My husband's "dash" (1944 - 2021)
Bill's note from his journal
We start today with Bill's own words that he left behind in his stack of journal notes and To Do Lists.
For all of you who are here, you know how MUCH and for how LONG he cared and loved us all. Many times, during the last months of his life, he said he felt the love and caring we all sent to him as he reminisced about his time as a child, a brother, a cousin, a young adult, a soldier, a student, a friend, a father, a grandfather, and a husband.
For those who are not here but who are reading this, he wanted you to know how MUCH and for how LONG he treasured the relationship he had with you.
So often he would laugh his way through stories of playing cowboys and Indians with his brothers and cousins which included "scalping" baby dolls offered up by cousin, and tomboy, Peggy, or "shrunken heads" that were made by putting baby doll heads on sticks. These were stuck in the ground around a campfire in the backyard and frightened the Cooper Cousins.
Other stories include taking his cousin Karen for summertime rides around town and the peninsula on his motorcycle, experiments to find out how much black powder it would take to blow up a vacant doghouse, how fast they could throw little green apples at the nuns of Mercyhurst and then fall on their bellies in the tall grass to hide from those nuns, and getting on the City bus with their shotguns to ride to the end of the run to hunt rabbits and other small game.
His brother Joe believes that you were never far from seeing God when Bill was around. Thus, his inspiration for his painting of Bill as the POPE.
Then there were many proud father and grandfather moments with his children and grandchildren. A very small sample includes graduations from school, Boot Camp, college, and kindergarten, all of the Christmas programs, Grandparents' Day, and Veterans Day Tributes, T-ball then baseball tournaments, teaching how to shoot and gun safety, and sharing deer hunting first harvest stories. All combined, they brought him such pride and happiness through the decades.
He was also so proud of the father that Bob is to Blake and Quinton. Then there were also the bittersweet family visits from the Smokey Mountain visit with Joe & Jan and Tom & Shelba to the multiple visits last year at home with Jer & Lizzy, Jill & Jeremy, Dayna & Bob, Blake, and Quinton.
On his lighter and funny side that he shared with both family and friends were his "serious" questions that provoked a smile when he asked, "Why does a Leatherman come in a nylon case?”, “Why won't OUR chickens cross the road?", or "When was a penny ever wise?".
He enjoyed hosting ATF parties every year, laughing all the way through lunch every day with coworkers in the "Big House", knowing and naming a real diva, crazy birthday parties at the Frog Pond, "poking" fun at his acupuncturist, wanting to be called "The Gun Father" after giving away his guns, his walks across the street to share some beers with his friend to talk about politics, babysitting butterflies, and breakfast or lunch at Annett's Diner with a side of laughter.
He lived out a life with a focus on, and not losing sight of, happiness, wherever he could make or find it through everything, from the smell of food and the crowd noise at the county fair, the tractors, machinery, food, and flea market tables at the Steam Show, hunting groundhogs with Jer and Jake, his Sunday phone calls with his brother Tom, and countless kayak trips down French Creek to see eagles. These trips are also remembered for the calming effect that once "on the water, we just sighed peacefully because there was nowhere else to be”.
Bill found joy in this little town of Cambridge Springs where he would give psychology sessions at the barber shop, sell eggs to the tack shop, buy bird seed from the auto parts store, propane from the florist, and fresh vegetables and fruit from Mike’s Junk Store.
He had so much joy in making tipis and special 3D cakes for Blake and Quinton for their birthdays and taking them to ride Thomas the Train or the pirate ship at Dobbins Landing, which spurred turning the golf cart into a pirate ship and dressing up as a pirate with a long black coat, a three-pointed hat, an eyepatch, and, of course, a sword.
Bill liked to remind us that you couldn't possibly know how valuable happiness was without the solemn side of life. His examples included watching Jer get on the bus that took him away to Army Boot Camp, being told there were no more cancer treatments left for him, the death of an older brother who he wasn't able to say goodbye to, watching his father pass away in the emergency room, missing out of most of Jill’s life, the uncertainty of Dayna's wellbeing while she was living in Pittsburgh on September 11, and knowing he couldn't do anything to fix or slow down MS.
In closing, Bill was very thankful for having a happy life that we were all a part of. He truly believed that being happy was the best revenge on anyone who did him wrong.
He left so many of us with lessons of where to find and how to keep happiness. One last example to remember Bill\Dad\Snappy\Papa by is that he enjoyed preparing his chili to one of his favorite songs "Happy" by Pharrel Williams. (And yes, he had a little two step while chopping celery and onions.)
Our time here today will end with his cousin Peggy's comforting words reminding us that, "Grief never ends but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief isn’t a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith. Grief is the price of love."