Remarks prepared for the funeral service of Charles Patrick Kohrman II (aka Pat / Dad / Patsy (what my kids call him)) on 2/22/13.
Dad and I had many conversations during the last year of his life. He always wanted to know about the latest mischief-making from our kids, how Breezi and I were doing, and then we often recalled fun family memories we had growing up. One memory that came up most often was a winter campout we went on together with the Scouts. I clearly remember six feet of snow, give or take five or six feet.
Night came, and we got in our tent. That’s when the difference between my sleeping bag’s weather rating and the cold air became obvious. I was shivering. One Scout had already returned home, and I didn’t want to go home too, but I wasn’t warming up. Dad went back out and returned a few minutes later, carrying a blanket full of hot rocks he pulled from the campfire ring. He placed them at the foot of my sleeping bag, I warmed up, and slept comfortably the rest of the night.
Dad’s life is full of these rocks. It’s hard to narrow down a quarry, but I’d like to focus on just three of these rocks today.
The first rock is the Listening Rock. Dad was a listener. He would listen and listen and listen. I remember him telling me about how important it is to listen. He was walking down the hall at work one day, and in passing a colleague, he gave the usual “how you doing,” and the colleague said, “Horrible.” Dad stopped and asked why. The colleague was surprised, but opened up and talked for a few minutes as Dad listened.
Listening wasn’t a passive thing for Dad. When my parents were newlyweds, Dad came home one day and explained to Mom that he knew a family that needed help with some food. Mom and Dad didn’t have enough themselves, and they were getting by on a little food storage they had saved. My parents gathered together food from their own cupboards and took it to this family in need. Dad listened and always did something about it.
The second rock is the Teaching Rock. There are lots of people here today from Penn State. Dad loved the campus and the people. He loved teaching there. But now that Dad’s not here to stop me, I’d like to let you in on a little secret. Half the time Dad didn’t know what he was teaching before he agreed to teach a class. He’d just agree to teach, go buy a book about the subject, then spend sleepless nights studying before going into the classroom the next morning.
Dad taught me to say “yes” to opportunities and learn as you go. I took his example quite literally and taught Ohio State faculty how to use various software programs using his “buy the book and don’t sleep” method. I can’t say that I pulled this off as smoothly as Dad, but that principle continues to serve me well. He taught me that teaching is a great way to learn, and that teachers who keep learning are the best teachers.
The third rock is the Pop Tart Rock. This is my favorite rock – it comes in so many flavors. When Dad and my Uncle Jeff were kids, they would go camping, and they always took Pop Tarts with them to eat in the tent at night. When Dad started taking us on campouts, we always took Pop Tarts. When I took my children camping, we took Pop Tarts. I serve with a Scout troop in my city. At first the Scoutmaster disapproved of my suggested menu item – apparently the Scouting program isn’t very thrilled with sugary pre-packaged food, but I calmly explained to him the importance of Pop Tarts and that he’d have to talk to my father if he had any problems. When we go camping with the Scouts, we take Pop Tarts.
This rock is about having fun and making memories. Whether it was family vacations to Maine, reading Twas the Night Before Christmas in a right jolly old voice, tolerating crazy games my siblings and I invented, getting a treat after school performances, rolling his eyes while we teased him, or letting his granddaughters paint his toenails, Dad made special memories with us. He was our dad, but he was also our friend.
I was probably ten years old when Dad took my Uncle Shawn and me fishing. The river bank was steep and muddy from rain the night before. Dad told us to stay up high on the hill so we wouldn’t fall in. We listened, but dozens of branches blocked us as we cast our lines. Within minutes, or more likely seconds, our bait and bobbers were tangled in the trees. Dad worked his way down to the branches, and the next thing I remember was a gigantic splash, and Dad sorting out his wet wallet on the kitchen table at the farm. Dad always taught us by example.
I will remember the loud car Dad drove us to school in that he fixed with duct tape, the trumpet playing on New Year’s Eve, the way he could read Louis L’Amour and watch low budget Sci-Fi movies at the same time, the way he sang silly songs with us, the way he sneezed in the basement while woodworking, the way he created his own career path, the way he asked a friend if there was anything he could do to help just a week before he passed away. I will remember how he loved his children and grandchildren. But most of all, I will remember the way he loved Mom. He loved her the forever way.
Dad is my hero. I love him so much. He was an honest man, a spiritual man, a humble man, a gentle man. We miss him so much, but he has left behind these wonderful rocks for us: the Listening Rock, the Teaching Rock, and the Pop Tart Rock. Put Dad’s rocks by your feet and they will keep you warm. Listen to people and lift them up. Teach by learning and teach by example. And always bring Pop Tarts.
I love you, Dad!