Family Eulogy

My father died last week at the age of 65. My grandfather died just a year or so before him at the age of 93. Below is a picture of me, my son, my father and grandfather taken almost 7 years ago. 4 generations.

In the end death humbles us all. The most I can offer them is a brief remembrance, sharing the best of these men that I loved and admired so much.

Briefly though I need to take a step back in time and share the story of a man that they admired, my great grandfather, James Partin.

My great grandfather was a cowboy all his life. My grandfather had an old picture of him on his horse, a gun on each hip and lasso in hand, herding cattle. He was good to the Indians that some times camped on the other side of the lake from him and was know to share the sweet potatoes that he grew with them and anyone else who came to visit. He was a good man by all accounts, tough but fair and hard working every day of his life.

At the age of 73 my great-grandfather was trampled by his horse after his saddle broke while he was roping a calf. He managed to walk some miles back to the ranch where he worked as supervisor and was taken to the hospital, but died a few days later of internal injuries and gangrene.

My grandfather, Judson David Partin, loved his dad dearly, and in his 90’s he still got choked up telling the story of his father’s death. I don’t think anyone ever gets completely past the death of their father.

As much as my grandfather admired his dad he chose a different path. As a teenager my grandfather was out tilling the field barefoot with a mule and plow when he had a root pop up and hit him hard on shin. It was a small but pivotal moment. He said he decided then and there that he was he was going to do something different with his life.

Some time later he talked his way into a job driving a Model-A truck moving citrus (the model-A was the successor to the original Model-T). He told the man who hired him that he knew how to drive it, and though he didn’t, he figured it out.

He spent the next 60 or so years of his life driving trucks off and on. He cleared land for airfields stateside in WWII and was known to be able to operate any machinery with wheels or treads. He was forced to retire from truck driving for insurance reasons at the age of 82. So far as I know he was the oldest working CDL licensed driver in the United States.

A few years later when I went to visit he was still doing 90 mile per hour on the local interstate, three radar detectors on the dash and a .38 and .45 next to his seat. I took a trip with him up to North Carolina and he stopped to help some people who were broke down on the side of the road up in the mountains. He figured out what was wrong with the car and we drove 30 miles away to the nearest parts store, came back, fixed their car and got them on the road again. He was a good man and spent his life helping people, especially family.

Though his health began to fade after retired, he spent another 10 years sitting on the porch feeding the sand cranes and the squirrels and driving his girlfriend around to garage sales (a younger woman, just in her 70’s). In 2006 he fell in his home and broke his hip. He managed to get up, clean a gash in his head and was sitting his chair when my dad came to check on him. He lived another year or so but was never independent again.

Electric light, the automobile, movies, and airplanes were all just beginning to be commercialized when my grandfather was a kid; electricity and indoor plumbing were luxuries that most did not have, his family included. In his lifetime my grandfather saw the time of cowboys and indians fade and transition to the age of computers, space and the internet. There has never been any other time in history when one lifetime could see so much change.

My Dad, J. David Partin, was just as determined as my grandfather was to do things differently. From childhood my dad had a gifted voice. He went to college and studied business and music. He spent most of his life as a singer and an entertainer. He even briefly had a local television show on Tybee Island, GA in the late 70s called the Dave Partain Show (Partain being a small alteration of his last name that he used as a stage name).

He was drafted into the army during Vietnam, but was fortunate enough to be stationed stateside; he managed several restaurants, owned a club for a while and never gave up his dream of making it as an entertainer, returning to it time and again. Over he all lived a wild and crazy life.

Though he hung on close to 10 years longer than the doctors had given him, being ever the contrarian, he passed away quietly in his sleep days after his doctors offered the family hope that he might bounce back one more time. In the end he was most happy that he had been able to reconnect with my sister and I and that he had gotten to see his grand children, of whom he was immensely proud; a joy he shared with everyone.

I loved my father very much.

I always will.

Update: I couldn't bear to post this at the date it was written, and don't want to update the date and have it show up as current now after the fact, so I'm posting it at the original date. I'm not certain if it'll be picked up by the RSS feed or not, but I want it out here on my blog as a testimony, whether anyone sees it or not.