Remembering Dad

November 4, 2018 § 2 Comments

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It’s been one week since my Dad suddenly passed away. It’s been a crazy week with every moment claimed by planning for his funeral and then Henry’s fifth birthday party, but now that things have calmed down, I wanted to share and save the eulogy that Jenn, Ryan, and I gave on Thursday. The officiant of the service, Tonia, basically told the three of us that we’d be writing and delivering the eulogy and at first we were like “Us??? But didn’t we just hire you for that?” And then she phrased it perfectly: this would be the final gift we could give our Dad.

It was really something to put our energy into writing the perfect piece about Dad and putting together the perfect slideshow to represent his 63 years. Here’s what we said and some photos from the slideshow.

Gord Miller’s Eulogy

[JENN:] February 1955: Dad was born in Lindsay, ON to Lloyd and Kay Miller. He grew up with his little sister, Cate who he got along with, but to whom he also embedded a BB gun pellet in. Something to always remember him by?

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Dad loved to tell stories about his childhood. His adventures sounded like something out of the movie Stand by Me. Dad lived with his parents, sister and Grandma in his early years. He was a very friendly and outgoing kid who loved chatting with the ladies who would frequent his house to have their hair done in his mother’s salon.

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To know my Dad is to know that he loves music. Dad’s passion started when his Grandma took him to the Academy Theatre as a boy to watch the Tommy Hunter Show and many musicians. He borrowed money from her to buy his first guitar.

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Dad began forming bands in high school. Erasmus and Jennifur were among the first ones and would even perform at his school.

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Dad graduated and went to Fleming College in Peterborough for the Audio Visual Technician program, where he met the love of his life – Cathy Wolfe. He always said that upon first seeing her walking through the college the first day of school it was love at first sight. He was thrilled to find out they were in the same class. He couldn’t help but come on a little strong because he thought she was just so cute. Dad would use smooth moves like ordering a large pizza and then calling Mom to ask her to come over and help him eat it. He couldn’t eat it all by himself! Mom wasn’t sure about him at first, but Dad was always sure she was the woman he wanted to marry. One night, Mom was driving from Woodstock back to Peterborough when a terrible snow storm hit. This scare was just what she needed to realize that Dad was the man for her and she never wanted to be without him. As Dad always said, Mom made his heart go “pitter pat”. In 1979, they got married and started a family.

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[CHRISTINA:] It’s no secret that Dad was a huge Beatles fan, and John was always his favourite. It was a real bonus when his first born (me) came into his life on John Lennon’s birthday. He loved to tell the story of how he stayed up all night because he was so excited about becoming a dad, and watched Creature From The Black Lagoon, while trying to be productive paying some bills, but ended up sending in the wrong amounts for every one of them.

[JENN:] Just 14 months after Christina, I joined the family. Mom and Dad were in their early twenties and should have had a considerable amount of energy, but having two babies at once was so exhausting they couldn’t only get through those first years with a lot of coffee. But little did they know, they would make the best of friends with their daughters so close together.

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[RYAN:] I was born shortly after a move to Mississauga. My birthweight was a little over ten pounds (yikes) so Mom and Dad figured this was a good time to call the family complete!

[JENN:] Dad was the BEST father, he was so optimistic, he made sure all three of us always got his full attention and one on one time with him. He had different interests with each of us. He was a creative dad, he knew how to make us feel better. I would have nightmares and clever Dad found a Capo for one of his guitars that he told me was a “magic thing”. Dad showed me how to hold the magic thing just so..  This Magic Thing gave me the ability to finally start sleeping through the night without a worry and to this day, the Magic Thing still resides in my room.

[CHRISTINA:] Ryan was only a few months old when we moved to Winnipeg for Dad’s job at Black’s Cameras.

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It was always hard for Mom and Dad to be away from their family back in Ontario, but they were such a strong team, they did a great job raising us together.

A few years later, we moved from Winnipeg to Ajax, Ontario and Dad started a new chapter with his career at Black’s Cameras that brought us back close to friends and family in Ontario. We spent many hours bike riding with dad and playing baseball by Miller’s Creek.

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In the 1990’s,  Black’s moved us to Winnipeg for the second time in 1992 where we had a beautiful house – Dad always said in his dreams, we were still kids and we all lived in the house on Corliss in Winnipeg. Dad started his band Passport, legendary rock & roll cover band, which would play bars and cabarets like Santa Lucia, various Winnipeg legions, and their favourite, Mustang Sally’s where a thousand people would line up and pay a coverage charge to see them play. Dad loved the nights he got out, stayed up into the wee hours, and “played”. He put a lot of time and energy into Passport and got back long-lasting friendships with many great musicians. In addition to the friends Dad had already found through his work at Black’s Cameras, he also befriended music teachers from our schools – which was a little embarrassing for band kid Jennifer at the time.

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Dad made lifelong friends with the people he met in Winnipeg.   Carol from Winnipeg let mom know that they will be staging a Remember Gord Miller night at the Norwood Hotel, where he used to play, on November 17 to come together and celebrate his life since they can’t be here today.

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In Winnipeg, we finally upgraded our family pets from rodents to dogs. First came the lovely Lady from the Humane Society, but she sadly passed away a few years later. We tried to replace her immediately with Corduroy, another cocker spaniel, but a few days after adopting him, he pinned me down and growled at me when I was petting him one afternoon. Dad walked in the room as it happened. Being very protective of us, Dad was furious. He grabbed the dog by the scruff and tossed him out the door into the backyard. He drove it back to the Humane Society later that day. Then months later, thanks to music teacher Maureen Kennedy, we found our sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Charlie.

[RYAN:] Because much of the 1990s was spent in Winnipeg away from our extended family, the five of us would embark on a road trip once a year. This trip usually involved driving down through the States and up through Southern Ontario and involved 20+ hours of driving. We had many adventures on these drives including the time I cut my foot open in  Lake Superior during a lunch picnic and had to get stitches, Jenn keeping diaries of all the animals we’d see on our drives – alive or dead, the time I slid open the van’s side door while speeding over a bridge because I wanted to smell the “Canadian air” after being in the US. This resulted in a lot of screaming. Jenn would try to sleep on Christina’s shoulder, and Christina would find ways to stop her.

One year, we bought a used tent trailer and decided to camp for the trip instead of staying at hotels. Our first campsite was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Never have I seen so many mosquitoes in one place. While I was catching fish and putting them into whatever containers I could find (peanut butter jars), Dad got sick from drinking the camp site’s polluted water. Later, when the five of us and a dog were trying to get some sleep in the hot camper, my feverish Dad would cry out “THE DOG IS STANDING!” repeatedly. We went back to staying at hotels after that.

[JENN:] In Grade 7 I had a rough year, Dad and I both share emotional tummies, and I was missing school and starting to lose my honour roll status because of this. One day, dad came and took me out of school for the day, he took me to a park and sat me down at a picnic table and began to talk to me about life, what’s important, how much he loved me, he then told me to take my finger and squeeze it, close my eyes, take in the scents around me, the noises around me, the feelings in me and save it in to my finger, that next time I feel upset or overwhelmed, he said to squeeze your finger and remember today with me. I have squeezed that finger so many time now and it’s like magic, it all comes back to me, even the way my dad looked at that moment. Dad and I got to share a lot of great moments together. Every Sunday morning, we would jump in the van with a tape recorder, pen and pad of paper, we would drive to this corner in Winnipeg where there would be many garage sale signs, we came up with a system where he would record his voice naming all of the street signs, I would make notes as to what each garage sale had and the locations and we would be on an adventure. Dad always taught us the importance of money, and how to get more for it.

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[RYAN:] Dad and I both loved tech and gadgets. Dad and I would visit the pawn shops on weekends to hunt down diamonds in the rough and regularly get some great deals on music equipment, computer stuff, and video games. We’d get Wendy’s on the way back. I remember watching in amazement as he’d scarf down a #2 special with onions (no tomatoes) in no time at all, while I took the whole ride home to finish a spicy chicken sandwich.

In 1994 Dad brought home something really special; a 9 kilobaud modem. We stayed up all night loading more than a dozen floppy disks, including Netscape Navigator, on to the Black’s supplied 486 IBM Thinkpad. At the end of the night; we finally got connected, and gawked in awe of the information highway; it’s newsgroups, IRC chat rooms, and movie databases.

[CHRISTINA:] In the mid-nineties, I went to my first concert (Smashing Pumpkins at Winnipeg Arena) and caught the music bug that had bit Dad decades before me. Dad taught me to play the bass guitar. I started Shannon Doll, a Radiohead cover band, and a few other bands to follow in Ontario after our move and Dad would always encourage the practices to take place in our basement. He’d offer up his equipment, hook us up to his PA, tune our guitars. Halfway through practice, he’d come downstairs and start soloing on one of my friend’s guitars and blow them away. He recorded our music. He would take me to shows every once in a while that were 18+ and I could only get into with a parent. He’d be the sound guy for the concerts my friends and I would put on at our high school (even correcting the set up for a certain engineer who would go on to work with bands like Broken Social Scene and Sarah Harmer). The day I played my first concert, Dad tried to videotape our performance, but ended up passing the camcorder over to my Mom because he was tearing up from pride.

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[RYAN:] In 1999 we moved back to Ontario and started a new life in Whitby. Dad was so happy to be able to bring our family back to Ontario so we were close to family again. Dad was so in love with Mom and her family here in Woodstock as well, that he had this goal of making sure he could give her everything she needs, she sure did make his heart go Pitter Pat.

Once we were settled in Ontario, Dad formed a new Passport band, he started booking gigs with the new members of Passport and gained a whole lot of new friends – Dad was always able to make friends, everywhere he went. He had this magic in him, he could carry on a conversation with anyone he met, he made everyone feel welcome, safe, heard and had such a gift for reading people and knowing right away what their strengths are and letting them know it. Dad had this gift in him where he could make anyone leave a conversation feeling better about themselves.

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Dad enjoyed having lots of jam sessions in Whitby, we would be hosting BBQs at our house, practices, even our friends would come over to play music with dad. Our house was always the one full of people, friends, family, everyone felt welcome. Soon after moving, Dad left Black’s and started a new chapter in his career with The Hudson Bay Company in Human Resources.  Again Dad made many lifelong friends while working here. John who worked with Dad at the Bay will be sharing some of his memories in a bit about their time together.

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As we grew up, we started moving out and Mom and Dad became empty nesters, they started to travel and enjoy vacations to Sandals in Jamaica. I’m pretty sure they weren’t too upset with this new lifestyle.

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[JENN:] We were lucky enough to have Dad at all three of our weddings. Jennifer was first and married Ryan in 2006, Dad instantly fell in love with Ryan, he saw so many qualities in him that were similar to his own, he knew Ryan would take such good care of Jenn and create a special family just like his own. Dad was so proud to walk Jennifer down the aisle and share in his first dance with her to What a Wonderful World, one of his favorite songs. Then in the summer of 2010, he enjoyed two very different weddings – a traditional large wedding for Ryan and Suzanne, and an intimate New York City Hall wedding for Christina and Nick.

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[CHRISTINA:] Dad found an instant friend with Nick, Nick who also works in the music industry had a special bond with dad. Dad was a role model to Nick, something that Nick has brought to his family. Long after all three of us kids had moved out, I was dating Nick and we were getting ready to get married. I had for all intents and purposes already moved to New York to be with him, but was waiting to get my green card until after we were married. One day in October 2009 I was supposed to be flying from Toronto to NYC for the final time before our wedding and I got a particularly nosy and vengeful customs officer who sent me to secondary security and then turned me away at the border. I had just cancelled my Canadian cell phone, Nick was on the other side of customs and didn’t know what had happened to me. I had to call my parents from a payphone at Departures and they came to pick me up immediately. I would spend the next 8 months living with them in Whitby and at first, it seemed like the end of the world to have my plans delayed by almost a year, but now when I look back on it, the extra time I received with my Mom and Dad before moving to New York for 8 years was such a gift.

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[JENN:] 11 years ago, Dad became a Grandpa for the first time. Ben was born. Ben, holds a very special place in Grandpa’s heart, the night Ben was born, pretty much every member of our family and Ryan’s family were outside of the labouring room with a cooler of beer, he was constantly listening for the cry outside the door so he could run in as soon as Ben arrived. The nurse had to keep shoeing him away from Jenn while she was in labour. Ben was a sweet baby, but was blessed with colic – he cried for hours at night for months straight, Jenn would drive to Whitby to give Ben to Dad, Ben would settle ever so comfortable on Dad’s chest and fall right asleep – Jenn would then use this time to disappear into her old bedroom to enjoy some sleep as well.

Soon after Ben was born, he left the Bay, and went solo, he started G Miller HR Consulting.

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As the years passed, even more grandkids came along – Jillian, Everett, Henry, Cameron and Charlotte, Charlie, and Anna, Grandpa has spent hours sharing his love for music and instruments with his grandkids, taking them for boat rides at the cottage and sharing in lots of cuddles and giggles.

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[RYAN:] A visit to my wife’s family – “The Cnoop Koopmans” – cottage left quite an impression on my parents. They wanted an escape from the suburbs, and started looking for their own special place in the wilderness. After only looking for about 6 months, they found their dream cottage in Fenelon Falls in the Fall of 2009. Thinking at first they’d only spend weekends there, they found that they enjoyed the calm and nature surrounding them more than they had ever expected. They had great neighbours and they loved the little town. They began spending so much time at Cedarplank that they wondered why they still had this house in Whitby. In 2011, they sold their house in Whitby and moved up to Cedarplank full-time. The cottage became a cozy spot for family gatherings that included campfires, boat rides, and sleepovers for the oldest grandkids. Their summers became packed with friends and family visiting, and they have hosted countless events from my Grandpa’s 80th birthday celebration with the entire family, 80th birthday celebration for my Grandma’s birthday the next year, to corn roasts for the road association, to live Passport concerts in their front yard and concerts in the park for the community in the Kawartha Lakes.

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After leaving the corporate world Dad and Mom started their very own  human resources business focusing on the music industry. Dad got so much satisfaction out of using the skills he had developed throughout his career to help build businesses in the industry that was near and dear to his heart.  For the past 10+ years he was very proud of helping Robert and Chris at ole to grow the team from about 10 employees in Toronto to close to 200 employees in 3 countries. With his strong work ethic he was quick to respond to any HR concerns no matter what day or time it was.  CMRRA was another business he was so very proud to partner with.

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Dad was voted in as City Councillor for city of Kawartha Lakes and was just weeks short of finishing his term when be passed;  he wanted give back to the community, a community that is so near and dear to his heart. Dad was so proud that he never let his phone go to voicemail; always helped people who called, he felt such a connection to the public, he was very proud to be a councillor. As he was just nearly finishing his term, and decided not to run again because he wanted to focus on family and spend more time with his seven grandchildren.

[CLOSING – WHOEVER IS IN BEST SHAPE:]

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Dad enjoyed his last passport gig a month ago in Toronto’s outer harbour with his long time friends Roger, John and Dave. Playing music brought the kid out in Dad. He could play for hours no matter how hot or cold it would get.

We would describe Dad’s life as Full, Happy, Big and fulfilled. We wish he had many more years to it, but we can definitely say he had a GREAT life.

Gord touched so many lives and helped so many people. The turnout today is a testament to that.

The world is a better place thanks to him.

We are so proud of you dad, we will miss you everyday. Forever we will keep you in our hearts and in our heads think What Would Gord Do?

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