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Left to right: Claire Louise, my Mom; Grizzly the Peekapoo, since deceased; my brother Bob; his daughter Kristen; my brother Frank Jr.; Frank Sr.; Paul DiFi.
Here's the eulogy I delivered at my Dad's funeral yesterday.
EULOGY FOR FRANK PHILLIPS
My father, Frank Phillips, Sr., died as he had always lived. With intelligence and humor, calmness and acceptance, strength and courage, at the center of his family. Even in his final hard days, when just lying in bed was all he could manage, he still showed compassion and concern for others--mixed with a little bit of his trademark irony and gruffness. What was pretty much his final meal consisted of some of his favorite mashed potatoes and gravy. As I tried to help him spoon up the food, he gave me a familiar stern look and said, “I can feed myself!”
But however well-composed and characteristic his dying was, we are here this morning to remember not those final days but his whole long life leading up to the end. And I have to say that I feel totally inadequate to make such a summary in such a short time, as I think any of us would feel. How can a few sentences cover all the years of his life?
His fondly remembered childhood on Dante Street, with his hard-working mother and siblings; his military service as a young man during World War II; his marriage to his beloved soulmate, Claire Louise St. Amant; the birth of his four children; his decades of loyal, creative, hard work at Worcester Textile; his twenty years of retirement, when he finally got to relax and be with his grandchildren, to travel a little, plant some tomatoes, read what interested him, enjoy television, go out to an occasional movie and dinner.
Luckily, all of you knew Frank very well, and can bring to this day many memories that will evoke the man. I urge you to share them all amongst yourselves, just as I will share two now with you.
The first one is kind of a composite memory, since the event happened many times. It involves the annual Christmas party thrown by Worcester Textile.
I recall a December night in, let’s say, 1969, when our family was living in Lincoln. All us kids are in our pajamas, with me in charge, and my parents are ready to go out. My mother wears a beautiful new dress and has her hair done up. My dad has on a nice suit that sits at the back of the closet most of the year. They would be about forty-three and thirty-seven years old back then—much younger than I am today--and they are a stunning pair. I remember thinking how great they looked together. My Dad certainly would’ve prefered to stay home that night. If it was a Saturday, he had probably worked half the day at the mill already. He would’ve grouched a little about going. But I think he was secretly very proud of his beautiful charming wife and proud of his role at the mill and happy to be sitting at the boss’s table. So off they went, and I bet they had a very good time.
The other memory is older. Let’s say it’s 1965. We are living in North Providence on Marconi Street, in the house where my father grew up after leaving Dante Street. It’s the early evening, and Frank is going off to his night-shift job at the mill. We kids have a ritual for saying goodbye to him. It’s a phrase we chant over and over in a kind of half-silly, half-serious way. I’d like to say it one more time now.
“Sweet dreams, good night, God bless you, I love you. Don’t forget to call. See you in the morning.”