Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My Dad, Matthew Waddell was born on November 4th, 1915 in Glasgow, Scotland and came to this country with his mother and sister at age 7 to join his father who had preceded them.

Even as a child, so the family story goes, when asked his nationality, he would say that he was "Scottish by birth but American by choice".

He was a young man of 17 or so, in the midst of the Depression, when his father disappeared. Within the next couple of years, after high school, as a means of helping his mother, by adding some income to the household coffers, while removing a mouth from the dinner table, (and to satisfy the urge to travel that seems to be inherent in many Scots) he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.

He worked in several C.C.C. camps at various locations in the western US, doing infrastructure improvement and forestry projects. He learned valuable skills and got to see parts of the country he would not have seen otherwise.

Here he is at a camp in Montana:

Later, he became a merchant seaman and when World War II broke out, he volunteered for service, because due to a punctured eardrum, he was not eligible for the draft. He became a medic in the army with the rank of sergeant. Much of his time in the military was spent in sea duty, accompanying troops, back and forth between Europe and the U.S.

Just about that same time, he also met my mother and they married in 1942. They spent much of their early married life with numerous intervals of separation due to his military service.

Here they are as newlyweds:

He had several jobs after the war until he began work at Chase Manhattan Bank, where he worked until his retirement at 62 years.

He had many interests, a great sense of humor, was widely read, and enjoyed life! He and my mother were an extraordinarily complementary couple. My mother was an extremely practical person. Dad was the more whimsical partner. This carried through all aspects of their life, even decorating, and made things like wallpaper shopping, quite the adventure and an early case study in negotiation for us children.

He was a great dad to my brother and me! He was very involved in our school and church activities. Family trips were always fun, whether we were fishing, going to a museum, walking around and in our own city or traveling to places like Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, or, much later, St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands.

We were very involved with both our nuclear and extended family, so family time of all sorts, visiting relatives and celebrating birthdays and anniversaries were important to both my parents.

Here he is with me at the zoo: a family picnic, shown with my Grandmother and me at about 4 yrs:

He and my mother had the chance during his retirement to travel and they made the most of those opportunities.

He maintained his interests in photography, reading, language, tinkering and home repair. He was a completely devoted grandfather to all four of his grandchildren.

Both Mom and Dad dealt with serious and ultimately terminal health challenges in a brave and dignified manner.

Dad spent the last 6 months of his life in our home in Brooklyn and died May 3, 1992.

He taught us about fidelity, passion, relationships, patience and good humor.

Thanks Dad!

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