This past Saturday, the 23rd, was the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. It still seems like yesterday because every single little detail is still so vivid in my mind. It took me 2 years to deal with the way he passed because it wasn’t something you would wish on your worst enemy.
The pain isn’t as fresh anymore but don’t get me to talking about it because the flood gates will open back up and I’m a goner.
This post isn’t about mourning his loss though I wanted to celebrate his life.
I’ve written about him before and am still very proud of that post. Most of my readers have heard me speak of him often so I thought what better post to write today then to share with you who my Dad was.
I asked my Mom to put some things in writing for me so I’d have my facts a little more straight then me just winging it so here it goes…
Born In The Depression
My Dad was born John Frank DeCell, Jr. on November 18, 1922. He was born in the family home, 17 miles from town in rural Mississippi. There were no cars back then, only wagons and the doctor lived two miles down the road.
In the spring of 1923 he caught pneumonia and wasn’t expected to live. Throughout my Dad’s life we were told that many times, that he wouldn’t make it, but our reply was always the same. You don’t know my Dad.
Not only did he make it but he lived to be 80 years old. It wasn’t a healthy life he lived because from that moment on in 1923 you name it he caught it and was always sicker than anyone else. He was even held back from starting school because he was sick once again. By the time he started first grade he was nearly eight years old.
School In The Country
He attended a one room school with eight grades taught by just one teacher. He use to ride his horse to school and it would take him almost an hour to get there.
He didn’t live in what we think of as a neighborhood because it was way out in the country. They had hired help that lived on the property so their children were the only ones he played with.
He was raised on a cotton farm and they also grew tomatoes. Later on though my grandmother raised cattle and sold them.
When he finished the 7th grade he was sent to Jackson to live with his aunt for a year so they could have his teeth fixed. I remember seeing photos of him at a young age and bless his heart, they were horrible.
Grades 9 through 11 he was sent to Wesson where he boarded at the local high school which also doubled as a junior college. He played the clarinet in the band and actually held down several jobs.
He took care of the music room by setting up chairs and taking special care of the music and keeping the room clean. He worked in the cafeteria, he worked on a farm pitching hay, he threw the newspaper and he played in a band.
He and some friends snuck out at night to play at a local camp because my Dad had the key to the music room. They would collect their instruments and then return them that night so the teacher wouldn’t know they had been gone. They were paid a whole $1.50 each for playing.
World War II
His Dad went to the draft board and asked if he could wait until the summer to serve because he had already paid tuition for him to attend school and he knew he would lose his money.
After that particular semester he joined the navy because he preferred to ride on a ship then do a lot of marching. He was part of the rifle drill team and they did a lot of performing on the base and for different occasions.
Radar was invented around that time so the government sent him to the first radar school to learn how to operate it. After he finished school he was assigned to a tug boat type ship they used to rescue Russian and US boats that were sinking in the Aleutian Islands.
He got out of the service in 1946 and came back to Mississippi.
After The War
He thought he was so smart and he didn’t need to go back to college so he got a job selling insurance. Unfortunately, he tried to look up some premiums and couldn’t find them so he got to thinking that he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was.
He graduated in 1948 with a B.S. degree and got a job with a company called McKesson & Robbins. He flipped a coin to decide whether he would work in Houston, Texas or Little Rock, Arkansas and Houston won.
Once he received his training he was handling the territory in Houston and then also in Jasper, Texas. That’s where he met my Mom.
Their first date was a blind date. They dated, courted and were married within just six months. Mom carried ivy’s as her bouquet and still has it. She gave me a cutting so it’s now 63 years old. How cool is that!
After they were married he was assigned another territory so they moved to Baytown. That’s where they settled down and had three children. My sister Debbie is the oldest, I’m the middle and I have a younger brother named John.
Can you guess which one is me?
The First Dose Of Cancer
In 1958 when my brother was only six weeks old my Dad was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Metastasis Epimyolpitheld Carcinoma.
This type of cancer attacks the weakest part of your body so his first bout attached itself to his parotid gland. He was told there were only 22 other cases known with this type of cancer. Chemo and radiation did not even phase it so surgery was their only option. Unfortunately they had all died after six months. He was given the dreaded news to get his things in order.
After they operated he couldn’t close his eye nor move his mouth. His face was completely paralyzed on one side. They ended up doing surgery twice just to make sure they removed it all. They were still hoping for the best.
He was a father of three young children and wasn’t ready to check out just yet. He’s one very persistent guy so he kept exercising his face until one day everything just started moving again and as you already know, he lived on.
A Golfing Nut
Every minute he was home that’s where you could find him. He got his handicap down to a 6.
We moved into an addition called Country Club Oaks when I was 8 and the golf course was at the end of our block. He eventually purchased a golf cart for two reasons. He couldn’t walk as far as he use to due to being tired out more often and he hated paying the cart fees.
Mom decided over time that if she ever wanted to see Dad when he was home that she better learn to play golf. She not only learned but over time ended up beating him. Boy, he hated that.
Life As He Knew It
His next surgery came along in 1967 when he complained of a horrible stomach ache. He went to the doctor and they immediately admitted him and took him to surgery. His appendix were on the verge of exploding.
In 1975 Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and it was the same type so he was scheduled for surgery where they removed it all.
In 1979 he had another lung operation and in 1992 they operated on his chest to remove some cancerous scar tissue and all the tumors that were forming.
He was told at that time that between both of his lungs he only had one really between him since they took out part of each one with those three surgeries. They told him they couldn’t operate again on his lungs or he wouldn’t have any at all.
After that last surgery he still had a few more. He had his gallbladder removed as well as a hernia. He also had a slight heart attack after the first surgery which we all felt was brought on from all that worrying whether he was going to be able to provide for his family.
From 1986 until 1995 he volunteered at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. What better way to give back then to help those who were going through what he had gone through. Doctor’s could tell you what to expect but they hadn’t actually been through it themselves.
He was heavily involved with the Anderson Network which helped patients connect with others who had been through the same ordeal. He also helped patients who came to M.D. Anderson from small towns and were very overwhelmed with the size of the facility and where they needed to go.
One thing my Dad never did was complain. When other patients would ask him why they were stricken with cancer he would ask them to walk with him. He took them down to the children’s ward and then asked them, why the children. No one ever said anything again.
The next news that was given him was that he had Parkinson’s disease. The good news was that he wouldn’t be shaking on the outside, the bad news was that he would be shaking on the inside.
He still played golf during all this time but the tournaments they use to play in ceased after that. They had a ton of trophies that they had won individually and between them. They traveled a lot too to different places just to play and he was most proud to say he’s played at Pebble Beach and birdied the 18th hole with people watching. Oh yeah, he had proof!
Remembering My Dad
My Dad had the best sense of humor. He was a practical joker and boy could he make us laugh. He was always telling stories about what his Dad use to do back on the farm. I never got tired of hearing him tell those.
At his service the stunts that he use to pull on his friends were being told on him and I know he was laughing while looking down from heaven.
We had a memorial for him to celebration his life. We had big band music playing, we set up a table in the front of the church with all of Dad’s favorite stuff laid out, we had his golf clubs set up and I put a photo album together for him for his 80th birthday going back over his entire life. Everyone enjoyed looking through that one. That’s where I got all these pictures!
That particular day we had an ice storm so some of our family didn’t make it to the service but it was still standing room only. We had so many people telling us how he had helped them through some of the most difficult times of their lives.
He was a great man, a true inspiration and one man that I’m truly proud to call my Dad.
Thank you for letting me share this with you today, it means the world that you read this to the end.
If your parents are still with you, please give them a hug or call them to tell them how much you love them. One day that will no longer be possible. One day you’ll be having this anniversary that is definitely not worth celebrating.