A Eulogy: an Ode to a Father and a Grandfather

My friend Tim was gracious enough to share the eulogy he gave for his father’s funeral recently. I’ve known Tim a long time; we used to work together in Chicago at CareerBuilder. What always struck me about Tim was that he was an extremely genuine person and very loyal friend, and a very devoted husband and father. He loved his family and his friends. He was good to everyone around him. During a very difficult moment, he put into words what a great man his dad was, to share his thoughts and his love for this man to those in the audience, a group filled with more people he loved and loved him back. I wasn’t there in Chicago but I could hear him in my head as he said these words.

Thank you all for attending today. My name is Tim Birmingham and I am Denny and Julie’s oldest son.

As I begin, I want to paint a picture. Our family was in Orlando at Universal Studios, and my parents wanted to purchase rain ponchos at the park because it was supposed to rain. They selected five ponchos with Fred Flintstone on the back, but I wouldn’t accept mine. I insisted that it wasn’t going to rain. So they left with four Fred Flintstone ponchos and one know-it-all fourteen-year-old. The next day, we went to Disney World . After we were in the park for awhile, it started raining. Pouring. It was coming down in sheets. We went into the nearest store, and my dad tried to buy another Fred Flintstone pancho.  Wrong park for Fred, so he had to purchase a Mickey Mouse poncho. As we were walking out, my dad shouted out, “Hey, if we ever wanted to start a band, they would call us ‘Four Freds and a Mickey!’ Look at us!”

Early in my life, my dad was a weekend dad. He worked for a lot of advertising and printing companies in Chicago and had a long commute both ways; therefore, I did not see him much during the week. Weekends were another story. Friday nights consisted of watching Dallas and eating popcorn, building tents and forts, and my dad racing my toy cars….. while I watched.

I loved getting to go to work with him in the city, or to his company picnics, because it meant I would meet his clown friends, Jolly Ollie and Me Too. Or he would take me to lunch and we would meet Uncle Pat or Company Jim.

During my teen years, he was working in McHenry for Granite Builders, and he worked weekends, but still found time to coach me in baseball. As I began high school, I followed the same path my father did. Due to some medical challenges, I became the varsity manager at McHenry High School like he had been at Marian Central. My dad was proud and supported me and the Warriors, even though he was a Hurricane at heart.

My dad and I disagreed over only one thing, and that was baseball teams. He loved the White Sox, and I love the Cubs. In fact, in January he called me to ask if my almost two-year-old son Ian would like to go with Papa to SoxFest because he had two tickets.

After I turned 21, my dad took me on a trip to Las Vegas.  He also helped me to get my start in a sports career by driving me to South Florida, when I worked as an intern for the Miami Dolphins. He paid my rent so I could gain experience and work for free. As I got older, my father has helped me to purchase cars, grills, and my house. He has always read two newspapers a day, and could tell you the sale price on any item at any store, anywhere in McHenry County.  He’d also probably like everyone here to know that interest rates are down right now. It’s a good time to refinance.

Family was very important to my dad. The Birminghams, Blakes, and Newmans  celebrated many family events together, big and small. Christmas mornings at Coughlins, the Bears Superbowl at Tom & Helen’s, the many pool parties in the Blake’s back yard, it didn’t matter what the occasion, it just mattered that we were there together. My Grandma and Grandpa Birmingham were a big part of my childhood.  They took Danny, Maureen and I to the Wisconsin Dells. My Grandma Birmingham played Old Maid with us and Grandpa Birmingham was my dad’s hero. I hope to raise my family to have the same closeness and love that he felt for his sisters Theresa and Margie and his brother Pat.  I’m sure by now my dad, my grandparents, and my Uncle Pat have already had a cocktail together.

Dad was also a great addition to the Coughlin family. He made quite an impression on my grandma. When mom and dad  were first dating he and my mom came home to the Coughlin house drunk. Grandma made my dad spend the night.  My uncles got a hold of my dad and put him drunk, on the top bunk.  After my dad fell out of the bunk and got sick, Grandma was not happy that my mom was dating one of those “wild McHenry boys.”  My grandma recovered and loved my dad. She enjoyed the fact that he worked in town. She called him all the time to talk about sales at the Jewel or to just to make him laugh with her latest ideas. My Aunt Amy met my dad when she was five; she does not remember life without him. My grandfather also had a warm place in his heart for my dad, despite the fact that my dad couldn’t use tools or fix anything around the house, and actually stopped trying in about 1985. Dad was another brother to my aunts and uncles, and they mourn his loss as one of their own.

The loyalty Dad showed to his friends spans decades. He still had friends from St. Pat’s grade school and Marian Central. He stood up in 14 weddings total–we have a lot of pictures of him wearing a lot of ugly tuxedos.  Jon Meyer and Butch Meyer have been friends with my dad since they were kids. Some of the funniest stories are ones that were told about the apartment the 3 of them had in Barrington. Apparently, somebody ran over somebody else’s foot with a car and ripped their Tote, in the middle of a snow storm,  I think they were parked near a bar. I never could figure out who was telling the truth.

My dad loved telling stories about his family and friends and the adventures they had. No matter how many times he told them he would laugh like it was the first time.  Dad was a very emotional man. As my Grandma Coughlin used to say, “Denny will cry at a supermarket opening.”  I have inherited that tendency and have been called Buckets Birmingham on more than one occasion.

The last two years of my father’s life were challenging for all of us. Along with numerous family members, my dad was lucky to have Butch Meyer as part of his Medical Transport Team. He was ready and able to take my father anywhere he needed to go, whether it was for a test at the hospital, getting his teeth pulled, or, not even two weeks ago, a Valentine’s Day Dinner at Firewood. We thank you, Butch, for being such a good friend, literally until the very end.

My dad loved Notre Dame and wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. He loved the White Sox, golf, and anything on the History Channel. He loved giving his wife thoughtful gifts, and he was proud of his daughter for graduating from the University of Illinois. His son Danny, who resembles him more than any of us, always made him laugh and kept him on his toes. He loved Maureen’s husband, Dan, immediately, and truly appreciated the kindness and home improvement skills he shared. My wife Karin, in addition to giving him his beautiful grandson, has been a constant support throughout his illness. My son, Ian, was his pride and joy. My dad would have sleepless nights from excitement when he knew he was going to see Ian the next day. He loved my mom for almost 40  years and he was my role model of how to be a loving husband, father,  and gentleman. I will carry the lessons he taught me with me for the rest of my life, and I will pass them down to my son Ian, just as he passed them down from his father, Tom.

My dad, my mom, Danny, Maureen, and I are gathered here today for the last time as a family, but in my heart we will always be “Four Freds and a Mickey.”

Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live.

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3 thoughts on “A Eulogy: an Ode to a Father and a Grandfather

  1. You’re a good man “Buckets”! I loved your Dad very much from a very young age! Before you were even a twinkle in his eye, he spoiled the heck out of me and Beth! I’m not perfect, nobody is! I’m glad to be your cousin and I hope you’re glad to be mine, regardless of my flaws! I love you, and I love my Uncle! I hope you still believe in me Tim, because you are who you are because of your beautiful Father and also with some help from my Aunt Julie!

    Liked by 1 person

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