There are certain special people in this world. There are those that do things on a grand scale for the whole world to see. And then there are those who quietly, but perhaps more powerfully, change the world through a myriad of tiny, seemingly inconsequential, acts of love. Acts of generosity done completely anonymously.
This man was one of those people.
This man was the smartest man I have ever met, and everyone who met him would tell you the exact same thing. His rapacious intellectual curiosity led him to read everything. Everything. From 19th century art to European military history to how Steven Speilberg filmed Jaws. He wrote his own crossword puzzles for fun in the middle of the night and could beat you in Scrabble with one hand tied behind his back. But when you talked to him, he made you feel as though you were the most interesting and intelligent person in the world. He had the answer to everything, but he always helped you figure it out yourself.
This man was the definition of witty. His humor would leave you doubled over with laughter. It was sharp and smart and wickedly funny, but it was never mean.
This man wrote so beautifully and eloquently, it would make you cry. Every word he used had a purpose. And generally you had to look one of them up in the dictionary.
This man came to Norfolk 40 years ago and loved it so much that he spent every day trying to make it a better place, to embrace everyone who came here. He quietly became a second father to countless young people – our friends, his young associates, secretaries, college kids, young professionals, anyone he met – because he truly cared about their happiness and their future. He got them into college, helped them when they got in trouble, paid off their loans (anonymously), guided them, loved them. He made them better writers, better citizens, better human beings. This man was a pillar of the Virginia legal community, but he cared more about being an exemplar of integrity, civility, and morality.
This man loved art and music and history and theater and football. He danced with us in our den to the Rolling Stones and every Broadway show tune imaginable. He read us books and poetry and taught us to love to learn. This man traveled the world with us to show us its beauty and history. We spent every Saturday in the fall at our happy place watching Virginia football.
This man never said an unkind word or raised his voice. Ever. He hugged and loved and laughed and always made sure you had a full glass. This man said “I love you” one hundred times a day. This man showed us all what a fairy tale marriage really was. He loved my mother more than his heart could bear. He could not breathe when she wasn’t next to him. He could not sleep when she wasn’t there. He spent his life anticipating every possible thing that would make her happy. This man did not believe in the grand gesture – he believed in the thousand little moments every day that showed his utter devotion to her every happiness.
This man was everything a father and grandfather should be. He listened, he laughed, he counseled, he supported every thing we ever did – even the dumb ones. He read to us until we fell asleep on his chest – even when we were old. He cut our blisters and carried us when we couldn’t walk. He taught us silly jokes and card tricks. He raced from depositions to be at the other end of the pool when we finished our breaststroke races and opened his arms to our wet hugs, even when they ruined his ties. He told us we were smart and beautiful and brave and true. He told us every day how proud he was. Of our accomplishments, big and small. And more importantly, of the people that we were. He hugged us tightly every single day and loved us with every single fiber of his being.
When his heart suddenly stopped on July 3, I know – I absolutely know – it was because that mortal muscle simply could no longer contain the enormity of love that flowed out of it every second of every day.
This man was my daddy.
Although I planned on having 20 more years with this man, I can say that we had more, and said more, and loved more in my 38 years than most people ever do in a lifetime. There was nothing we didn’t say to each other every day. There was nothing we didn’t do. There was nothing that wasn’t perfect. As one of his friends remarked, “I have never seen a family willingly – and happily – spend as much time together as they did.” We lived every day completely.
And that is something special.
Last week, the federal judges in front of whom my dad practiced for 40 years came together on the bench to read an incredible statement in his honor. They ended by saying they would not see the likes of a man like him again. But I like to think they were wrong. I think my father has inspired a new generation of people to be smart and witty. To value integrity over success. To always do things the right way, not the easy way. To read and debate and discuss. To say “I love you” one hundred times a day. To quietly live their lives not for themselves, but for everyone they meet.