My father passed away last week, aged 81. Following are remarks excerpted from my eulogy at the service.
He was a remarkable man. You'd have to be, growing up as a young boy in Nazi Germany before the War.
The original Rebel without a Cause, He took nothing for granted, accepted nothing at face value, nothing on a superficial level. Rather, he would apply his razor sharp mind to arrive at his own conclusions. And he was almost always right. In fact, as he always said, "even when I'm wrong I'm right!"
Despite his intelligence, his abilities, he was never condescending or patronising. He was frequently stubborn and argumentative, in between long stretches of silence, but never used his masterful command of language to belittle or make fun of others.
He treated everyone with fairness and honor. And people loved him for that. I saw with my own eyes the love and respect he inspired in the people who worked at National Dyehouse, the textile company of which he was managing director for many years. His integrity and sense of fair play was clear to everyone who knew him.
From textiles to tropical fish wholesaling to instant printing --- he was skilled at reinventing himself to meet changing life circumstances. But whatever he did, he did well. Better than most. As a chess player, for instance, he was virtually unbeatable. I won no more than two or three games off him over the course of 50 years and thousands of games.
He was a generous man, helping others at every opportunity. He gave freely of himself and his time, especially to us kids. He taught me how to play chess, tennis, monopoly, scrabble! How to drive a car. How to do long division! He taught me many things, not only in terms of how and what to do in particular circumstances, but also (and more importantly) in terms of an overall attitude to life and to oneself. Not all those things have served me well, but more have than have not.
From him I got my love of strong black coffee, German food, Aretha Franklin, and much more besides. But I think the most valuable gift of all his gifts to me was the lesson I learned from him about ones abilities and potential. Specifically, that you can always do more than you think you can. That you can always do more than others think you can. That you always and inevitably underestimate what you are capable of.
He was a very determined man, blind to difficulties. He saw every challenge as an opportunity. From him, I derived an understanding of the value of self-discipline and self-confidence. Even though I haven't been able to put that understanding into practice, at least not to the same extent as he did.
To me he was a "superior human being", a man I looked up to as my mentor and guide to dealing with life and the world. There was nothing he couldn't do, nothing he didn't know. And to this day, whenever I really need to understand something extra clearly, or find the most effective response to a problem or a difficult situation, what I do is ask myself one simple question: "what would HE do?" and in the answer to that question I almost always find my way.
His passing was quick, relatively peaceful and relatively painless.