Monday, March 21, 2011

Sam Reddell, June 16, 1924—March 15, 2011

My dad died on March 15.  At 86 years, he finally found the rest he has longed for since my mom died two and a half years ago. He was married to, and madly in love with the same woman for 59 years before her passing. He never quite made the transition to single life, and could not bring himself to seek a new companion.

Dad lived in a wonderful assisted living facility in Morro Bay, CA. He made friends there, and had a good life. He was a musician—a singer—and one of that rarest commodity in such places: a male, with his wits about him, who could walk on his own two feet. But beyond that, he was a gentle man. He had ladies lurking around trying to catch his imagination.

He was one of those "greatest generation" guys. He was unassuming and a bit shy. He served in the Pacific in WWII on a sea plane tender, the USS Suisun. He was coxswain of the captain's motor launch, and one of his duties was to run smoke screens around the ship during kamikaze raids. He never made anything of how significant his role was in the survival of his ship and the logistics group it was part of. It brought tears to his eyes to talk about the guy who replaced him in that job, the only casualty on his ship—asphyxiated in his own smoke screen when the wind shifted to engulf his motor launch. The Suisun serviced the seaplanes that brought the American Brass to the USS Missouri for the signing of the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. In this role, the Suisun was the closest ship to the Missouri, and standing at attention on deck, dad had a clear view of the proceedings.

Dad raised 3 kids, lead the church choir, taught school—the first male 3rd grade teacher in California, then retired to homestead 15 acres in the remote panhandle of Idaho north of Coeur d' Alene. He worked that place for over twenty years before a major heart attack and 4-way bypass surgery brought him out of the woods to settle in California near my sister. The move to Visalia was when we all became aware of Mom's Alzheimer's disease. We could see that there were more reasons than a heart attack that brought my folks back home to the kids.

Dad was by my Mom's side every minute until she finally died of an old cancer that had been dormant for 30 years, only to surface when her mind was wracked with dementia.  Strangely, the cancer seemed like an angel of mercy to cut the suffering of my mother short. After 8 years of steady and utter loss, she was set free. But Dad was not. He never made the adjustment to life without his sweetheart, and even though his body was strong, his heart was torn open.

So it is with sorrow, but more so with relief that I send my Dad to his rest. Godspeed, sailor. Your work is finally done.


  1. This is a lovely tribute to your dad, Michael. - Sandra

  2. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of your parents life -

    It is always too early to loose parents no matter how old we are.

    Sincerely, Heide

  3. Michael,
    Thank you for the wonderful eulogy to your father. Reading it brought back memories of my own father of that generation who died at 67, much too soon.