Sometimes letters are eulogies, like this one to my father in-law.
November 25, 2018
Do you like The Godfather suit? It was this or a very Italian, spring season number. My proper suits are in California. Bill failed to give me sufficient notice. He liked to do things on his terms. So thinking of Bill, I went Godfather. Il padrino sono io. That’s a little eye talian lingo for you.
This is not the Bill Barry built a successful business, had 5 fantastic children, x loving grandchildren, etc, etc. eulogy. Because I don’t think he would have wanted that and besides, I have both an abundance of integrity and a lack of filter. So this will be a truer reflection about the man I knew, and loved.
If you are here it is because you knew William Stokely Barry. I did. For 26 years. To me he was Sir, never the Bill he is to most of you.
I respected him tremendously.
I named my son for him.
He gave me the love of my life. In return, as he said, for the biggest pay raise he ever got. I got the better end of the deal. I got Annie.
We all have something that reminds us of Bill. For my wife it is Starlight mints and cigars. For me it is Jameson whisky and the image of a man with his trousers soaked to the calves hosing off the driveway for the third or fourth time in a week.
And the piles of articles he’d save up for me to read from the many business journals he subscribed to.
Oh, and a 70,000 dollar BMW reeking of smoke with ash burns all over the console.
Keep your memories close to your hearts, and smile, for whatever those things are. Bill is freely taking part in them in a place he always wanted to get to. That he strove for. And now he is there. Godspeed sir. I love you.
I learned a lot from the man. By example. About hard work. About fidelity. About giving back to others. About ferociously protecting your daughters. And I am better because of him – a better businessman, a better father, and a better member of my community.
To be clear, I did not learn one thing about bar-b-cuing from him. And I did get my mechanical aptitude elsewhere.
From time to time, I would butt heads with the man.
See, If you knew Bill, two things were at some point true: he made you better and he aggravated you. They often went hand in hand.
See, Bill worked hard to make the world a better place. He gave a lot back to it and expected a lot from it and the people on it.
He’d routinely ask waiters what they wanted to do with their lives.
He made me wait three months to propose to his daughter. True story.
He’d challenge us to do and be better.
When we disappointed him he didn’t mind telling us. Flatly. Directly. Bluntly. And often publicly.
Mostly, he just told us. The bark being worse than the bite. And some knew it.
He was prone to being taken advantage of. But that was part of the caring in him.
So that’s how I will remember Sir. A lot like my mom. A human being who cared immensely for others and took from that a right to sometimes tell them when they let him down.
But as tough as his medicine was to swallow at times, we became better because of him. This parish became better because of him. Our schools became better because of him. Our hospitals became better because of him. And little Janet Jacobs became a walking saint because of him.
My favorite stories of the many that Bill would repeat over and over, were those of how he’d engineer his way home from South Bend, Indiana or Fort Knox, Kentucky in fantastic multi-leg and multi-modal journeys to see the love of HIS life – if only for a day or two.
I had images of him doing the soldier crawl for the last half mile before surprising a lovelorn Janet.
But after his service and school, for 65 years, he was by her side, loving her with his whole heart, and protecting her – until his daughter told him it was OK to go.
And so he did. And here we all are.
I wondered how he’d want us to feel today. I wondered what he’d want us to do today.
I expect he’d tell those of you that didn’t really like him that it would be ok not to pretend like you did, like he wouldn’t.
I expect he’d want us to wake up and work our asses off like he did.
I expect he’d want us to get over whatever particular adversity or affliction we imagine might be holding us back. Like he did.
I expect he’d want us to care about something other than ourselves like he did.
I expect he’d want us to have a purpose in life like he did.
I expect he’d want us to love someone with our whole heart like he did.
And I expect he’d think it was OK to be sad for just a little while…then he’d expect us to get up, wipe off our faces, and get our asses back to the job of making this world a better place.
Just like he did.
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