Jim Healy

Last Tuesday services were held in Annapolis for Jim Healy. Jim and I were both Second Company.We had company mates Jim Hay, Bill Thurman and Bill Hargrave in attendance as well as Pat Hope. It was a beautiful day in Annapolis and the services at the Chapel and the Columbarium were impressive. I met Jim's son, Jim, who delivered a moving eulogy to his father which included the  first letter he had every received from Jim. He gave me permission to share it and I want to share it with the class.


On behalf of my family, I want to thank each of you for coming today.  Many friends and relatives came a distance, but near or far you are all generously giving of your time to mark my father's passing.  

Dad was fun to be around and made friends easily.  More importantly he kept those friendships through care and loyalty.  Your presence today is a tribute to that spirit and is much appreciated.

My father was a connoisseur of eulogies.  He felt strongly that good people deserved to have us honor their lives and memories.  On a few occasions he found the tribute to the dearly departed particularly moving. He sometimes suggested I should hire one of those speakers to deliver his eulogy, when the time came.

As this duty looms before me, I realize with anxiety that maybe he wasn't joking.  I kind of wish I had taken his advice and out-sourced this job to someone who could do it better.

His was a life that truly deserves to be well honored and remembered.  I fear that my words may not measure up to the standard required.  

Fortunately, even now, I can still look to Dad, as I have so often throughout my life, for his guidance and assistance.  I have the first letter he ever wrote to me, 55 years ago.  In it, his character is clearly illustrated in his own words.

He was deployed on cruise just a few weeks after I was born and was scheduled to be away a long time.  But that did not stop him from beginning his fatherly duties.

I read this back to him a few years ago.  He didn't remember it, but acknowledged what a good writer he was.  

Note to self – consider striking MODESTY from the list of his qualities.

USS Intrepid
Mediterranean Sea
28 May 1959
Dear Jimmy,
It has occurred to me that I've been spending all my time writing to your mother and neglecting you.  I had better mind what I say though. . . Despite all the glowing reports about your wonderful progress, I doubt if you will be able to read this yourself.  Mom will have to be in the middle of this man to man talk. . .
I hope someday you will know how much I hate being away.  There are an awful lot of reasons for making this separation necessary, but even knowing them it is hard to reconcile myself to the long absence.  
One of the biggest reasons, and the one that will make this loneliness worth suffering, is the chance that maybe by my being here now, you won't ever have to leave your family.  And maybe you and a lot of little boys your own age won't ever have to know what it is like when great nations go to war.  Wouldn't that be wonderful!
I look forward to coming home and being together again.  There are many important things to be done.  First off, I'm going to have to start TRAINING you.  
[And once he started training us kids – he never stopped!]
I will tell you about some things that may not seem so pleasant all the time.  Things like obedience, good manners and fair play.  But above all of that is love of God and your country.  Always love your country Jimmy.  You were very lucky to be born a citizen of the greatest country in the world.  Don't ever sell the USA short.  It is a wonderful place to live.  Always be proud of it and make all the other people in the world know how much you love our nation by showing unashamedly a sincere patriotism.
Do your best to take care of everybody while I'm gone.  Don't forget that besides your mother, you have your grandparents and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins and they all love you very much.  Always be good to them.  Above all be good to your mother.  When she puts you to bed tonight, put your arms around her and give her a big kiss for me and tell her how much I love and miss her.
Until later, much love, Dad
[abridged version]

This letter beautifully states his core values:   Love of God, family & country, courtesy, fair play, care for others, do your best.  These values remained constant, whether he was 27 or 83.   And he often managed to demonstrate them with good humor and wit.

As kids, we wanted to be like him.  At first, we just wanted to do the cool things he did:  fly jets, tour the world, build buildings, be "the boss".But he continued to "train" us by his words and example. He showed us there were much more important roles in life than just doing the cool things.At 16, I went to work for his construction company. The night before he told me this:  

"You might have the lowest job.  But never forget that you are still a role model for everyone else.  Start work first, stop last, and work hardest at all times. You can be a leader no matter what your job is."  

I have no doubt he learned that lesson here at the Naval Academy.  He loved this institution and credits the Navy for making him a real man of honor.  

As life unfolded he was tested many times – and each time gave his best.  He suffered the tragic loss of my mother to cancer. He mourned in private, worked hard to recover, raised his young children and publically showed the courage to maintain active community involvement.He found love again in Sylvia, his wife & partner of 43 years.  They brought 2 families together into one & supported each other. I am grateful he had her.

More terrible challenges arose. Each time the response was positive.  We lost my brother Stephen while on duty; they funded a scholarship in his name.  When his business failed, he refused to file bankruptcy.  He and Sylvia worked years at other things to pay off the debts. Several health crises left their marks and impairments. But he fought to get back to a normal life, and finally just to get back on his feet.  

Dad, over my lifetime I saw in you all the qualities I most want to emulate.  It is your character: integrity, determination, fairness, service to community and grace while suffering that mark you as exceptional.  

DAD, You are still the man I hope to be.

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