Eulogy for Dad

Before I get to the hard part, I’ll start with the easy part of my speech — and that is, to invite everyone to join us at the museum — across the street and to the west  —  immediately following this service.  My mom, sister and I look forward to greeting you there for lunch.  And now the hard part.

I hope my Dad can see what I’m seeing right now — A room packed full of friends.  And you should know my Dad chose each of you very carefully – the way a captain might choose a crew for a very long voyage.  And already today so many people have told me how proud they were to be part of Dad’s crew and I know he felt the same way toward each of you.

Part of the reason captains choose crew carefully – and vice versa – is that when you’re all aboard together you implicitly share a common experience.  What the ship goes through everyone goes through.  And today, we are all here huddled together sharing the same loss.  Missing him together.

As crew members, everyone contributes something in particular to a boat, but each person’s simple existence on board provides the ballast, the even keel to keep the whole thing moving together.  I — and speaking on behalf of my sister and my mom — are really, really grateful for the crew that’s here to help us hold the rail down through this storm.  We’ve never seen waves like this.

But selecting a fine crew is just one of the things a great captain does, and my Dad was more than a great judge of character.  Captains have a strong sense of tradition – how to dress a ship right, and operate himself and his vessel smartly.  You didn’t see my dad’s shirt tail untucked very often and his was never the boat with drying laundry flapping on his boat’s lifelines.  Lucky for us, Dad’s sense of doing things right was contagious.  He tended to make everyone around him sit up a little straighter.  “Remember who you are and what you represent,” his grandfather would say.

A captain looks out for his crew – and Dad took care of mom, and us, before he took care of himself.  Captains are loyal to their crew – no finer example of marital loyalty exists between Dad and Mom, his first mate.   You are welcome to interpret that any way you please.  And his loyalty was tested further when one particular member of his family resettled in ultra-liberal Cambridge, MA.

Dad operated his ship with purpose.  From taking the reins at Hoffman Vance and Worthington, serving on committees at the US Naval Academy, Ventura Pacific Citrus Co-op, even joining the board of Santa Barbara Bank and Trust.   He was a conservative leader (another phrase you are welcome interpret as you wish), but took measured gambles, transitioning Hoffman Vance & Worthington from largely agricultural management firm to a commercial property management firm and like the best captain/leaders, he trained and groomed others to be competent leaders themselves.

He balanced that purposefulness with whimsey; I remember helping dad make a life-sized the shark fin made out of plywood, a lobster buoy and gate hardware —  to tow behind the Whaler and then see if it was compelling enough to convince the kids taking their swim tests at the girl scout camp at Catalina, shooting off old flares on the 4th of July — and whatever mischief I’ll never know about at those Rancheros rides.

But captains are self sufficient and sometimes keep to themselves.  And so did my Dad.    Thoughtful captains tie the halyards off the mast so they don’t bang against the rig and keep others up at night — and Dad made sure he never bothered others with his troubles.  Right to last week when surely everything in his body hurt — when reasonable hope had run out, and he had long lost the ability to do the things that make Rick Hambleton Rick Hambleton – no complaints.  No self-pity.  He proves that the best captains don’t whine.

And so we are here together while Dad has set out on a voyage he has to do on his own.  It was hard to me to watch him get ready to set out and surely harder for Ricardo, Mom and Katherine to see him cast off.  We are heartened to know that he is in the company of the family and friends who have made that crossing already — heartening for us and and surely Dad is a welcome arrival for them, too.

But now we transition.  Neighbors in the Ventura Keys have honored my Dad by lowering the flags in front of their homes to half mast.  This has meant a great deal to us.  As I speak, our family’s own flag is being raised to the top of its staff and we invite others to start the rebuilding process and join us in lifting theirs, too.  Let us remember that the magnitude of hurt we feel now is proportionate to the extraordinary friendship and experiences he gave with us.   Extraordinary indeed.

Sail on smarty Dad.  We miss you.

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