My Father: The Greatest

My father was a charter member of the greatest generation. Born shortly before the great depression, he and his older brother, Marion, contracted TB, and at the young age of 6 they were sent to live in the desert with other children having the disease. This disease killed their father, Rufus, a dentist in Rogers, Arkansas, who spent his last days in a sanitarium. Harold and Marion survived, and Harold spent his childhood living on a farm with relatives. During the depression, a farm was not such a bad place to be.

Harold Edward May went off to college, and he eventually graduated from medical school at the University of Arkansas, where he had played saxophone in the marching band during the second great war. Harold met the love of his life, Ruth, in St Louis, Missouri. They would be married for 67 years. Harold served in the army, mainly in Italy, soon after the war ended, attaining the rank of captain. Ruth cared for their two young boys, Dave and Bob, who followed their father around as Harold followed his deployment orders. Eventually, after living in places like Lubbock, Texas; Barberton, Ohio; and Brooklyn, New York, the family ended up in Akron, Ohio, where Harold began a medical practice on Market Street, renting part of a Victorian house from his friend and colleague, John Campbell. Harold loved his boys. They were always engaged in activities like “Indian” Guides, Camp Y-Noah, Pee Wee football, swimming at the downtown Y, or hot air ballooning. A third son, Mark, was added to the house in Akron, on Roslyn Ave. Harold encouraged him at a young age to play tennis.

Harold and Ruth bowled; golfed; traveled; watched birds; fixed up the house; watched the Cavs and Indians; and rode bikes together; but tennis was their greatest recreational passion. They were serious about all of these pastimes, but they were always good sports. They raised some dogs along the way, including Molly. The dogs always seemed to like Harold the best for some reason. Maybe it was because Dad loved spoiling them with a game of catch the popcorn, the snack he ate almost every night. Mom and dad had many great friendships. They formed strong bonds with neighbors, colleagues, and fellow tennis enthusiasts. The nights when they stayed at home to watch TV were rare. They were always busy, even after Dad retired.

Their sons all went to college and graduate school, and they married wives he loved as well. Their children, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren added even more joy to his life. Harold’s life was filled with accomplishments. His greatest accomplishment was not graduating from medical school, raising a succesful family, or even marrying Ruth. His greatest accomplishment was something few achieve. The accomplishment? He was a caring, loving, considerate person. I do not ever recall him complaining about anything or speaking badly about anyone. The simplest accomplishments are often the most difficult. You could tell he had a few bad days when he headed up the medical department at B. F. Goodrich, but he never said anything about it to his kids; instead, he changed out of his suit and tie, got into his tennis outfit, and headed to the courts.

You see, Harold was a role model for all of us. Growing up, I often managed to figure out the lessons he was teaching; unfortunately, it was generally after I made some mistakes. I don’t want to write about those–let’s just say I kept the auto repair shops busy. I learned to appreciate Harold’s virtues as I faced the difficulties we all encounter at various stages in our lives. I will continue to learn from him as I continue on life’s journey. Moving forward without him will be difficult. We will all miss his calming presence and loving encouragement. Dad helped his family in many ways. He gave us the confidence we needed to succeed because we always knew he would help us when we needed a boost. Mom and Dad were an impressive team. They touched many lives and his passing makes us feel sad and empty.

But, we know what Harold wanted most was for his family and friends to be happy. Both mom and dad believe in keeping busy, being productive, and making things better. Dad was proud of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He wants us all to do our best and find ways to help others. Harold was the greatest because he viewed himself as the least important. We should do our best to take advantage of the gifts he has given us. We must try to follow his example of living one’s life to its fullest. We must pass his greatness down to future generations. He will be remembered and appreciated by many more generations to come.

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