Monday, April 16, 2007
Here is the eulogy for my father, written and delivered by Peter M. Solomon, Esquire.
Grief is the price we pay for love, but when someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. Unlike Marc Antony's famous eulogy to Caesar, I come not to bury T, but to praise him. Theodore Wadleigh was a man rich with the treasures of life; he was blessed with insight which was close to second vision, which was coupled with out-and-out brilliance. I have told many many people over the years that Theodore Wadleigh was the smartest man I have ever met, and that remains true and is likely to remain true for the rest of my life.
T Wadleigh was a man who had great treasures. He had the treasure of a wonderful education and a brilliant legal career. He was able to enjoy some of the fine things of life that made him happy: a magnificent watch, a wonderful cashmere sweater from Scotland, a beautiful automobile. He never flashed them, he just enjoyed them. T Wadleigh had friends that loved him and respected him and looked up to him. T had the treasure of generosity of heart and spirit. He gave to causes he believed in, but you would never know it. He was a private man. He held his thoughts close; he did not display all of his treasures. He enjoyed them. But his greatest treasure, the most magnificent jewels in his life were his loving and dear family. That was where T's gold and diamonds and jewels were. That was where the treasure chest of his heart was located. His wife Karlene was his friend and his partner and the love of his life for 46 years, and I know that her heart is aching with his loss. But the wonderful memories they have will continue to thrive. Especially, their other great gift: their three wonderful children who he lived for and were a part of his being, and likewise he was their anchor. His oldest child, Ellen, and her husband Bob; his middle daughter, Sarah, and her husband Steve; and the baby, Dr. Martha Wadleigh and her dear friend and companion, Angie. T adored them and showered them with his love and his affection. He gave them beautiful gifts because he loved to do it. He loved to see their faces and he understood how they enjoyed them because they were like him; they grew up to enjoy the quiet pleasures of the beautiful things in life. They adored him and their loss is immeasurable.
T could go anywhere in the world anytime he wanted; he traveled extensively; he loved to explore. He and Karlene went on wonderful trips, the children went with them, but I don't think T was ever more happy, more comfortable, more relaxed, more himself than when he was at home surrounded by his family, and hopefully getting ready to eat the only real food that he truly loved and adored, and that was Karlene's cooking.
Theodore Wadleigh was like the Rock of Gibraltar: solid, bound to the earth, serene in his awareness of himself, in the comfort of his own being; no flash, no opulence. Just like the first time you see the Rock of Gibraltar, you look up and you go... wow. You could anchor yourself to T, to his steady and deep commitment to what was good and what was right and what was democratic. Gosh, I loved him for that, he was a real democrat and at the country club that he and I both loved to go to, we were surrounded by republicans. He was a man of great dignity, steadfast in his beliefs; he was like Super-T; a hero who stood for truth, goodness and the American Way - the Right Way. I often thought he was like a combination of Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt. Both men completely comfortable in their beliefs, steadfast and steady and unrelenting. T was unrelenting with what he thought was wrong, and good God, he thought I was wrong a lot. He loved to argue with me and I loved it back. T actually loved to argue with anybody, but he didn't. He was too shy. We were unlikely friends, different in temperament and style and presentation, in how we dressed and how we spoke and how we acted, but he must have sensed something OK in me, otherwise he would not have brought me to his home and introduced me to his family. I think they thought at first, "What is T doing with this strange young man? He is so irreverent. He tells off-colored jokes. He occasionally curses. He disagrees with T half the time". But somehow despite it all, they accepted me and my wife Stelle into their family; and I am so thankful and grateful for that. And as much as I dreaded standing here today, I do it for T and for them with an open heart.
This week a famous radio personality by the name of Don Imus was fired because of a remark that he made about a girls college basketball team. The remark was offensive and the uproar boiled away and yesterday he was fired. Now that would be something that T and I would definitely have talked about; and I can picture this conversation like he was right here. I would call him or he would call me. He'd say "what's the news", because T always wanted to know what was going on. He was so full of the desire to know, to always learn. He was constantly reading and educating himself: and he wanted to know the local news; and he wanted to know what was happening at the country club; and he wanted to know what was happening in our friends' lives. He wanted to be current. He wanted to be relevant, and he always was. So he would say what's the news and I would have the newspaper and anything else I could find, and I would tell him what the local news was and we would talk about the country club and/or friends and then all of a sudden I would say "so wasn't CBS cowardly in their firing of Imus?" And he would go "What do you mean by that? Of course they weren't. They are absolutely right." And I would say to him "they were cowards." And he would say "so you are endorsing racism?" And I would say "No, I am endorsing the first amendment" and on and on it would go until T would finally say "Well, there, it's established. Karlene, did you know that Peter was a racist?" And I would hear Karlene in the background say "Oh, Peter." I will miss those conversations terribly.
Don't think that T did not know how to have fun; he certainly did. He loved a good story or a lively party. He liked to play cards - gin, bridge, poker - when he was younger. He loved a wager. He loved to play golf at the Manchester Country Club. A good golf match, with heated competition was mother's milk. Something else you folks may not know - when T got behind the wheel of a car, he was transformed. He was no longer T Wadleigh and the roadway was not Maple Street or Lake Avenue. He was Emerson Fittipaldi - or perhaps a slightly older and larger verson of Mr. Fittipaldi - and he was at LeMans and anybody in his way needed to be passed by.
Yes, T had great treasures in his life, but there is one final treasure; one final piece of the puzzle. One bright, shining diamond of a jewel that came to him late in his life. When T was amused, truly amused, which was a wonderful sight to see because he would chortle; he didn't guffaw. He didn't laugh out loud. The only word I can describe it as is that he "chortled". He would put his hands on his belly - and his hands definitely fit there - and his belly would start to shake and his little cheeks would turn red and he would just make a chortling noise. And he could be such a curmudgeon when he did that: well, it was great. I am sure many of you have seen it and remember it. But his biggest smile, his most charming chortles, came from a wonderful, wonderful present to T and Karlene and to his family. She was born in July of 2005; her name is Elizabeth. You will get to meet her later today if you go back to the house. She is the daughter of Sarah and Steven, T and Karlene's first grandchild. It was a great blessing that she was born, that he had a chance to be with her so often. The gleam in his eyes when he looked at her, when she began to waddle, then walk and stumble, and occasionally say something: a word, a name - all of those wonderful firsts that you have when you have a child - T got to see them. Elizabeth Poremba will never get to know her Grandfather, but that is all right. Because if you know her, you will see that there is a lot of him in her. She doesn't like not getting her way. She has that same little pout and she is going to be smart, charming and brilliant, maybe occasionally obdurate and petulant, but a treasure to those who are lucky enough to know her; just like her Grandfather. Thank you.