Good afternoon, friends. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to everyone coming out on this chilly and wet March day to celebrate the life that was Tom Jaeger. If you haven’t been to the Everlasting Gardens of Perpetual Sunset Cemetery and Crematorium before, I encourage you after the services are done to visit our facilities inside where you can enjoy complimentary donuts and coffee as well as free WiFi. There’s a spot for the kiddos to run around, too, as well as information about purchasing memberships in our floral service where, for a nominal fee, we will put flowers on your beloved’s grave on dates of your choosing. It’s a really great service, particularly for those of you who are from out of town and can’t visit often. But I digress.
We are here to honor Tom, a man who has touched many through his kindness and charitable deeds and lived in this community for more than 20 years. Does anyone know if more people are coming? No? Just us? Well, okay, then, we should get started. There’s another service after this one.
I’d like to hand this over to Raoul, Tom’s son, who will begin the memorial. Raoul?
Thank you. I would like to share with you this quote from the author Clarence Budington Kelland: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” That is my experience with Dad. He wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t always right, but he didn’t pretend to be. He lived his life as best as he could, putting first and foremost his family. His last words were, “keep the family intact.”
There were many times when I was impatient with Dad because he woke up late, because he wasn’t able to pay for my college, because he wasn’t on time. I attributed that to him not caring about me enough, for putting other things above me. But every time, I was wrong. Dad woke up late because he was awake until the wee hours playing Santa Claus or working trying to provide for the family. He couldn’t pay for my college because he had other children to provide for and knew I could do it on my own. And he was late to so many things because he was trying to fit too much into too little time. But every time, he did the best he could. Dad let me watch him succeed and watch him fail, without apologizing for who he is or how he did things. Yes, he had regrets and he wished he could’ve done more. But I learned more from watching him try and fail and from occasionally letting me fail than I ever would’ve if everything had been perfect. Thank you, Dad.
I’m sure many of you remember that some years ago for Dad’s 70th birthday, Tiffany asked each of Dad’s children to contribute a letter about their favorite memory of him. If you would like to say something but you’re not sure what, we have that book here today if you want to read from it. Would someone else like to speak?
Hi, I’m Jim. I’ve known all you kids who are Tom’s biologically since the day you were born. In fact, I like to say that Tom’s oldest daughter, Susan, is the first girl I fell in love with and she’s had my heart all these 52 years. I love you, Susan. I know how hard this is for you.
I’m not Tom’s child so there’s no letter from me in that beautiful book Tiffany put together, but I am his best and longest friend. Well, longest anyway. We haven’t seen each other more than a handful of times since he moved up here and our friendship really was strained when he divorced his first wife and married Maggie here. No offense, Maggie. I know you never liked me but I didn’t take it personally. Lots of wives never like their husband’s best friend. Ellie and I got along great but we were all kids together and I know you were threatened by that and all those old times. It’s okay. Let bygones be bygones. We all get old together and at the same rate.
I’ve known Tom since he and I were kids of 17 or so. He and I lived in the same apartment building going to Pasadena City College. I lived with George Burres on the second floor in this dive of an apartment that didn’t even come with a shower curtain. Can you imagine that? We had to buy our own shower curtain. Tom lived next door with some guy whose name I can’t remember but he didn’t stick around for long. Your dad, well, he was kind of a nut about control and he was very messy. Everything had to be his way. Before too long the other guy moved out and your dad was staying at George’s and my apartment so often that we just had him move in and split the rent with us. Three bachelors. We had some good times. Money was tight but Tom worked as a line cook at a hot dog joint in Pasadena and would sneak us home food. We all ate Tom’s wieners, if you get my joke. Heh heh!
When we weren’t in class we were drinking or smoking. Tom smoked from a young age and we all drank. I remember once we were so hung over that we couldn’t handle the taste of toothpaste in the morning so we’d brush our teeth with whiskey and swallow what we gargled. Heh heh. That was great! We figured that the germs would just get killed by the alcohol. Brushing is the important thing, right? Heh heh. It didn’t matter much though. As you all know, Tom started losing his teeth really early, about the same time he started losing his hair. Who am I to talk though? You should see me without my cap on and my dentures in! Heh heh heh.
Well, I don’t know how many of you know this but Tom sounded like an Austrian immigrant’s kid from the earliest days. We were all kids of immigrants living in California, trying to be the American dream. But, Tom? His accent was wretched. Well, your dad wanted to get into radio because of me. Did you know that I was studying radio in college? I was a producer of big band radio shows at Pasadena City College 1951 to 1952. Tom would help carry the huge, heavy tape recorder as we went to dance halls, such as the Hollywood Palladium, to interview Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, Les Brown, George Shearing, et al.
So I helped Tom with his speech, working at making a difference in pronunciation between VERY and BERRY and to stop turning W’s into V’s. He was a good, determined student, and got rid of his Austrian accent after 19 years of speaking like a Kraut.
One of my favorite stories about Tom that I can share in mixed company (I know how all the other ones get you upset, Maggie! Heh heh) was when he applied at KBUZ as an evening shift deejay. Maybe he told you this story, too? Tom lied on his application and said he’d previously worked in radio as a sports announcer for the local NBC affiliate. That’s how he got the interview because there weren’t a lot of people with experience. Well, they must never have checked because Tom hadn’t been on radio a second in his life at that point! He went in for his audition and it was like he’d forgotten everything we’d worked on. Tom might as well have gone in and said, “Velo, vy name iz Helmut Schmidt!” He was terrible. But you know what? He got the job! Afterward, I asked him how he could’ve gotten the job when he was so horrible and straight as day he looked at me and deadpanned, “Vell, I asked them that and they said, ‘you sound exactly as bad as we’d expect an NBC announcer to sound!’” Yeah, that was your dad alright. What a character. Could bluff his way into and out of anything. That reminds me of another story but there are probably other people here who want to talk so I’ll stop now. How about I turn it over to the love of my life, the prettiest baby ever born, even when compared to my own, Tom’s oldest daughter Susan? Susan?
Thank you, Jim. Those were great stories and even though I’ve heard them before, I enjoy hearing them every time.
Except for Jim, I think I’ve known Dad the longest of anyone here, longer even than Maggie. Most of you weren’t around when Dad was young but Maggie and I remember (Maggie probably remembers better) when Dad was young and attractive and so much fun. Oh, I know that you can’t imagine him as being attractive – most of you only knew him as an older man. And, well, he wasn’t really good looking in the traditional sense. But he’s always had a great laugh and sense of humor and his own charm. You know what I mean, don’t you Maggie? That’s why you fell in love with him. Dad has always been charming.
One of the saddest things in my life was when Dad and I didn’t talk for all those years in my late teens and early 20s. We didn’t talk for nearly 6 years and I regret that. There’s a lot of history there and it doesn’t matter now. At the time I was doing what I thought was right and I’m sure he was too. As you know, we made up and we’ve become close again throughout the years. It took Tiffany being born before I could make up with him but he wanted me to meet my newest little sister who, he said, looked just like me as a baby. I could never resist a baby. Look at Tiffany now! She’s taller than I am and 21 years younger. We look nothing alike. But when I was in my 20s I thought of her as my own. In some ways, all of you younger kids from Dad’s second marriage are like the children I’ve never had and never will have.
I have a lot of Dad memories and I’d love to share them with you all later, perhaps over a drink tonight. There’s a bottle of bourbon in my hotel room that I figure we all can share in Dad’s honor. But what I really want to do is share one of the letters from this book Tiffany made all those years ago.
Craig, Dad’s oldest son, couldn’t be here today. He stayed as long as he could and tried to stay until Dad’s last breath but he had to get home because of some problems there. So I want to read Craig’s letter about his favorite memory of Dad.
“My favorite memory of Dad was my 10th birthday. Money was tight that year as it often was. Dad was traveling a lot for work and he and Ma had divorced a couple years before. Birthday parties weren’t a spectator sport back then but it was still pretty typical for there to be a cake and party favors and a party with friends. My ma is a horrible cook and tried to bake a cake for me but each one turned out terrible.
“Every summer in Phoenix was hot but that one felt particularly hot. We talked about having my birthday party at the zoo but it was way too hot for a bunch of kids to be outside. I was really bummed.
“Dad had gotten his pilot’s license the year before. So he called my ma and invited my friends and me to visit him at the airport to check out the airplane hanger. He said he had a surprise for me.
“When we all got to the hanger, there was a banner with my name on it and a cake that my ma had made with Maggie. It had little candies on it and everything. Dad was there with an airplane he had borrowed for the day. He took each of my friends up for their own flight over Phoenix. The best thing was that since I was the birthday boy, I got to go each time with a friend! It was the best birthday ever. And that’s my favorite memory of Dad.”
Thank you. I don’t have any more to say right now. Who else wants to speak?
Hi, I’m Linda, Tom’s step-daughter. I wasn’t even two years old when he and my mother started dating. Since then, he was the only dad I knew for a long time because they wouldn’t let my real dad come around. I know Mom and Jerry had a lot of problems and he had a lot of girlfriends, but I still think they could’ve worked it out if Tom hadn’t come along and then they’d had a baby together. But it’s over now. These things used to bother me but I let go of “what could’ve been’s” a long time ago as part of my self-actualization process. I think Tom could’ve waited until his divorce and my mom’s divorce were final before he started dating my mom but … sorry, Mother, I’m just sharing the facts! Don’t take it personally! Like I said, it’s done now. Anyway, I’m glad Mother found someone who made her happy. She was never the same after she met Tom. I remember she used to have this great red sports car that she’d drive fast all the time but then she married Tom and she got rid of it because it wasn’t practical. I’m not happy Tom died. Like I said, he’s the only father I was allowed to know. But he’s been sick for so long that I know he’s in a better place and I wish everyone would stop crying and just embrace that. We can’t grieve! We are still living even though he’s not. We need to move on and be happy for ourselves!
It’s going to be hard for everyone to adjust I think. Tom has always been around. But I also think this is a great opportunity for Mother to step out of his shadow and to become the self-actualized person she was meant to be! She can have a red sports car again. Or not. She can travel to Paris or visit her grandchildren and do all these great things now that she’s not taking care of a sick man who was 11 years older! So I’m sad to lose Tom. But I’m so happy for Mom.
That was really nice, Linda. And you look great. Doesn’t she look great? You’ve lost a lot of weight and I’m proud of you kid. I remember when you were just a teenager in a bikini by the pool at your folks’ place in Phoenix. Remember that little blue number you had? You were hot! Well, I know times were tough during those last couple marriages of yours and you started packing on the pounds. But you really got a grip and took it off. You look great, kid. We’ll have to remember old times later at the hotel pool, huh? Yeah, we will!
So I used to work with Tom a long time ago when he owned those apartments off Indian School Road in Phoenix. Man, what a dump. But your old man, he believed in owning property no matter where it was located. “Renting cheap places is easier than nice places, Stan,” he used to tell me. Yeah, well, every summer he and I were on the roof of some building replacing an A/C unit. That reminds me, hahaha, remember that one time when he rolled off the roof? That’s what happens when you try to cool off in those Phoenix summers drinking cheap beer!
He used to invite me over to his house all the time to help fix things and I got to spend a lot of time with you kids. Do you remember that I even left you my dog when I had to, uh, take a trip to the birdcage for 6 months? I never got that dog back. Your mom said I made dogs mean, but you have to take a belt to animals that snap at you! Doobie was a good dog, best Doberman I ever had. I can’t believe your mom gave him away to someone else. That was just mean, Maggie. I loved that dog.
You know that you girls started playing piano after I gave your dad that old organ? Yeah, I saw it in an alley way behind a church and thought to myself, “you know who’d like to play music? Tom’s girls.” So I loaded it up in the van all by myself and took it to your home. Your mom didn’t give that away.
Anyway, business hasn’t been so good since I got laid up. Diabetes kicked in and my legs aren’t what they used to be. My hands are swollen all the time and I can’t get work. If you kids need any work on your homes, you let me know, k? Ol’ Stan’ll do good work for you and I don’t need to stay at your house or anything. Just give me a place to park my van out front and let me use the john and I’m good.
Dad wrote me this letter 20 years ago right after a friend of mine died. I found it when I was going through his things. He had kept a copy of it, even though I hadn’t – or if I had, I lost it long ago.
There are many tough times in life. As a matter of fact, there are far more tough times than there are easy times. What makes it all worthwhile, yes, even rewarding, are the good times, those times with family and friends that are filled with love and laughter and closeness. Like when you and I talk.
I have learned that in life we lose those close to us from time to time, either in death or in rejection. The pain of loss is incredible and you wonder if bearing it is worthwhile. I, from personal experience, can tell you it is. It takes time, lots of time. It takes introspection, lots of that too. It takes faith in a being greater than ourselves to guide and comfort. And it takes crying out, shamelessly and loudly. It takes going to those or that one individual, if you are fortunate enough to have those or that one individual, and speaking out of your loss. That’s called catharsis, and it is truly a healing process.
Is there life after loss? In my mind and soul there is, but it is hard to believe at the time. Someday, when I am more old, more feeble, and much more loquacious, I’ll relate to you a little bit of my experience in loss. However, I received rewards thereafter far exceeding my wildest expectations and dreams.
I hurt and grieve for you. Both Mom and I would gladly take this burden from you if we could.
Get well, my little girl. Life goes on as it must. You will never forget those who die, with their jokes, smiles, affection, and friendship. But no true friend would ever want you to bury yourself in sorrow. That request would be one of absolute selfishness.
I love you.
Hi, I’m Ed. I also used to work with Tom. Man, those rentals never could have problems in the winter, could they? Always broke down in the stinking hot summer. Tom wasn’t even sad when those places got foreclosed on. “They were slums, Ed,” he used to say. “A lot of work and slums.” Remember that, Maggie? And you’d say, “at least you don’t have to fix them in the summer anymore!” That was you, Maggie, always looking for a silver lining. We all had a good laugh over that.
Stan, that dog you mention? He came up to my place. Whenever Tom and Maggie couldn’t take care of an animal that came their way, it came to my place. I’d just let them run free on the acres I had up in Show Low. Tiffany, remember that puppy you got for Christmas? The one you named Lassie? Ate your grandma’s couch? She was a good dog. Got raped by a wolf or a coyote or something – had these really pretty puppies. They were a shame to give away. Lassie lived a couple years after that. Good dog. Good dog.
I’m sorry about Tom. He was a good guy.
Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I’m Tom’s and Maggie’s youngest daughter. I don’t really know what to say so I’d like to play for you something I’ve practiced the last couple of days. It was one of Tom’s favorite songs and his mom’s too.
[Pulls out accordion and plays Edelweiss.]
You can sing if you want to.
[Plays Edelweiss chorus again, a few people singing and crying.]
That was really beautiful, Elizabeth. I should’ve brought my guitar and we could’ve sung a duet to Tom. I think he would’ve liked that – his oldest friend and his youngest daughter. It would’ve brought it full circle.
I want to lighten the mood a bit and share another memory of Tom, one of our hijinks together. I mentioned I lived with a guy named George Burres, right? The three of us were friends for a long time but eventually, well, that guy turned out to be a jerk, a total asshole. He worked at KBUZ with Tom in advertising and a more chauvinistic bastard you never did meet. George always was with a girl with another or two in the hopper, sometimes in the same night. Tom and I weren’t always faithful to our wives (no one knows that better that you, Maggie, right? Heh heh) but those were one nighters at best, except for Maggie, of course, who stuck around for the long haul.
So this George guy, major ladies’ man and had a cock-of-the-walk attitude, too. At work, at the bars at night, always rubbing his success in our face.
One night Tom and I ran into him by accident after work. George was having a cocktail before he caught a flight out of Sky Harbor to Santa Fe that evening and he’s sitting in the bar with his luggage. So Tom…that Tom, always a joker. He went back to the kitchen and asked for some tin foil. He used his Swiss Army knife to cut the tin foil out in the shape of a pistol. When George was away at the little boys’ room, Tom snuck the tin foil pistol into George’s luggage.
That night, George is going through security at the airport and this is where it gets good. Heh heh heh. He puts his luggage through the x-ray machine and the image of the pistol comes up through the screen. Heh heh heh. Got hauled in for questioning, missed his flight, was there all night. Security read him the riot act about not taking firearms on guns and that safety isn’t funny. Heh heh heh. Tom and I laughed about that for months. Heh heh heh. I don’t think George ever figured out what happened.
Dad wasn’t my real dad. I’m Linda’s brother and our dad wasn’t around much when we were young. Dad used to take me out target shooting and I liked that. He was good around guns. I went through the house and cars and collected them after he died. Mom, I know you don’t want them around and the rest of you guys live in the city so I figure I’ll just keep them all. For safety.
That ranch that he has was great for target-shooting. Big space, lots of people could live on there. Mom, you shouldn’t have to live there by yourself. Just let Debbie and me know how we can help.
Dad didn’t need all that property. What old man and his wife need 500 acres for themselves? I mean, it was great when the girls were younger but now, who needs all that space? That property is worth a lot of money. Mom, I tell you, Debbie and I know that’s a lot of property to handle and a big house. We’ll help you handle everything.
One thing I really appreciate is that Dad moved up here and gave the rest of us the opportunity to follow. I hated Arizona. It’s so hot. And now…everywhere you look on the news all you hear is about the illegal immigrants. I hear that you can’t even order in English at a McDonald’s in Phoenix because all they speak there is Spanish. We have Indians in Montana but at least they all speak English. Plus we can buy cigarettes from them cheap. Those Mexicans do nothing but cost hard-working people money.
It’s a good thing the governor is pushing for a voter’s identification law. You know who is against voter’s ID laws? People who are defrauding the system. Mexicans vote for Mexicans and other people who want to give them stuff for free. Democrats! They’re always giving the nation away for free. I tell you, if we keep Obama in office this country is going to be overrun with dark people. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to live in a country where I’m in the minority. That’s why I’m really glad we live in Montana now, Mom, and Debbie and I…we’ll help you any way we can.
I notice that Jim is here offering help and Raoul stayed for the funeral but that Craig went home to his gay boyfriend. I’m not angry. I’m just saying that it kind of shows character that Dad’s stepson and son stayed but the son from his first marriage didn’t. I guess we now know it’s true that Craig isn’t really Dad’s son.
Why do you say that?
Mom always said that Dad suspected Craig wasn’t his son. The dates just didn’t line up.
I don’t think this is the time…
I’m Ned, Tom’s brother in law. Tom was really good to my dad the last few years, defending him to the last days he spent in prison. We never really trusted Tom. He worked for the LAPD as a marksman and once a cop always a cop. But he never ratted my dad out. That says loyalty. Tom was always loyal to Maggie and to her dad. Now, I know there were problems with Tom’s first marriage. We’ve all been married more than once, right? Except for you four kids, I mean. But he was real good, real good to Maggie.
Maggie’s never been as pretty as her sisters. She done good though, getting married to Tom. He helped her get her GED and pushed her through college. I don’t know what good those advanced degrees got her. You can’t use a chemistry degree in Montana unless you’re making meth! Although I hear that’s a really good market here. Maggie always wanted to belong though. I remember this time when my dad had to remind her to change her panties because she stank so much. “Change your underpants, Maggie. You stink!” But Tom was nice to my sister and I appreciate that. Until Maggie got her first dick in her, she and I were identical – same mother, same father. I love my sister and I’m glad she found a man who was good to her.
I’m Brad Bonner from the local Coldwell Banker office. Back when we were Hambros Realty I sold your parents that ranch. They still have the video we took of the first time they saw it. It was amazing. Your parents were just floored. They loved that place. What a place to raise a family! Your dad used to say it was what he’d dreamt of since he was a kid.
I did a lot of business with your dad, helping him buy more rentals in the area once he got established. Remember that restaurant you guys used to own until it burned up because of faulty electrical? I was the agent on that too.
Your dad didn’t like to take my advice. He had that real estate license so he could buy and sell himself and not pay commissions. But every once in a while he’d give me a call and say, “Bryce, what do you think?” And I’d tell him.
It’s too bad he didn’t sell those properties while the market was still booming and nothing, I mean nothing is selling now. You’ll need someone to take care of them now that Tom’s gone. I’m going out on a fishing trip soon but I want you to know that you can call my office and my assistance will list any of those properties you want and I’ll help you with them as soon as I get back. We’ve done business together for a long time, your family and I, and I will help you through this next phase of your life.
I’d like to share a poem I wrote for Tom in 2007, right after he was diagnosed with cancer.
I remember the night we met
So many long years ago
It was election night of ‘68
There was no way for me to know
The future life that lay ahead.
Remember when you came to dinner
At my mother and father’s home?
My mother served you baked chicken
That you ate politely with a groan.
Then we sold Cave Creek house
And slept there one last time.
That’s the year that we got Tiffany
And we were down to our last dime.
We moved into Moon Valley then
How you hated it in the city
You wanted to be in the mountains
Where the trees and streams were pretty.
That year on Christmas Eve it was
Your father who passed away
Without a goodbye to either of us
How well I remember that day!
The next year sadness came again
When my father he did die.
We tried but couldn’t get there
In time to say good bye.
Your mother’s death we knew would come
It was just a matter of when
When her illness became too much for her
She decided to go right then.
Oh, we had many businesses
Some were good and some were bad.
We had some really happy times
And some years were pretty sad.
Remember when my mother went
It was hard to let her go
Without you I couldn’t have made it
I just wanted you to know.
You’ve always been there for me
Through all the thicks and thins.
Through all the many, many years
Through the losses and the wins.
This year when I thought I’d lose you
A part of me started to die
I couldn’t help but question God
I kept asking him “oh why?”
You fought with tremendous courage
Your will to live is strong!
Those who thought you wouldn’t make it
You quickly proved them wrong.
Please never, ever leave me
Always with me stay
I promise to always love you
More with each passing day.
And when the spring time comes this year
Outside by the creek we’ll sit
Underneath a great big tree
You reading while I knit.
We’re going to have a lot of years
Left for you and I to share
Because we love each other so
And we really truly care.
I want you to know how much your love
It really means to me
And always please remember
We’re two peas in a pod, you see.
Always keep a pocket
Empty just for me
And we’ll forever be together
That’s the way it gonna be.
I love you very much, my Tom
I need you even more
To share the future years with me
And the treasures life has in store.
Our children have given us happiness
Laughter and some tears
As we’ve watched them progress
Through the many years.
But when it comes down to it
There’s really just you and me
I love you very, very much
As you can plainly see.
We started out together
Get well and we’ll share the rest of our lives together
[Sobbing] But it wasn’t meant to be.
[Plays Edelweiss on accordion]
Thank you, Elizabeth, for that lovely performance. If you lived here, I’d invite you to play at more of our events!
And thank you, everyone, who spoke and those who didn’t – thank you for coming to honor Tom, a truly great man. And now, time is getting short so I’d like to encourage everyone to step over here please to avoid the muddy areas of the graveyard and follow me to the reception area. If I didn’t mention it before, we have complimentary refreshments and WiFi plus an area for the kiddos to play. Thank you, thank you, yes, yes, thank you.