My Dad, William Robert Dull, passed away on October 9th, 2019 at the age of 84. The week before he passed was bittersweet. Both my kids and grandson managed to get back from Charleston, SC and St. John USVI just in time to visit with him before he left us and be here for the funeral. There are times when you know that you need to soak in every second because they are precious. October 3rd through October 13th were such days. I don’t even think I took many, if any, pictures. I just wanted to be very present for the time with my seven month old grandson, time with both kids, time with my Dad and time with my sister and Mom as we watched Dad slip away.
There are things that I wanted to say about my Dad that weren’t said at the funeral. A funeral service is a collective snapshot of a life. It certainly couldn’t convey 84 years of his life or even my 57 years of being the daughter of Bill Dull. I would like to take the opportunity to tell about the man who taught me so much and even if no one else reads this, it will be here for me to revisit as needed in the years to come.
What I learned from Dad…
- The Practical. In a time where it wasn’t so common for a girl to be taught such things, my Dad taught me very practical skills. I learned the name and use of every tool in his toolbox as I helped him do repairs to the cars and maintenance around the house. He taught me how to plant a garden, mow the yard, check the oil, jump the battery and change a tire on the car and clean a fish. I have used these skills pretty much daily (except for fish cleaning, but I could probably still pull that out of the memory bank if necessary) since I was a teenager and especially as a single Mom. I remember saying a silent “thank you Dad!” as I built shelves in my son’s closet many years ago.
- Real Friendship. My Dad, except for his time in the Army, lived his entire life in the same community. Most of his closest friends were the same ones he had a boy, but he loved people and had a wide circle of good friends. My Dad’s family loved to argue politics. It was a sport to them. In contrast to today’s craziness, my Dad would have NEVER dreamed of dissolving a friendship over something as petty as politics. Several of his close friends were of the opposite party and yet after a good political “discussion” over coffee they would walk away as friends to repeat the conversation another day. Having had at least one incident where I evidently offended a “friend” because of an opposing view and was dropped from their friend list, I will continue to follow my Dad’s example of putting friendship first.
- A Love of Nature, Animals and Small Children. Dad never would have guessed that it was his influence that began my “Hippie Mama” (my kids’ sometimes nickname for me) mind frame. He would walk through the woods and name every tree, plant, bird and animal sound. In the 70’s we would be in the car and he would rant and rave about the trash on the side of the road. We NEVER looked for pets because Dad brought home every unwanted, home needing creature. Only he could love the infamous Killer Cat, aka “the meanest cat on earth” that lived to be 22 years old! I got it honest. He also loved babies and small children like nobody’s business. I was waiting on the day that we needed bail money because he scared some young mother to death by stalking their baby or child in a store to make silly faces or baby talk to them. On a mission trip that took us to a border town in Mexico, he was so upset by the small children begging in the streets that I checked under the seats of the bus on our way back to make sure he hadn’t smuggled some of the children on with us.
- Perseverance. I learned this lesson by watching my Dad for six long years. To be able to move up into management at his company Dad needed to have a college degree. While working FULL TIME, RAISING A FAMILY and LOOKING AFTER A HOME, my Dad went to NIGHT SCHOOL for SIX YEARS! Three nights a week he came home from work, ate supper, got into his used VW Beetle (back when gas was in short supply) and drove to the nearest community college for classes. The other two nights a week and on weekends he studied. We didn’t see him much during those years, but even though I was little I knew he was putting in some hard work. I remember watching him walk across the stage to receive his Bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and being very proud of my Dad…and happy that we would have more time with him again. His example of putting in the time, effort and hard work to reach a goal has gotten me through some tough times. Put one foot in front of the other and get it done no matter how hard something is.
- Love People and Do The Right Thing. I can’t get through this one without sobbing. He loved his family, his friends, his community and his country even when all of them let him down or disappointed him at times. He did the right thing for all of them even when I’m sure he didn’t want to or knew there would be no recognition or reward. Kenny, his long time friend who spoke at his funeral, called my Dad “A Southern Gentleman”. That’s probably as true as it gets in the best sense of the title. Not in the warped, contemporary political take of Southern men, but of the long standing sense of pride, gentlemanly behavior towards all people (he had friends of all ages, race and political persuasions). Dad would stand up for what he believed was right in a heart beat and scare you half to death, but turn right around and rescue a kitten from a drain pipe. You could count on him. ALWAYS!
We are going to miss you Pop!