Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Daddy

My Daddy passed away last Monday.  It was the longest and hardest day of my life.  I was there for him and ESM right up to the end.  We held a memorial service for him over the weekend. I was able to stand up there and give the eulogy for him.  Here is what I had to say about my Daddy.

Good morning.  We are here to celebrate the life of Louis James Wanner, Jr, better known as Jim.  I’m sure there are many of you here who didn’t know he was “Louis”.

Jim was born September 30, 1946 as one of six children.  He was raised in Baltimore MD, until he enlisted in the Navy.  In the Navy, he saw the world, spending time on many ships and different shore duties.

In 1966 he married Kathleen Gerwitz and they eventually had 2 children.  Jim spent 8 years in the Navy and it was after they had their first child, Jimmy, that Jim decided to leave the Navy.  He didn’t want his children to grow up wondering which person coming off the ship was their Daddy.
 42 years ago, Jim and Kathy moved to Salem County and he became active in Elsinboro’s community.  He started as a police officer helping to patrol and keep Elsinboro safe.  Jim also was a volunteer fireman for many years.
 Jim has held many offices in the Elsinboro government over the years, planning officer, zoning officer.  He wanted to ensure the community where he lived remained the wonderful place he had come to know it as.
 After Jim left the Navy he went to work at the Nuclear Power Plant as quality assurance.  He wrote many of the policies and procedures that are in place now.  Again, he was dedicated to many sure the plant was as safe as possible since he was living in the community around it.
 In addition to caring about the community where he lived and raised his family, he was above all a family man and dedicated husband, not only to his Kathy but to his second wife, Irene.

I wanted to share some things about my daddy.  Just some stories and tidbits I remember about him.  Some are just a flash of a memory that has stayed with me and others are a bit longer…
Daddy was my hero, when I was a little kid and even since I’ve become an adult.  All my life, Daddy has been there.  He worked hard to give us the life he thought we should have, be it toys and clothes or a wonderful vacation to Disney World.  He and My mom were a team, although mom seemed to do most of the hard parenting.  But when I pushed my limits too hard, Momma would refer me to Dad with the standard “Wait till your father gets home”.  That’s when I knew I had pushed too hard.
I remember dancing in the hallway on Christmas mornings, very early mornings, to wake up my parents so we could see what Santa brought.  Daddy was usually the one to let us into the living room to start the fun.  I remember the year Santa brought Big Kid Bikes.  It didn’t matter that it was December, we took them out for a ride right after the sun came up.
Oh and Christmas was the only time Daddy would drink Coffee.  That changed in later years but that was another reason that Christmas was so special to me.  The smell of coffee in the house was lovely.
I remember listening to a recording of me singing Silver Bells and Daddy saying how great his “baby girl” sounded.  Trust me, it wasn’t that good.
One day the bus dropped me off from school and there in the driveway was my Daddy.  He was standing by my new 10-speed bike for graduation.  It was just 8th grade graduation but he was proud of me.
He sat next to me while I tried to gently program the new syntax computer he had gotten.  If you breathed wrong the thing would crash.
I remember Daddy laying on the ground next to my brother when he’d broken his wrist.  Daddy was trying to comfort him while the ambulance was called.  I also remember Daddy telling the story of how the fire chief yelled at Daddy for not treating my brother for shock while he waited for help to arrive. Dad knew the proper protocols of an emergency situation but completely forgot them since his son was the one laying on the ground.
He took me to practice parallel parking in the Avenues of Salem.  He made me park between 2 REAL cars.  No trash cans or flags for me.  Just the real thing.
As I got older, I remember his Christmas Eve trips to the jewelry store for a special present for mom. It would usually be the nicest wrapped present under the tree or hidden in her stocking.
My childhood is peppered with good and bad stories but they are typical ones, you know parent teacher conferences, holiday plays at school, arguing with them because I wanted to go somewhere and they said no. OR if I went to Daddy to ask something, he would refer me to momma and momma would refer me to Daddy. Can you say Ping Pong Ball?  But for all that I loved both my parents, as parents.
I was also fortunate enough to have a chance to get to know my parents as people, friends, equals.  Momma and I grew close through her illness.  She became my best friend and I learned the importance of family through her.
Daddy took off work to help Momma fight her illness.  He would do whatever he thought would make her happy and comfortable.  He helped her to leave this world as peacefully as possible.  When she died, I got the opportunity to get to know my father as a person, a man, a friend.
He was so proud of his grandson, Jacob.  He was the first person to see Jacob in the hospital.  He was the first one to take pictures of him.
Every week Daddy would stop by or we would meet him for dinner and he would take pictures of Jacob.  Every week I could be assured of an email with at least three pictures attached sent out to so many people.  There are many of you in this room who watched the first year or more of Jacob’s life in pictures.
And for the people who didn’t have email, he would carry around his 3-ring binder filled with pictures.  His brag book went everywhere he did.
Then Renie came into the picture. I resisted at first. I was afraid of losing my daddy.  I didn’t have to worry about that.  Renie fit into the family, she didn’t take Daddy away from it.
I remember when Jacob was toddling around, I came home from work to find a green turtle sandbox in the driveway, along with a rocket ship swing.  After dinner Dad and Renie stopped over to play sand with Jacob and push him in the swing.
There was fishing on the river, some where there is a picture of Dad holding Jacob by the straps of the life vest cause Jacob is leaning WAY WAY over the edge. Dad did everything he could to protect Jacob and to teach him the right way of doing things.  And teaching Jacob things never stopped.  Just a couple weeks ago, Daddy was teaching Jacob about hooking the battery charger or some kind of wiring job to the scooter chair.  I don’t know what was going on, I just know they were out there working together.
At Jacob’s first birthday, Dad and Renie showed up with a trash bag full of balloons.  And they dumped them right over Jakes head!  And Jacob loved it, lots of squeals of joy!  I think Jacob loved the balloons more than any present he got that day.
I will be the first to admit I have been spoiled by all three of my parents over the years. I have been and will always be “Daddy’s Girl”
I have so many wonderful memories of my daddy.  As my friend, Ruth said to me recently “there are dad’s and there are Daddy’s.  You had a Daddy.” She is so right. I had a Daddy who I loved with all my heart.

Goodbye Daddy, Give Momma a hug for me! And I hope Aunt Auds gave you a little time before she picked you up to throw you in the pool! 


  1. hugs.
    i am sorry. i am glad you have these memories
    but i know how hard it is...having gone through it with my wife.

  2. OH Amy, I'm just so terribly, terribly sorry to hear this. I knew he was failing, but I didn't think it would be so soon. It was lovely to read all your memories and stories about him. It's a beautiful gift our loved ones leave behind when we can reflect on all those treasured moments. Hugs and love!

  3. Dear Amy, how sad to say goodbye. This week, my 31 yr old son found a photo album of himself as a baby. There were pictures of my Mum and Dad in that book! They surprised me, in a wonderful, happy way. It was nostalgic, and grounding at the same time. Now I am the grandma holding new babies in the family. I liked reading your. Memories of your Dad.

  4. AMy was so sorry to hear about your dad passing.
    I know it has been a hard go of it while he was sick and seems you have both been there for one another. He sounds like he was a great man and you have wonderful memories of him.
    He's at peace now and I am sure he'll give you strength when you need it to still get through things in life.
    Take good care of yourself .
    I left a message the other day but for some reason it wasn't showing up , so sorry if I am repeating myself just want you to know we care.


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