Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farewell Father

My father, Thomas, passed away on June 12. He went very quickly and peacefully. He did get to meet Orion but Orion will never remember him. I have included the obituary and eulogy that I wrote with the help of my wonderful husband.

Thomas Crossley, age 66, succumbed to cancer on Sunday, June 12th, 2011. ‘Big Tom’ was known for his kind heart, his ready sense of humor, and his robust laugh. Tom is the beloved father of Thomas Crossley, (Maki) and Charlotte Media (Patrick). In addition to his children, he is survived by his sisters Marion Victoria Skarbek (John), Clarice Elizabeth Skinner (Rod), and Francis Naomi Robinson, and his three grandchildren Thomas Crossley (Kairi), Mary Rimi, and Orion. Tom was the loving husband of Susan Maria Small, who passed away in 2005.

Son of the late Media and Thomas Crossley, Tom was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, later living in Collegeville and spending his final years in East Greenville. He graduated from Girard College in 1963. Tom worked in various sectors of the local finance and banking industry. He completed an Associates Degree in Science Business Administration from Montgomery County Community College in 2002, making Deans List throughout his studies. He thoroughly enjoyed his academic experience and desired to continue his education.

Nationally ranked throughout his life and holding regional and national awards, Tom was an avid marksman, trap shooter, and a lifetime member of the Lower Providence Rod & Reel Gun Club. He also was an accomplished photographer and devoted fish enthusiast. Tom was an eternal pursuer of a proper cup of coffee, and was an accomplished cook and a great lover of world cuisines. A voracious reader, music lover, and movie watcher, Tom was a daily patron of the East Greenville Public Library. Tom was also a committed technologist, embracing the digital age from its earliest days.

In addition to visiting his family whenever possible, Tom adored spending time roaming The CaƄada del Oso Ranch in Peru, Kansas, visiting his dear friends Arturo and Janet Pacheco and employing his weather-eye to keep down the local rabbit population.

He is greatly missed by all who knew him.

My father, Thomas Crossley was a man who enjoyed the simple things in life. He could do anything and knew everything. And if he didn’t know the answer, he would make up a story that I would usually fall for. He had a great sense of humor, a robust laugh, and enjoyed pulling your leg. He was crafty and clever and made the most of any situation. He never backed down from a challenge. He was very content in his solitude and loved his freedom.

I could not have asked for a more wonderful father. I thought he was superman. He was my giant teddy bear at 6’6” with a robust belly. I remember his massive hands and when walking with him in the snow I would hold just his big thumb. It was partially because of how small my hands were, but also in the event that he fell, he wouldn’t take me with him. When I wanted to learn how to paint my fingernails, he showed me how using his big thumb as an example and painting it pink. Later when we were checking out at the grocery store in the Andora shopping center, my dad’s big, pink thumbnail really amused the checkout girl.

He was always there for me even though I wasn’t the easiest child and I asserted my independence very early on. I know I made him worry on more than he few occasions but he rarely ever let me know how worried he was. When I was 21 and backpacking alone around Europe, I got an email from him that he couldn’t sleep at night because he didn’t know where I was. I kept in touch with home but I guess not as often as he would have liked

He loved to read and visited the library on an almost daily basis. He loved listening to music and had a very eclectic taste from Aphex Twin to En Vogue to ZZ Top. When I gave my Dad a call and asked him what he was doing, the reply was often playing solitaire on the computer. He embraced technology and was interested in computers since the early 80’s.

Dad was an avid photographer. Before my brother and I were born, he worked as a wedding photographer but his biggest source of photographic inspiration was my mother. Once us kids were born we were his models. His apartment was filled with photographs. He had that big bulletin board which is on display, hanging next to his desk. Many framed photos and photo albums. On his kitchen table he had a large framed photo of Thomas the IV and one of Mary Rimi, his grandchildren. He may have lived alone but he ate his meals with his grandkids, even though they lived in Japan and everywhere he looked in his apartment were faces of his loved ones.

Being one of 4 kids raised by a single mother living below the poverty line, he was sent to Girard College, a boarding school. There is a huge wall surrounding Girard college and my father told me stories about how he would scale that wall to buy cigarettes. In his youth, he wasn’t much interested in his education but that changed late in life. He was never able to afford college but after being laid off he seized the opportunity. My father and I went off to college around the same time. He loved his college experience. He wished he had enjoyed his educational experience more in his youth. He had a voracious appetite for learning and had a great desire to continue his education. He read fiction and non fiction and surfed the net for interesting news. He even attempted to read my husband’s dissertation, which is something I haven’t even attempted.

He loved the outdoors. Our family vacations were spent camping, May in Harper’s Ferry and October’s in Hickory Run. He loved to go rafting and kayaking, until the day he got into an Eskimo roll he couldn’t get out of. I remember many 7-11 picnics with Big Gulps and hotdogs, spent in Valley Green. And of course, his favorite place on earth was the Kansas ranch owned by his dear friends Arturo and Janet. Time and health permitting, he would spend long stretches of time there in the spring and fall, ranging across the pastures and culling the over-abundant rabbit population.

My dad was an expert shooter. He won many medals and awards for it and even tried out for the Olympics for shooting. I can remember living on Arcola Road, and helping him reload shotgun shells in the garage. The first time my husband met my father was on Father’s Day, 2004. We went to Gun Club, did some target shooting then went to shoot some trap. When my dad opened the box that housed the arm which throws the clay disks, the spring loaded device went off, catching my dad’s hand and taking a significant chunk out of one of his fingers. I was freaking out, but Dad was calm and collected. The strongest statement he made during the entire ordeal was, “Man…that smarts.”

He loved food and loved to cook as much as he liked to eat. He had an adventurous appetite and would try anything. He loved cuisines from all over the world, especially Japanese food. On his last couple of visits down to Virginia, he spent a lot of time looking at the photo album of our Japan trip to drool over the pictures of the meals we ate in Okinawa.

My dad valued family above all else, and one of the ways he showed that love was by taking diligent care of any person, pet, or thing that needed him. He took good care of his mother during her life. He took amazing care of my mother throughout her fight with breast cancer. And even after her passing, he enjoyed being one of the many, many merry-makers at any gathering of the Small family.

I never liked my father living alone but he did have family close by. I was comforted knowing that his sister Marion came by once a week and took him out to shake off the cobwebs. My husband and I had asked him to live with us on many occasions and he would say yes but not now, later because he liked living alone and wasn’t ready to give up that independence.

My dad was very happy that my brother and I found such wonderful people to share our lives. All he ever wanted was for my brother and me to be happy, and to eventually give him some grandkids. He was so happy when we went to Japan last year. All he wanted to do was hold his new granddaughter, Mary and spend time with the family. Dad came to Virginia to see Orion when he was about 2 weeks old. I’ve never seen a man happier to hold a crying, screaming baby. I am so glad that they spent sometime together but I’m sad Orion will never understand just how wonderful both my parents were.

Though our parents are now both gone, in a way our babies bring them back. I am so excited to discover traces of my father and my mother in my son, my nephew, and my niece.