I think I've gone through a whole year in just one month. So today, the last day of January in 2022, I'm posting the transcript of my eulogy to my dad. We lost him on January 16th while I was stuck in a snowstorm (literally) and my world is forever changed. I have some freedom I haven't had in a few years...and I also have a huge hole in my heart and in my life. It's a weird mixed bag.
Many of us are in a club we didn't really want to join, but I suppose it's inevitable. A parent has passed, a parent is in need, a parent is driving us crazy or taking up a lot of our time on things that should be simple. A parent is still coming through for us in big or unexpected ways. As is God. The Circle of Life??
Here is what I said to a room full of loving, caring people at his service...which was what I wanted to say. At least in public. May his legacy live on through me and all of his descendants. I know it will.
January 21, 2022
Good afternoon…I’m Susan Ruckman Jezek. As I look out over this room and feel all the love and support you’ve brought with you, I know I can count on your graciousness to help me get through the hardest presentation I’ve ever had to make. Please forgive me if I can’t.
Dad carried many titles throughout his life, as he had a variety of roles and careers. Corporal, Draftsman, Founding Partner, Chairman of the Board, Chief Silver Fox, Licensed Real Estate Broker. Pop.
But I have always had one of my own…King of the One Liners.
My friends recall him sitting in his chair quietly reading the paper or a stack of business documents, seemingly unaffected by the flurry of females that was ever present in our house growing up. I thought he was tuning us out (and he probably was). But he could still size up a situation and pop out a witty quip in a nano-second.
We’d come in from a school shopping trip carrying several bags of new clothes, especially eager to share what we had intentionally selected from sale racks. He’d greet us with “so, how much money did you save me today?”
I went from growing up in a pseudo-sorority house where there was always at least one of our friends or one of Mom’s friends coming and going, to living on an actual sorority floor at Clemson. I’d come home on a break and was getting ready to go out. I had also come home bearing the Freshman 15, which meant it was highly likely the jeans I’d chosen for the occasion might be a little tight. Problem…there were no other girls around at the time from whom to get an opinion. So, I sheepishly approached Dad as my last resort (who of course was sitting in his chair reading) and asked “hey…do you think these jeans are too tight?” Without missing a beat, he responded “well, it depends on if you’re inside trying to get out, or outside trying to get in.”
OK…I will change…
The quintessential man’s man who always seemed much larger in stature than his physical size -- somehow, he muscled through his 3 little girls’ dance recitals, piano recitals, school plays, choir programs, slumber party made-up skits, and school open house artwork displays. Man, was he glad when we decided to pursue cheerleading…at least there was football and basketball to watch! One Clemson Parents’ Weekend as our sorority was cheerfully performing the Broadway musical medley we’d rehearsed especially for them, he leaned over to mom and asked, “how old do they have to be before we get to stop watching them perform?”
As a young professional trying my own hand as an entrepreneur in the communications field, I was often asked to do pro bono work or serve on non-profit committees. “Dad, I’m not getting paid, but Oh I’m making so many contacts!” To which he replied, “and which of those contacts are paying your rent and JEA bill?
There’s no excuse for running out of gas.
If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.
Just Ask Ole Don (he pretty much was always right, even when you didn’t want him to be…)
All you have to sell is your time.
Did you know that all around a pig’s ass is pork?
If one of us challenged him or tried to convince him of something he was clearly against, there would be one of two responses…
You’ll have to pack a lunch because this is going to be an all-day affair.
It might be easier to sandpaper a wildcat’s ass!
The home in Charter Point he and my mother designed together, and he and my two grandfathers built together, was the neighborhood gathering place. And his “shop” in the backyard was also the neighborhood hardware store. No matter what it was, if you needed it, it was in there. Unless, of course, it was in the back of his truck or in the garage. Or in the side table by his chair. Or at the hunting camp. But he always knew exactly where to look.
If he didn’t know or remember your name, and sometimes even if he did, you might earn a nickname. Particularly if you were dating one of his daughters. Fence Jumper, Paul Possibly, The Guy With The Earring, and his most frequently used, generalized term of endearment, Dufus. Just to name a few.
In his golden years, long after his retirement from BHR, I had the privilege of being invited into his land brokerage world, basically as a licensed sidekick. My lifelong assumption that we couldn’t work together was luckily proved wrong, although I still had to earn his respect by staying on top of things. The answer to most any question was “did you read the contract?” Of course, he had read every single word, and at 87 years old recalled the full history and topographical details of every single parcel.
What Will I Miss?
I will miss getting his text messages every day, sometimes just to tell me good morning. And sometimes blank, and sometimes with a random emoji. And always during Jaguars and Clemson football games.
I will miss the sense of security in knowing he would always take my call, always come get me if my car broke down, always offer solid advice, always be glad to see me even if he was in a grumpy mood. Always have my back, even when I didn’t know it. Always be a gentleman.
I will miss watching him model what marriage and commitment are about when the body slows down and the calendar is no longer full and the nest is empty.
I will miss him watching me back out of the driveway and waving goodbye until my car was out of sight. (When they lived at the Charter Point house, I always thought he did that because he was afraid I was going to run over the sprinkler heads!) :)
I know his final thought was about his “pretty gal,” our mother, and who would care for her.
Dad…we can’t fill your shoes, but we can pick up the ball. You showed us how.
To read the full obituary, please click here. It doesn't do him justice -- however, my mom was very proud of it. ;)