'm sure we all would have.

Your brother knew just what to say.

Keep near your heart forever.