Memorial Speech on the Occasion of My Father Paul Sherry's Death

Hello, I'm Jane, one of Janet and Paul's three daughters. Firstly, I want to thank you for coming today, I know it means a great deal to mom to have you all here. Ironically, I'm not so sure if dad would have been pleased because he didn't want a funeral or memorial service, so it seems only fitting, as Linda pointed out yesterday, that we have this service honoring him on April Fools' Day.

For those of you who know Paul and Janet well, you'll recall they epitomized the "Cocktail Generation" that perfected the art of the vacation cruise, their favorite form of recreation.

I remember at least a decade back, when my husband Curtis and I were visiting Mom and Dad from New York, and we tried to tactfully talk about some 'end of life' kinds of issues and somehow we got onto burial vs. cremation and Dad always said he wanted to be cremated with his ashes spread out at sea and Mom wanted them to be buried side by side in cemetery plots.

I remember at the time thinking how hysterically funny it was that they couldn't agree on that cruise idea. But they did come to an agreement of course and dad will be getting his wish and having that final cruise.

Dad was a very unusual person. You know we don't come into this life with a guidebook about how to be humans. We must learn the hard way, through trial and error. I don't personally know too many people who really take a hard look at themselves and decide to change, but that's something my dad did and I'm really proud and impressed at the way he accomplished this.

With great discipline he changed his lifestyle, his demeanor and actions and did the hard work of changing himself for the better. He really mellowed out over the years, worked on becoming a better person and I applaud him and respect him for that.

Paul loved his work and the people he met at work. Working kept him young at heart. Dad astounded all of us with his dedication to work, whether it was in his graphic design studio in New York, or in Mom and Dad's home or at Bloomingdales.

Whenever I asked him about his exit strategy about leaving work, as decade after decade passed and he still worked full time at Bloomingdales, he always said to me, and I quote: "I'm going to work until I drop dead".

Again this guy was a man of his word! I certainly loved bragging about my 91 year old dad who still worked full time at Bloomingdales and loved the look on peoples faces when I said this. I don't think I have to tell you folks from Bloomies, how much he loved what he did each day. He brought his innate sense of style, discipline and natural artistry with him in whatever project he took on, from his green thumb with orchids to his Martha Stewart sense of order in the way he folded towels in mom and dad's linen closet!

We grew up in a house on Long Island, in New York surrounded by beauty, sophistication and art. He always had wonderful plantings of flowers in our gardens and our patio outside. He helped me to cultivate a love of the arts and to be creative in everything that I did, to surround myself with beauty.

I certainly credit him with my own love of gardening and beauty. He was a great influence me on my own career path first as a visual artist and now working in the healing arts. He was the catalyst who helped me to discover the truly healing power of beauty, something often trivialized or overlooked by our culture. Thank you dad!

I remember an old peeling wooden rowboat he brought to our backyard and filled with dirt in which he planted zinnias each summer. He also introduced me to the first homegrown vegetables I ever ate, corn and tomatoes and other things I'm either too old now or was too young then to remember.

The day before he died, I talked him through a guided visualization and described the Dogleg lane backyard of my childhood. Visualization is like a story where you are the main character, and it's used for everything from just relaxation to helping cardiac patients recover from heart attacks. I brought him to our childhood home, and described to him that he was in the hammock next to the rowboat with the blooming zinnias.

I painted a scene with a balmy blue sky day in summer with a gentle breeze and him rocking in the hammock in our fragrant green yard. I wanted him to know how much I appreciated all that beauty he created in our home and help him to transition in gentleness.

My dad, Paul Sherry, was a one of a kind, his creativity, love and stamina carried him through 70 years of marriage with my mom, totally amazing in itself these days. How many people do we know who are married for such a long time?

He lived through the depression, World War II, the joys and tribulations of raising a family and he just kept on with that great vigor and stamina he had no matter which decade we're talking about!

He affected so many people with his love of beauty and creativity with his great sense of style. He and mom have friendships which have lasted almost as long as their marriage, these things are so unusual today and should surely be celebrated!

My dad, Paul Sherry is a great inspiration and example of what determination, creativity and discipline can do to make us more fully human.

He will be greatly missed and is greatly loved. Thank you!

RIP Paul Sherry April 25, 1921 - March 28, 2013

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