Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 20, 2009

Dale the Male

While many funerals are somber affairs, the recent service for my brother's father-in-law Dale was not. Although there were plenty of tears to go around, there were smiles and laughter, too. It was, indeed, a celebration of Dale's life.

Dale and his wife Dolores joined our family when my brother Dave and their daughter Linda got married on a cold January day 38 years ago. Although a sibling's in-laws are sometimes on the fringes of a family's radar, we saw Dale and Dolores often - not only at family weddings, baby showers and funerals, but also for Fourth of July picnics, K-State football and basketball games and other events. They looked and acted younger than their 80+ years and seemed to enjoy each other's company, often gently teasing each other.

At our Fourth of July barbecue at Mom's house last summer, they were sitting on the deck with other family members when husband Art arrived. One by one, he greeted everyone. When he reached Mom's friend, he said, "And there's Stan the Man." There was a short pause and then Dolores pointed at her hubby and quietly added, "So I suppose he's Dale the Male?" We all laughed.

At the memorial service, each of Dale's six grandsons mentioned Dale and Dolores's loving relationship, talked about his character traits and shared stories about the time they had spent with their grandfather. Many were life lessons they'd learned from him.

"I remember how much he loved Grandma," nephew Michael said. "And he had a great sense of humor. Sometimes it was too subtle to catch until you'd look at his little half-smile."

Ryan said Dale taught him to "be your own man."

Dustin remembered his grandfather's kindness and patience. "He taught me that anger is never the answer."

Nephew Paul said his Grandpa was more than just a golf and fishing buddy or someone who took him for ice cream. Paul and his wife Rachel share their July anniversary date with Dale and Dolores and they often use the older couple as an example of what marriage should be. He said his grandfather lived by the adage, "Love her more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today."

Other stories were funny. Devin recalled the time Dale asked, "Do you know what I admire most about you, Devin?" Devin said he didn't. "Your thick head of hair," Dale responded, with his little smile.

Jon, the oldest grandson at 40, said a friend looked startled when he told him that Dale was his grandfather. The person remarked that Dale looked too good to have a grandson that old.

Jon's father Terry followed in Dale's footsteps in the family jewelry business and Jon said being in the family "came with elevated expectations" because of Dale's reputation in the McPherson community, in his church and with his family.

Paul's wife Rachel read from First Corinthians 13. Son-in-law Larry said when he married Dale and Dolores's daughter Alana, Dale gave him three rules: 1) take care of your wife and treat her like a lady, 2) support the family unit and 3) go to the annual family reunion - without fail.

After the service, we passed a table filled with photos and mementos of Dale's life. Among them were golf balls - representing one of his favorite pastimes, his purple K-State cap and a picture of Dale fishing - a reminder of his 46 fishing trips to Canada. On the corner of the table was a cornet.

"I didn't know Dale could play," I whispered to Art.

His brother overheard. He told me Dale could play "Flight of the Bumblebee" better than Harry James, a well-known band leader and trumpet player during the 1940s swing era.

From the church, we went to the cemetery, where Dale was buried with military honors, having served in the Army Air Corps in World War II.

People hurried back to the church for lunch, but Art, Mom and I lingered to look at gravestones. So many stories accompany the people buried beneath them. I only hope that some of those stories - just like the stories Dale's grandsons and others shared about him - are passed on to later generations.

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