Billy Allen Scherer: May 25, 1927 – June 28, 2003
Photo of him when he was about 16 and with his new car. The signature was from a letter he sent to my mom, Cora Lee Scherer, during the war. He died of ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. “A” means no. “Myo” refers to muscle, and “Trophic” means nourishment – “No muscle nourishment.” When a muscle has no nourishment, it “atrophies” or wastes away. “Lateral” identifies the areas in a person’s spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening (“sclerosis”) in the region.
On this father’s day, I thought it best to post my eulogy for my father. I read this at his funeral. No one else in the family spoke. All that is left say today is that I miss him and wish he and I were in a boat fishing for bass right now.
Eulogy by Jeffrey A. Scherer
Well Dad, you always said keep it simple. Your passing, so quickly, comes as shock-but in your own way was simple and to the point. No nonsense. No fuss or long term bother for anyone. Just like you to get things done on time.
I know that now is not a time of words, but I felt like I need one last talk with you. Over the past few months, we have talked through your voice machine and tablet and, your famous, sweep of the hand. In a funny kind of way, we have communicated recently like we always have-few words but with deep silent meaning and understanding. You were of a generation that spoke little and did much. What you did say was direct and to the point-yet was full of life lessons.
You taught us-David, Billy and me-to believe in the power of one’s self, to stand up for ourselves, and to know and accept responsibility for ourselves. I can’t speak for David or Billy, but I know that you taught me not to take anything for granted-and if I did not have the right tool to do the job-improvise. Sometimes I would watch you fix a car with almost nothing-it was almost like you were willing that machine to be fixed. You had the most refined intuition of any man I have ever known.
And what a dad. You loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed all of life.
You had patience-up to a point. But you didn’t suffer fools. And you know Dad, those times you told me that this was going to hurt me more than you-I never really believed that. And you know, most of my friends in school never really got to visit their Dad at work-we got to visit you every day. And what a visit it was. Sometimes you let us lay face down under a 65 Cadillac with oil dripping on our heads while you used your magic to get that right rear spark plug in place. Sometimes you even let us fix a flat.
But you know Dad, my fondest memories were cleaning up at the end of the day. We would scrub down the bays, take out the trash, swab the toilets and then-as the summer heat dissipated-you let me wash the concrete while you counted the money. Many a night I would just stand there in silence as the water washed away the debris of the day-and watch you silently finishing up the day-grateful that you were my dad. Dad-thanks for teaching me to complete what I started, do what I say, charge a fair price and never complain.
And despite plenty of opportunities I gave you as I grew up-my long haired hippy days, our disagreement over the Vietnam war, my feisty arguments, heading off to Europe in high school and after college-you never complained. Somehow your intuition told you that you had built a strong foundation. I will never forget what you said when I announce that I was taking all of my savings-and instead of buying a car at 16 like you thought I would-I announced I was heading off to Rome to study art and architecture. You simply said, “I promised to pay you a fair wage for your work and that you could do what you want with the money.” No drawn out second guessing. Simple and to the point: “I keep my word.”
Dad, yours is a silent generation-and we men don’t always know exactly how to express our grief. Yet this brief moment, where your friends and family are gathered is an important ritual in closing this chapter in our family. As I sat up with you Friday night, watching hopefully for signs of comfort and change in your face, I sensed that you were passing-to another place known to us on earth as Heaven. But I also sensed that you were passing on your love, approval and intuitive intelligence onto other generations-through your sons to our children-Erin, Sara, Greg, Grayson, Hannah, Nora and Lauren-and then from them to future generations. Your love will be with us till we too pass.
These rituals are a part of our world-they allow us to be part of the community of mourners. They allow us to face our present day dilemma of finding ways to simultaneously express our grief while honoring your life. This time allows me to honor you Dad. I am grateful to have stood in the shade of your tree-and if you were a tree it would be an oak. Standing under you for 54 years has been an honor. Dad, even though you are not here in the flesh, I will always feel your comforting shade. The tap roots you have put down are deep and strong and stable. You gave me permission to fail. To make mistakes. To go my own way. You never judged people, you taught us to respect all races, be men of action-yours was a loving silent wisdom.
Thanks also for marrying mom. We wouldn’t have been the same without her!
Dad, in closing, I think I can speak for David and Billy that we always knew you loved us. Because you said the word “love” sparingly, it was so much more powerful when you did. Even though it was difficult, in the last few months you embraced email-you were always a learner-and it brought me great joy checking my email after a long day at work and seeing your name in the from line. I know it was hard for you to tap out those messages-but I will cherish them forever. And that simple, lower case-love dad.
Dad, here on earth you were my depth finder-not for fish-but for honesty, compassion and helping the other person. I don’t know what kind of fish are in God’s great pond, but I am sure you are running the trolling motor right now looking for the next big whopper. Someday, we will once again get to take advantage of your hard work and join you looking for that next lunker. Save us a seat on the boat.
I love you Dad.
July 1, 2003
Lewis Funeral Chapel
Fort Smith, Arkansas