Friday, June 07, 2013

Many called him me he was Dad

Today, June 7, is the 119th birthday of Raymond C. Lutz...Barlo to some and Doc to others, but to me he was Dad.

I felt compelled to write today because we never know whether or not there will be a better time to express the thoughts that move us.

I was talking to a friend this morning about Father's Day which is right around the corner. I explained that I had a very strained relationship with my father due, primarily, to his absence during WWII...from July 1942 - December 1945. I was 9 months old when he left and four years when he returned. That was a shock to my system because up until he came back from his Army service I had free access to my mother's bed whenever I needed it. When this guy came "home" that all changed for me. He knew this of course, and proceeded to spend the next 10 years trying to make amends. By the time I was 14 I had figured out that he was a really special person.

To get an accurate appraisal as to the type of dad he was I would have to defer to Brother Dave's assessment in his memoirs. He was tough, strict...firm, but fair. I saw little of that. By the time I came around and developed our unique relationship I outlined above, he had mellowed considerably.

Dad grew up on the East Side of New Castle...losing his dad when he was 16. He never talked about that, but he had a strong bond with his mother...that we knew for sure. Our experience with Bonnie Lutz (which is what we called her) whose name by 1935 was Sarah Ellen Covert Lutz Gallagher, is legendary and another story altogether.

He and his brother Earl were avid hunters, which was confirmed by the many tales told by Aunt Edna (Uncle Earl's widow) and Dad. I remember the tale Aunt Edna told of the day Earl came home from hunting distraught because he had shot and killed his hunting dog. "I shot Biz, I shot Biz," she relayed those words and they rang through my mind over the years as I contemplated the seriousness of guns and hunting.

Dad commuted to Pitt for four years to get his DDS degree. That's right, rode the train/trolly from New Castle to Pittsburgh and returned, every day. "For lunch we paid a nickel for a sandwich and got a glass of beer free," he once told me. I must add that I never saw him drink....

Dad was a 32nd degree Mason (long before my time) but was not active from the time he came home from WWII. He was a Boy Scout Leader receiving the Silver Beaver marking ten years as a Leader. I remember the picture that was taken at the presentation. Many local men were proud of their Scout Master (Doc) and showed it at a reunion held in June 1961, just a year before he died. I was the decoy for the surprise party and got him home after all had assembled. "What the hell is going on here?" he said as we came into view of our house with cars parked all over the place. He was pleased and happy after a meal and an evening spent with past Scouts. Bob Cole and a County Judge whose name I do not recall stayed the longest and engaged me in conversation around the table. It was a quick glimpse of Dad that I had never seen before...Doc and his Scouts, which all had taken place during the 1930s (Depression years) and before my time.

He was a Past Commander of the Perry Gaston Post of the American Legion...something he coveted after his WWI service, but again, did not participate in after WWII....except for the quarterly dinners that he sometimes attended (easy to remember because they occurred on any Friday the 13th.)

Church was important to him, but he did not participate in governance in my memory. That too preceded his second stint in Army service.

He loved Mother; Peaches, he called her in the few flirtatious moments that I saw. He brought her chocolates, Russell Stover's, for special occasions...and they were frequent. She of course shared her candy...after she took the first one or two. They were a team for only 38 years...he died much too young at 67...just days before his 68th birthday. Had he been able to take the drugs most of us now do (blood pressure and cholesterol lowering) I am sure he would have lived longer. But in those days medical science was focused on infections and cures, not on prevention. Mother was saddened, of course, but she took her widowhood almost stoically.

I am left with memories...good ones...of the guy who supported my farming and musical efforts. After awakening me to check my pregnant ewes on cold February morning he showed up in the barn a half hour later, something which he never did, carrying his Brownie camera. He surmised that my taking so long would produce a Kodak moment...and he was right. I was caring for the new mom and a pair of lambs. There is a picture....blurry and un-centered but a record none-the-less.

So, dear friends, that was my dad...stern when sternness was called for but oh, so soft and supportive. That is how I remember our relationship...the one I share with acquaintances who ask and are kind enough to listen.

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