The funeral arrangements for John went well, starting with the visiting hours on Wednesday afternoon. Many of our, and John’s friends, the nurses who took care of him at the nursing home, and others came to pay their respect to John. As an added excitement, towards the end of the visiting hours, say around 6:00 PM, there were some gunshots outside. The wife of the funeral home director came and told us to stay put since there was a shooting across the street. Soon, the small shopping strip was filled with police cars and ambulances. A man and a woman got shot for some reason, luckily not too seriously.
After the visiting hours were over, Jan, Bob (Jan’s cousin,) Edda (our next-door neighbor) went to Timmy’s Waterside Restaurant for a bite to eat, and toasted John once more. Back at home, we got ready for the next day for the funeral services. I did the final edits on the eulogy I would deliver on Thursday at the church service.
On Thursday morning, we drove to the Asbury United Methodist Church, literally around the corner from us. The funeral director and his helpers were there with the hearse. They pulled John’s coffin draped with the US flag. John was a veteran, and he had a military burial service, as you will see in the video below.
The minister Rev. Choi Chong was ready with the program and at 10:00 AM he started the service, prayers, hymns, and of course, we played John’s favorite song The Three Bells while those in attendance joined in following the lyrics Rev. Chong provided. Bob read a section from the scripture, and I shared my thoughts as I eulogized John, at times not being able to hide my emotions. You will see the text of my eulogy at the bottom of the post. Jan shared a story that one of the nursing home aides had a dream of John the night he passed away.
Then we got into our cars and slowly drove to the Pawtuxet Cemetery on Harrison Avenue, less than a mile from the church. You can see most of the graveside service, including the three-gun salute and the playing of Taps. The soldiers then came, removed, and folded the flag and presented it to Jan along with the three bullets.
We had invited everyone who had time to join us for lunch at Little John’s Pizza. John liked their pizzas. I had arranged with Nick, the owner, what to prepare, and around 12:30 PM friends started coming. For the next couple of hours, we enjoyed being with our friends and remembered John in good times.
Yesterday evening, we went out to eat with our friends Ismail, Leyla, Nilgun, Mete, Jan, Bob. At the end of the dinner, Mete asked for some small glasses and pulled out a bottle of Amaretto. We all enjoyed remembering John once more. This will have a better meaning after you read my eulogy.
The video I tried to record at the graveside is below. After the video, is the text of my eulogy for John. It is a good way to remember John, that’s all!
And I said:
John Rhodes 1919-2013
I do not like sad funeral services, I do not like dwelling on sorrow. Sorrow is erased by time, as it should. But the joy of having known a good person lasts forever. So, I would like to say a few words to celebrate John’s life and his kind nature and hope that you remember him with joy rather than sorrow. He would probably agree with me on that.
He avoided confrontation
Over the years, I have gotten to know John closely and understood his quiet nature in dealing with people and whatever life has thrown at him. He did not like confrontation with anyone, his first instinct that would surface was to defuse the situation and find a suitable compromise. John did not like confrontation, even when he was right. He would do whatever he could to reduce the tension. He would provide a harmless argument, say “I’m just trying to get the facts” and end up with a disarming “that’s all” to indicate that he was not interested to push it any further. This approach worked for him most of the time. When it did not, he would then say, “that’s fine” and walk away. We should all be that patient.
Loved helping anyone
Before they instituted TransVan services, John used to fill that void with Ruthie being the dispatcher. I remember him driving neighbors, friends, and friends of friends to places from grocery stores to doctor appointments. He did all that with a smile and with no complaints. He was simply helping people in need, as he used to say, “that’s all.”
He visited us in Turkey and marveled at many things, and quickly learned to like the diluted yogurt drink, as he discovered that it was better than the stomach problems he was experiencing. He could not help himself to put his foot on the little stand of the shoeshine boys everywhere. He probably had them shined ten times in one day, and he was wearing sneakers! He just wanted to tip the little boys, “that’s all.”
Loved having fun
He loved playing scrabble with great-aunt Ruth and me. We would play several rounds after family gatherings. He was a highly competitive and humorously sore loser. He would show mock anger and say a few words to a particular tile for hanging him out to dry.
Bowling for a long time was his passion; he would go to weekly league and banter with his bowling buddies. He tried to get me interested in it, which I must say was a valiant effort that failed. He was tuned to the game, his environment, and the language bowlers used. One day when in Turkey, we took him to the US Air Force base to have a game of bowling. While bowling, he told us the guy bowling on the next lane must have been from RI. We asked him how he knew, and he said: “he swears like me!” Sure enough, he went to talk to the young soldier and found out that he was from Cranston and carried greetings back to the young man’s family upon return to the Stateside. He was just helping, “that’s all”.
Avoided hurting feelings
He could not tell people that they misunderstood something for fear that he might hurt their feelings. One of his business associates, whom John helped with connections, asked John where to get some liquor and wine for his contacts, and asked what kind of drink he and Ruthie liked. He mistakenly said “Amaretto” instead of an inexpensive wine label. To thank John, his friend sent him a 12-bottle case of Amaretto, for the next 15 years! I must say I was the major beneficiary of that mistake which John could not bring himself to correcting for fear that he might hurt the feelings of his friends. He was being gentle, “that’s all.”
He was an optimist
Being the optimist that he was, he would think everything would work out if he used a hammer to hit the thing that did not work a few times. He had self-deprecating humor and he told a story of fixing his car battery with a hammer in front of Dunkin Donuts as a few young guys watched. In the end, the car somehow started, and as John narrated the story, one of the young men said: “I told you the old geezer would get it running.” His optimism, sometimes to a fault, covered all aspects of life. He would buy a lottery ticket and start thinking about which lawyer to hire when he won the jackpot. He would say that he just wanted to be ready, “that’s all”.
He loved his church
For many years he served as one of the trustees of the Asbury United Methodist Church, where he and Ruthie were the first to get married and where he is saying goodbye to us. He did his duties diligently, and willingly. I accompanied him to a few church visits when Asbury was planning to replace the organ. He asked the right questions, he kept the right numbers, and I am sure he steered the trustees to make the right choice. He was doing his duty, “that’s all.”
In short, John was the embodiment of all the good things we all aspire. Whatever faults he might have had must have been too mild for us to remember, compared to the kindness he showed.
I first spoke with John in 1969; that was a phone conversation from Michigan. I told him that Jan and I decided to get married. He said “that’s good news” although his daughter would leave them to go to a country the name of which they probably associated more with Thanksgiving. Thank you, John, and Ruth, for my gift that keeps on giving. She is your daughter, “that’s all.”
John, we all bid you a very fond farewell and will remember you as the kind man you were.