My father loved to give people nicknames. There’s the Fisherman, Tortuga, Gomez, Squeak, the Chinaman’s wife, the cornbread lady, and on and on. He would be so happy that you are all here.
My father grew up on a farm in Iowa. He was actually born in the farmhouse where he lived. Whenever he filled out a form that said “Place of birth” he liked to write “Back bedroom.” He attended one of those little red school houses. He was always proud to tell us that he was number 11 out of 11 students. He was just too busy helping his father on the farm. Work was important to him. When we would go visit the farm as kids, we didn’t see our father until after sundown when he returned in overalls after helping his father in the fields all day. My father was so devoted to his Dad; I remember when his father was sick and dying, my Dad flew out to see him and when his father said that he did not want to be in the hospital any longer, my Dad picked up my gandfather and carried him out of the hospital and back to the farmhouse where he could die peacefully.
My father served in the Navy for 5 years. Upon returning he used his outstanding athletic skills to be accepted on to a minor league baseball team. But he chose to go to college instead. He went on to get a Bachelors degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Iowa State, and a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA.
One of the greatest gifts my father gave to us was his deep deep love for our mother. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man love a woman more. He loved her feistiness, and together they made a good team. He let her be herself, buy whatever she wanted, and do whatever she wanted. And he made sure when she was sick, that he kept her at home until the end of her life.
He was the ultimate provider. He worked many hours as an engineer, working on the Apollo programs that put the men on the moon. We were one of those families that got up early to watch every launch on TV. He was so proud. I remember when I was 12, America started downsizing the space program, and 6 out of 7 people lost their jobs. We used to hear that engineers were becoming gas station attendants. I remember my father worked at least 60 hours a week during that time. But, when people were being laid off, he was promoted to an MTS7, the highest level of technical expertise at Rockwell. I remember him telling me that you should always make yourself valuable to your boss. Be the one that he or she can count on. I have always given that same advice to my employees.
My father loved to learn. He studied many languages. After he retired from engineering and was taking care of his property, it was obvious that he missed using his very smart brain. He loved challenges. So if there was a stove or refrigerator that didn’t work, he would take it apart and study it and figure out how to fix it. He seriously could fix ANYTHING. But first, he always wanted to illustrate the problem, especially to me. He would take out one of the many pens in his shirt pocket and would start drawing me diagrams of plumbing or of the wiring in circuit breakers. If my attention faded, he would get mad and say “Don’t you want to learn??” One time when I was an adult and I didn’t feel like looking at the diagrams, I said “Dad, did you know that when you crochet there are several types of stitches. There’s single crochet, double crochet, and half-doubles.” He just stared at me with a “who in the hell cares?” expression on his face and said “what are you talking about??” I said, “Don’t you want to learn??” He started laughing.
Now, any of you that have spent any time with my parents know that they had a very unique style of communicating. They liked to holler at each other. They seemed to both enjoy it. When my best friend Michele moved away when I was 6 years old, I went to stay at her house for a week. When her father came home from work, her mother said, “How was your day dear?” “Fine,” he would answer. “How was yours sweetheart?” “Fine dear, what would you like for supper?” I pulled Michele aside and I asked her, “is there something wrong with your parents?” I don’t think I had ever heard my parents talk like that. I do have to admit though, that after a couple days at her house I was bored and needed to get back to my own nutty household. Even though my parent’s style of communication was baffling to us as kids, I think it provided me with one of the greatest treasures of my life: the closeness I share with my sisters Julie and Teresa and with my brother Fred.
My father loved La Strada. He ate there everyday for years. He would help me fix anything that was broken. When his Parkinson’s progressed he was not as steady as he used to be. But he didn’t want to give up. One time I came in early and found him trying to light the pilot light on the water heater. But instead of using a match to light it, he was using a blow torch. After that, I secretly scheduled repairs when I thought he wouldn’t be there. But sometimes, he would show up when I was not expecting him. He pretty much scared anyone away. Those of you who knew him, can probably picture it. He was just being protective of me.
About 10 years ago he had to get carotid artery surgery on his neck. He hated hospitals. After the surgery his blood pressure was dangerously low. I arrived with a Grilled Chicken Sandwich in a bright La Strada bag. Within minutes his blood pressure was normal. The nurse said, “How did you do that? He didn’t even eat the sandwich yet.” Easy. I brought him a piece of home, that’s what La Strada was to him.
He loved the Latino/Hispanic culture. My father’s name is Arden, but he nicknamed himself Lopez many years ago. I know that is how many of you know him, just Senor Lopez.
Living extravagantly was not for my Dad. He wore old jeans, 2 undershirts about 2 or 3 other shirts, a couple jackets and one of many hats. Right now, he is resting in a red shirt that my mother embroidered with “Hi Lopez”, and his hat that says “Lopez Rapido.” He drove around in an old truck and downplayed his success. He did many charitable things very quietly. A significant way that he helped many people in our community, was by not raising people’s rents, sometimes even for years. He also brought things to different tenants, like the one man who could not leave his home and could only drink Ensure. My Dad brought him cases of it.
One thing my father did like to brag about was his family. One time when we were watching old family videos, he said “I had the smartest and the best looking kids on the block!” He was so proud that all of his kids had gone to college. And then, there’s his 11 grandchildren who he loved so dearly. He loved sending out his annual Christmas card with them all lined up in order of height. Once they started at college, he started listing all of their schooling on the back. He was just so very proud.
The wonderful thing about my father was that he lived his life the way that he wanted. He had the love of a good woman for 58 years and 4 children that he loved and provided for. He taught us all how to work hard and to strive to be the best that we could be. He was the best grandfather any kid could have, not the traditional kind, but the best nonetheless.
His strong presence will be missed by all who knew and loved him.
I love you Daddy. xo Lisa