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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Daughter's Rememberance: Caleb S. Neth


Today, February 9th 2012, my father's cremains were inurned with those of my mother at their church memorial garden in Norwalk, OH. This is the eulogy that I gave at his memorial service this morning.

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We're here today to remember the life of Caleb Neth, my father. He was born in Pennsylvania on January 31st, 1934. He was the 3rd of six children, and has an identical twin brother named Phillip. There were 4 boys and 2 girls in the family and they were all very hard workers. Because they had to be. My grandfather was an alcoholic who couldn't take care of his family. Dad would tell us stories about living on someone else's farm where he and his brothers would milk cows and do chores around the farm in exchange for a place to live. Comedians today make jokes about these kinds of stories like walking to school in the snow with no shoes up hill (both ways) but when dad told them they were sadly true. He grew up during the depression and learned the value of hard work. This is something he taught to my brother, sister, and myself.

He graduated from Rostraver High School in 1952. He used his skill as a carpenter to work for the Admiral Home Company until he got his draft notice and entered the Army Reserves in 1956. He met and married Eleanor Crusan during this time. While mom stayed in Belle Vernon, PA, and helped look after my grandmother, dad became a member of the 101st Airborne. This was partly because of his love of airplanes, but mostly because if he completed 30 jumps each month he got an extra $50 in his pay that he could send home to her.

When he got out of the Army, he went to the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics to get his certification as an Airplane & Powerplant Mechanic and then went to work for United Air Lines. His first position with United was in San Francisco, CA, in 1963. He bought a brand new Corvair for around $2,500 and he and mom drove across country to start a new chapter in their lives. I still have that Corvair, and the original sales receipt. Someday I am hoping to get it back running and on the road but I think my husband Joe will end up doing most of that work.

Desmond Tutu once said "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." I've also heard people say "You choose your friends but not your family." Mom and Dad chose wonderful people to be their friends over the years, and also managed to choose some of their own family. My brother, sister, and I are all adopted. We were chosen. That is what they always told us and I believed it. I told people all of the time that I was adopted because it was no big deal to me. Once, in 2nd grade, another kid at school was teasing me because he said "my real parents didn't want me." I can still remember telling him that "his parents were stuck with him and that mine got to go to a big room full of babies and pick out the one they wanted and they Chose Me." That was how special they made me feel.

As dad's career with United progressed, we moved around a lot. Whenever there was a layoff, dad would "Bid" into another airport and if there was an opening, we would move. We left San Francisco and went to Salt Lake City, then Los Angeles, then Cleveland in 1975. We stayed here the longest but in 1988 dad moved one more time to Virginia to work at Dulles International Airport. It was there that he earned a Mechanic of the Year award in 1989 and then retired in 1993. Upon retirement, they came back to Ohio and settled in Collins to be closer to my family since we lived in Wakeman and I had the only grand kids at that time.

Dad was very proud of his work on airplanes loved them all of his life. We had toy planes and did science fair projects on them. We would go to the airshow in Cleveland every year over Labor Day Weekend to see the Blue Angels and sell pineapples that had just been flown in from Hawaii. When family members would come to visit we would take them to the United hangar at the airport and look at the planes, climb in and check out the cockpit, fun stuff like that.

One of the things my favorite things is Football. I'm a rabid Cleveland Browns fan and I blame dad for that. We rooted for the 49ers when we lived in San Fran, and the Miami Dolphins in the late 70's when my mom's cousin Doug played for them. When I was a teenager, I thought following football would help me get closer to my dad and since we lived near Cleveland, I started following the Browns. Little did I know, he was really a Pittsburgh Steelers fan at heart. Over the years, we spent many Sundays watching football - me wearing brown and orange and dad wearing black and gold. Over the past few days, many people have said to me "I'm sorry for your loss." Sometimes, it would make me smile just a little bit - because that is what dad would say to me every time the Steelers beat up my Browns. He would pat me on the back, smile, and say "I'm sorry for your loss."

In 2007, after 51 years of marriage, mom died of cancer. And some part of my dad went with her. It's always hard as a child to view your parents
as real people who were once kids too, who grew up and fell in love, who had a life that didn't revolve around raising you. But my dad loved my mom more than I ever realized and he was just lost without her. He carried two pictures of mom in his shirt pocket every day, one was her senior picture from high school and one was taken just a few years ago. When we would go to the grocery store, or the pet store, or anywhere, he would show her picture to people and "This beautiful lady is waiting for me in heaven."

It wasn't long after mom died that I realized dad was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. The biggest issue he had was short term memory loss, which made it seem to him like mom died last week, not last year, or 4 years ago. His pain was always that close by. As the Alzheimer's got worse, he was unable to live on his own. I am blessed that I have a supportive family and when I moved him in with us last March they didn't put up much of a fight. I wasn't always easy have someone as strong-willed and stubborn as I am living in my house, but I'm glad that I was able to have him with us.

There have been good times these last few years. He's gotten to spend time with my niece Holly, who was under a year old when her Grammie Eleanor died. And last year he got his first great grandchild - Gabriel. Whenever Gabe was really fussy, you just had to take him to PapPap who would smile and make silly noises and get Gabe to smile too. He loved all of his grandchildren very much. I'm extra lucky in that my daughters got to spend the most time with him. When they were younger, they would call him on the phone and ask if they could come over and he always said yes. He would take them on rides in a wagon pulled by his tractor, or on a moped, or even crawling around on his back like he was a horse.

This past Saturday, I guess mom got tired of waiting and decided it was time for dad to join her. Which is really all he has wanted since the day she died. I truly believe that he is with her now, happy and at peace, in heaven. On behalf of my sister Tricia, my brother Rob, myself, and our families, thank you all for coming here today to remember Caleb Neth. You were his friends, members of the family he'd chosen, and we truly appreciate your being here.

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