Remarks from Danielle Mery Stern
Danielle is Larry's daughter, Bob's granddaughter
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Every time I've stayed in a Chicago hotel, it has been to celebrate great moments in my grandpa's life -- his wedding anniversaries, his 80th and 90th birthday parties, and this time, to celebrate his life.
When I think of Grandpa, I am filled with thankfulness.
I am thankful that he was such a big part of my life; I am thankful for the genuine interest he took in me, and his pride in my accomplishments.
I am thankful that he did so much, learned so much, loved so much, and gave so much in his lifetime.
I am thankful that he loved his career and was so respected by his friends in the world of law.
I am thankful that he raised three unique and wonderful sons, which, in turn, enabled me to have a happy childhood.
I am thankful that he lived in Tucson for six months of every year, and thankful that he put me through college.
I am very, very thankful that my husband and my children got to meet him.
I am thankful that he put forth the effort to record a family history for us, and thankful for the love he felt for my grandma. And I'm thankful that he was able to find love again with Helen.
Most importantly, I'm thankful that family relationships were so important to him. He maintained those relationships over the years, and updated us on events in our relatives' lives that we might otherwise have not known about. It was so great when we all got together to celebrate his 90th birthday. I didn't feel that all these out-of-state relatives were complete strangers. I have learned about them through the years through my grandpa, and it was wonderful to see their admiration and respect for him.
I felt really lucky to be part of Grandpa's 90th birthday celebration. He was so coherent and full of life that evening. He seemed very aware of the fact that we had all come together in honor of him, and I saw him shine. The rapport was amazing at that party, and I felt we all shared a bond, as we celebrated our grandpa, dad, brother, uncle, husband and friend. He dearly loved the scrapbook which was put together for him for his 90th birthday. It later helped him to recognize family members and, if nothing else, to know he was loved. He loved occasions to get together with family eat and talk, and indulge in chocolate cake (laughter).
Not long before he died, my brother Lance and I went to visit him and brought him a big piece of chocolate cake. He devoured it, savoring every bite, licking his fingers, and chewing with his mouth open (laughter). I had to laugh because he was still good old Grandpa when it came to his favorite dessert.
His eating habits used to drive me crazy -- until I finally learned, as an adult, how fun it really is to eat ice cream loudly right out of the carton.
I have so many memories but I'll choose a few favorites to share. I loved his facial expressions, especially the look of delight when he saw us at the door. Or my favorite one -- his mischievous yet humorous look when he had just cracked a good joke. Or was affectionately teasing someone. Like when he asked my husband John about his guitar, "Now what can you do with a thing like that?" (laughter) Or when he referred to the strange "compound in Wacko, Texas." Even after his Alzheimer's had progressed, his sense of humor remained intact.
I also remember the tremendous support he showed me. He always believed I was smart, even when I got terrible grades in school or didn't know the answers to all his history questions. When I started college, he learned that I actually COULD perform well in school, and placed me in a category with my dad -- the underachievers who got their acts together when they grew up (laughter).
When he was Tucson, Lance and I would stay with him and Grandma one night a week. She cooked and played games with us at night, and he fed us breakfast and took us to school in the morning. He would flick the lights on and off at the crack of dawn so I could wake up, put all my layers of makeup on and still get to school on time.
I looked forward to those get-togethers when I got to have sugar on my cereal, and then experience a nerve-wracking ride on the way to school (laughter).
Grandma and Grandpa flew us out to every summer to Chicago to visit for a couple of weeks. One of my sweetest fondest memories happened during one of those trips. I got up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and noticed the light on in the den. I silently peeked in - and saw my grandma and grandpa dancing cheek-to-cheek to 1920s music. That moment, no one else existed in the world for them.
I saw a rare side of my grandpa when he lost my grandma. I saw tears, and a helplessness I had never seen before in him. It allowed us to bond, as we both squinted at directions and fumbled around in the kitchen trying to learn how to cook together. He did master the best iced tea (laughter). And I have yet to master anything in the kitchen.
Another endearing memory which my husband I remember well is on a night when we were taken out to a fancy dinner by my grandpa's long-time friend, Bob Ehrlich. Helen was sitting next to Bob Ehrlich, and Grandpa was across from them. As the waiter served Helen her dinner, he looked at Bob Ehrlich and said, "For your lovely lady." John and I just grinned as we watched my Grandpa flag down the waiter (who was already across the whole restaurant), yelling "Sir! Sir!" so he could inform him that Helen, the lovely lady, was HIS wife (laughter).
The last few times I saw him in December were really special to me. The first time I went to visit him at the nursing home, I hadn't seen him in seven months and it took him a little while to figure out who I was. But he did finally recognize me, and he even remembered my husband John. He wasn't sure who my kids were but he was happy to have them there while they held his hand and brought him pieces of popcorn and smiled at him. I was relieved that he never forgot who I was, and I believe he wouldn't have wanted to go on living if he couldn't have remembered who his loved ones were.
When I saw him on Christmas Eve, he was surrounded by family, goodies, and gifts. He looked alert and full of joy.
The last time I saw my grandpa was New Year's Eve. I went alone to see him in the hospital. I held his hand and we talked for a long time. He was confused but impressed when I told him he had made it to the next millennium.
Thank God for my relationship with my grandpa. He left us with no regrets because he filled his years with great experiences -- and filled our hearts with admiration and love.
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