This is one of my favourite photos of my father. From left to right it's my sister Joy, our dad and me on the right. It was taken in the back yard of the second house we had in La Mesa California. I still remember the address: 8488 Denton St. My mother, who normally did not take pictures, snapped this one on Christmas day. I'm trying to think of what year it might have been and of course I'm not certain. Late 1950's is my best guess.
Today would have been his 95th birthday.
Lawrence E. Hurley was born in a small farming community in Michigan in 1925. He had only one sibling, his younger brother, Wilbur with whom he was very close. His parents, Della and Ira were good, hard-working souls with big hearts. My dad grew up working the family farm. He was only 4 years old when the Great Depression hit. According to my father, living on a farm was not a bad way to get through a rough time. No matter what, there was food to eat and as long as you had animals and food, you had something to barter with for the things you didn't have.
My dad might have gone on to be a farmer as expected except for one thing. My dad was a reader, and like most readers, he was also a dreamer. And he dreamed of different kinds of things, different places, different ways of life. He had great respect for farming. And he knew that farm life had taught him a great deal; lessons that would stay with him always. But he also knew that wasn't the life for him.
So when he was old enough, he joined the Navy to see the world. Well, he saw part of it. And when he was assigned to the radio room, he learned that he had an affinity for mechanical things. So much so that in later years, my sister and I referred to him as, 'Gadget Man'.
Right around the time my dad was about to leave the Navy, he met my mother in 1952. It was in Chicago at a Woolworths as I recall the story and it was a whirlwind romance. They married six weeks after they met and they remained that way until my mother passed away in 2012.
When I was born they still lived in one of a series of tiny apartments in downtown Chicago. But by the time my sister was born, they had moved to the burbs of Illinois. Their first home together, in Rolling Meadows, was a brand new build. But they didn't live there very long.
My dad was moving up in his career. He applied for a job at General Dynamics and, much to his surprise, he was hired. The job was in California and so they loaded up the car and headed west. My dad stayed with General Dynamics, through countless moves, a lot of travel for the company and many promotions until he retired. Actually retiring wasn't his idea, it was theirs. He was adamantly opposed. But what you gonna do?
Well, in my dad's case he joined service organizations. A lot of them. Usually, eventually holding a position of some authority and responsibility within those organizations. He also got involved politically. Like becoming the Mayor. Yeah, he did that too. He also began teaching computer classes to seniors. He loved that one especially. "Gadget Man" that he was, naturally, he embraced new technology instead of shying away from it. He liked being busy. That farm mentality of 'hard work is good work' never left him.
He was a rock. The guy that everyone else always counts upon. Whatever you needed, he was there. You only had to ask.
He loved history and books. He adored books. He was the sort of person who could get completely lost in a book, totally unaware of everything and anything around him while he was reading. He loved his dogs. He loved his country, his community and his family.
He was a loyal friend. If you were a friend of his, he would always stand by you. He was an optimist who always preferred to see the sunny side of things. No matter how craptastic life might have been at that moment, he absolutely knew that things would get better. And they always did.
He was a very rational and reasonable man. He would coach us through life by helping us think our way through. It is still a method I employ to make decisions, "If this, then that" . He never punished me although he once told me that he was disappointed in a decision that I had made. I was crushed. We ultimately worked through it of course because regardless of anything else, he loved me.
He loved Westerns and Science Fiction TV shows and movies. I am quite sure that is where I developed my fondness for both. When we lived in Texas, he took to wearing cowboy boots and they became his normal footwear for the rest of his life. He came to visit Tim and I in Colorado once and we took him to Sheplers, a western wear store. He was definitely in his happy place there. He bought a cowboy hat and it looked snazzy on him.
To help fill his time once he retired, he took his interest in history, his love of family and books and put that all together to research family history. Ultimately, he had an entire book of photographs, anecdotes and information of his family all the way back to the first ones who dared step foot in this country. Which was back before the United States was an actual country.
He did not care for vegetables, was tone deaf, and in the words of my mother, couldn't dance worth a damn. He loved to laugh, was secretly very nostalgic and poetic and had the energy of three people at all times. At one time he was on a bowling team and I remember a flirtation with golf as well.
I have shockingly few photographs of him. I think, sadly, he was almost always on the other side of the camera, the guy taking the pictures. I know that I had some but digitally somewhere along the line as I changed computers and transferred things like photos, enough of them have gotten lost over the years that I mostly have memories of him rather than photographs.
My dad passed away in January of 2015. Five years ago. Miss him still.
And today would have been his birthday. I would have made a pecan pie for him. He adored pecan pie.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.