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My dad, Mike Simoni, was many things to many people. He was, in fact, more things than I ever realized during our time together. Today I'd like to tell you some of the things he was to me, and maybe to you, too.
My dad was a generous man. "Give you the shirt off his back" doesn't quite cover it, but "give you the couch from his living room" might come close. He'd buy things for himself only to give them away. Whether you were family, a neighbor, a friend, or a stranger in need, no matter how much or little he had, he would go out of his way to provide for any need he perceived.
My dad was a dreamer. I remember walking to the store with him for lottery tickets, his brief stint with the numbers prediction book s, and all the things he said he'd do when he won "the big one." One of his dreams come true was the property he finally bought up north, where we spent not nearly enough weekends together. Another were the salmon fishing trips he started taking with his buddies from work on the Benzie River. On his doctor's advice, he took his last one in October, despite his cancer diagnosis, then only days old. My dad was a dreamer right to the end: when he first began treatment, he talked about his recovery, about buying a dog and a Cadillac and driving to Arizona.
My dad never lost his sense of wonder. At a very young age, he and my sister and I would sit and watch Nova and Carl Sagan on PBS, and though I was small, probably only a toddler at the time, his awe and mine were equal. The last time I heard the word 'wildebeest' I was probably in his lap. As an outdoorsman, he was always mindful of the beauty around him. He loved and respected nature, and had a connection with the Earth I always admired.
My dad was not an artist, but he had an eye and an ear for the beautiful. He was a gifted gardener, as any of his neighbors can attest to. Despite his almost crippling practicality, he never failed to notice a sunset, the smell or warmth of a campfire, the sound of a salmon jumping in the river, or the beauty of architecture.
My dad was a patriot. He joined the Army at 17 and served six years as a paratrooper, jungle expert, and jump master in the 508th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Kobbe, Panama, in what was then called the Canal Zone. His love of country didn't end with his service, though. He proudly flew his American flag even at the campgrounds, and was only slightly less tolerant than myself when someone displayed it improperly.
My dad was a blue-collar union man. At an early age I learned the meaning of solidarity, and never forgot that organized labor pulled our family through some very hard times. Dad knew the value of hard work, and the worth of an earned dollar. He loathed apathy.
My dad had an ironclad sense of justice. He knew what he thought was right, and never wavered. He stuck to his guns, and his right to bear them. Anyone who was brave enough to debate the man on anything immediately gained the whole family's respect. Sometimes we called him stubborn, but to imagine any of his opinions rooted in spite would fail to acknowledge the solidity of the beliefs he based them on.
My dad was candid to a fault, he said what was on his mind whether you wanted to hear it or know it or not. Sometimes he was rude; sometimes it was on accident, other times not. But no matter what he criticized, it was never malicious. Even when the words hurt, and even when they were wrong, they were always spoken out of a genuine intent to do right and express truth.
Maybe you knew this man I'm talking about. Maybe you recognize some of the things he was.
Maybe you've seen them in yourself.
For my part, I see my dad and all the things he was in me, and in my brother and sister.
I see my dad in the way my sister looks at someone who hurts children. I see him in the way she pursues her own happiness, sometimes even at the expense of her well-being. I see him in her convictions and the way she carries herself despite the odds against her every day.
I see my dad in my brother's committment to excellence, and satisfaction at a job well done. I see him in Joe's tireless pace, his sense of duty, and his love of using the strength of both body and mind to create a beautiful and useful thing.
I see my dad in myself in the way I feel after a day's work in the garden. I see him in my own simple satisfaction at a fire well built and shared with friends. I see him in the way I reprimand myself after a thoughtless unkind word. I see him in way I worry for my children when I reflect upon my own faults.
My dad was not what we usually would call a great man, but he had as great a heart as any hero. He was a man who was always hurting, physically and emotionally, but the pain he felt through life could never squelch his character. Though he suffered an epic betrayal that ultimately destroyed his innocence, his sense of goodness and morality held fast. No matter what he did in life, he gave it his all, and no matter what he loved, he loved fiercely and without refrain.
My dad was a good man: a better man than I knew, and a better man than he allowed himself to believe.
Although my dad is gone, taken from us to a better place, his laughter and his smile are his legacy. His love knew no distinction of family or friend. Let each of us carry him in our hearts, remembering what he was, and what he continues to be for everyone he knew.
I love you, Dad, and I will miss you forever and ever.