One year after his death, a very late eulogy for my father, Jerry Kubin
WASHINGTON. My father, Jerry Kubin (b. 09/30/27 d.10/29/17), was a son, a husband, a father and friend. He was also World War II Navy veteran. Dad, like many boys, went out to sea to an unknown destiny at the age of 17. Though he looked no older than 14 at the time. He was not even out of high school when he enlisted in the military to fight for the country. Those time spent on the seas were important to him.
Whether by design or accident, he was an American patriot in the real sense of a word. He heard the call and for reasons known and unknown, left home and family.
My father was a great man
He was my father. When he died, there was no mourning for him. No flag-draped casket. Honor guard. No words to comfort for his wife, son or daughters.
There was never the personal hubris to think that anyone cared how I felt about his passing beyond those hollow words – he lived a good long life. He was 90, we were lucky to have him that long. All lives come to an end. But the pain of his death continues.
A father among the greats
My father was a father to seven, though his first son died in infancy. He was an inherently good man that raised a large family working a Mike Rowe approved “hard dirty-fingernail” job. Today, walking into a garage, smelling the used motor oil, I am instantly transported back to his side when as a young girl, I would go to the “shop” with him.
Selling his shop at the age of fifty he would continue to work well into his seventies. For the Chamber of Commerce. For the local airport. He always worked.
He was a member of the generation that knew how to work.
It was a good life, but not long enough.
My father was not honored with a funeral procession, 21 gun salute or even the gathering of his family.
My father was a first generation American, both his parent immigrating through Ellis Island and from Western Europe. He is the last of his family. My father survived the loss of his first child. The Great Depression. He battled polio, spending time in a sanitorium and with lifelong effect, but not noticeable.
He raised six children to various results. Each convinced he loved “me more than the others.”
My father was, like many others, a representative of the Greatest Generation. And we are truly less of a country for his loss.
My father was steadfast
My father did not leave my mother, though there were married for six decades. We have to believe there may have been plenty of time when it would have been easier. Yes, they were married sixty years. Through the loss of children, my father’s illness, my mother’s cancers, through times of money and not. He stood steadfast.
I do not remember more than once my father buying a new car. He was a mechanic. A really good mechanic. He was fair to his customers in Skokie, Illinois. He did not have a racist bone in his body telling me to judge people on their actions and heart, not color or religion. Dad was an eyewitness to the Nazi marches in Skokie. And the pain it caused his Jewish neighbors and customers. And friends. He explained that pain, and why it was wrong, to me at a very young age.
I know that he would often help people out, fixing their cars so that they could keep their jobs, take care of their families. He helped. Regardless of race or religion. I saw his generosity when I would go to the shop with him on Saturday mornings.
He was an incredible teacher. Those now men who worked with him as young boys, often their first jobs, tell us so.
My father was also a quiet patriot.
A quiet patriot. As a child, we would go to the Memorial Day Parade in Antioch, Illinois. It was very much mid-West Americana. We had a flag pole in the front of the house, waving the red, white and blue. Taxes and cost of living pushing him out of the family home in Chicago suburbia to the shores of Lake Ozark, Missouri. A member of that community he would drive his restored 1967 Mustang Pony convertible in the parade there.
Once, when he came to see his grandson and namesake take a Karate test, he was obviously angry. When I asked him why he pointed to the Japanese flag. My father’s ship headed to Japan during WWII. And the tail end was hit by a kamikaze pilot. It scared him. He was a kid. Look at the picture.
I understood that fear. I only saw my father afraid on a couple of occasions. And that fear was always for the safety of his family. For me.
Dad liked it fast
My father liked speed. As a young man, he liked to race the go-karts he built on the semi-professional circuit. He liked to drive and taught me all sorts of good things – like always know where your out is if it all goes to hell around you. And how to drive fast.
He studied for and got his pilots license well into his forties. He loved to fly and some of my favorite memories are he and I, alone in the Cessna 174, flying at night, over Lake Michigan, under a full moon. Brilliant darkness above and below as we silently glided through the sky.
Every dog and their day
Once I asked him how he was able to go forward knowing that his friends and partners had stolen from him when he was hospitalized with polio and he told me, “Don’t worry Jack. Every dog will get their day.” It was a phrase I heard often throughout my life.
My father, at the end of his life, did not have his family surrounding him. We are family divided. Though I tried to be there before he left – a dark comedy of events keeping me from making it to his side. I regret that I did not make it. It makes this day that much harder.
A year later he is still with me. Viscerally. It is because I did not get a chance to say goodbye before he died. Because even though he made his 90th birthday, he was not supposed to die. Not yet.