Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eulogy For My Grandfather, Donald Coston

Some of this was written down in advance in rough notes, while the rest was improvised.

Eulogy For Donald Coston

I am reminded this morning that you can travel the entire world, and yet the place that you come from always stays with you. The people, the place, and those we love. So to you, the town of Phelps, Seneca Falls, and to Don, I say good morning. I may no longer live here, but I have never truly left, just as you have never left me.

There's a tendency in these speeches to make it sound like you're prepping that person for sainthood. And I don't think that Don would've wanted that. Don had his wild times. As some of you told me last night, "I used to see Don at the Lions Club. We had a lot of fun together."
He had his difficult days. Don was many things, all at once. He was a human being. He was a Coston. You can take that last sentence, any way you want. But what did Don leave behind during his time here? Quite a lot.

In 1944, Don left high school to join the US Navy, serving on the USS Conbarre. After the war, he came home, married grandma Jean, and he and my great-grandpa Louie built the house on Miller Avenue, next to Louie & Lottie's house. He raised three boys. He got heavily involved in the community, becoming a founding member of the Legion, the Lions Club, and the Buckhorn Sportsman's Club.

I was here in 2006, watching the Sauerkraut Parade, and my wife said, "Daniel, there's Don."  I looked around, thinking that he was walking down the street, and she said, "No, he's leading the parade!" There he was, in a car leading the parade. I ran out in the street to take photos. I remember shouting at him, "Looking good Don!" My wife told me later that the day before, while my family was having lunch at a local restaurant, she overheard Don telling the waitress that he was going to lead the parade, while having forgotten that he hadn't told us, his family. But that was Don. He had figured that we already knew, because he knew everyone in town, and everyone in Phelps knew him. 

My earliest memories of Don and Jean are at Christmas. My families had a gentleman's agreement that we would be go over to Don & Jean after visiting my other grandparents, George & Mary King, whom I miss greatly. As a kid, this was great, because if you included Christmas with Mom & Dad, it meant that I got Christmas three times in one day. Yes!
Don would be sitting in his bark-a-lounger, grandma Jean would be in the kitchen.
Louie & Lottie would be sitting on the couch in the living room, before the house was turned into a duplex.

My favorite memories of the family are at our cottage we had at Panther Lake. Many in my family learned to waterski there. I was too chicken for that, I was more of a horseshoes and fishing kind of person, or watching baseball on the B&W TV we had. That is where I think of the family, and I remember the calm of that lake in the morning, with the mist rising. And I wish I could feel that calm again.

Listening to the organist this morning, I am reminded of the pump organ that Don and Jean used to have in the basement. My wife will tell you that to this day, if there is a pump organ in the room, I am going to play it. It just happens. At one point in the late 1980s, I visited Don & Jean, and I asked where the pump organ was. "We cut it up for firewood," he told me. "It went up real fast. We're probably going to cut up the Victrola next." The cottage at Panther Lake had come with its own Victrola. At this point, I pulled the Grandson Clause, and asked for the Victrola.  

On their next trip to North Carolina, Don & Jean brought the Victrola down in their Minivan, and then helped us carry it upstairs to my office. Don complained about carrying it, and bringing it down. He complained a lot, actually. But he did it. And this brings me back to what he did, and what Don left behind.

Don left behind experiences with all of us, no matter how you knew him. Friend, Don, Dad, Gramps. He left behind a lifetime of experiences, and memories that will go on. The things we share with others do not end in death. They will go on, as we will go on. A part of Don was left all over this town, and is still here. Today, and in the future. Every one of us in this room is a part of Don, as he in some way is a part of us. Hold on to that, and take that with you. For in doing so, today is not a goodbye. It is a passing moment, a part of the line that we all share, until Don, and we all meet again someday. And I look forward to that. 

I love you Don, good luck, Godspeed and thank you.
-Daniel Coston
May 11, 2013

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