...of my father's death. Here's a piece I wrote about him at the time:
My father passed away yesterday at
the age of 90. A resident of Edina, Minnesota, he died of natural
causes, following a fall in his home two weeks ago. Survivors include
his wife Nancy (nee Crawford) Tracy; a daughter, Joanne (Ed) Marsh, of
Naperville, Illinois; four sons, Jim (Mary) of Newton, Massachusetts;
Peter, also of Edina; Tom (Louise) of Bloomington, Minnesota; and me,
Michael (Julie), of Glenview, Illinois; twelve grandchildren (one of
which, David Marsh, preceded him in death) and two great-grandchildren.
father underwent emergency brain surgery on the night of March 24; he
never regained consciousness. He died after spending almost a week in a
hospice. A funeral mass will be said on Tuesday morning.
Francis Tracy was born on August 21, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, and
grew up in nearby Oak Park, the second child of Charles and Anna (nee
Coughlin) Tracy. His older brother Chuck and younger siblings Virginia
and Ed also survive him.
My dad was a graduate of
Ascension Catholic School and Fenwick High School (class of 1937), both
of Oak Park, and St. Benedict's College (class of '41) in Atchison,
Kansas. A lifelong sports fan, he was an All-Conference guard in
basketball at Fenwick and went on to play for the Ravens in college. I'd
be willing to bet that if he had one regret at the end of his life it
was that he didn't live long enough to see a game in the Twins' new
stadium. (Don't feel too bad, though; he saw the inside of a lot of
stadiums. One time we were on vacation in Florida and wandered onto the
field in the Orange Bowl--don't ask me how. "So this is what artificial
turf looks like...")
On December 27, 1943, my father
married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Crawford, when he was on leave
from the army. (He was married in his uniform.) Shortly after, the
newlyweds traveled to Apalachicola, Florida, where my father was
stationed before he was shipped overseas to fight in the Pacific Theater
of Operations (the "Japs"). While in Apalachicola, my mother took a
short-lived job as a file clerk in a VD clinic--until she found out what
VD was. She also drank Coca-Cola out of a bottle for the first time in
Florida. (What will they think of next, Coke in a can?) What an exotic
place the "Redneck Riviera" must have seemed to an Irish Catholic girl
from the West Side of Chicago.
My father saw some
pretty serious "action" in the Far East and was resigned to never coming
home again. I've been thinking about him a lot while watching the HBO
series, "The Pacific." That must have been terrifying! One thing I
remember him telling me was that the Australian soldiers, in particular,
were nuts. They were all about 6' 5", 275 pounds, drank beer by the
gallon, and thought wearing a helmet into battle was strictly for wimps.
I asked him once what he thought of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan.
"Great! I was scheduled to be in the seventh wave of the invasion of the home islands. We would have all been slaughtered."
I had never thought of it like that before.
my father did survive the war, somehow, and returned to my mom and his
job at Montgomery Ward, the retail giant. The young couple rented an
apartment in Oak Park and my mother promptly gave birth to my sister,
Joanne, in 1947, and my brother, Jim, in 1948. My father once told me
that he decided then to "cool it," and practice the only acceptable
Catholic method of birth control at the time, "I turned over." Not for
long, however, as Peter was born in 1953, Tom in 1955, and me, the baby,
in 1958. (My mother once confided to me that when she was having me at
age 39 she looked around at all the other twenty-somethings in the
maternity ward and said to herself, "I'm done!" I wonder how long it
took my dad to figure that out.)
returning from the war, my dad moved over to rival Sears, Roebuck, and
remained there until 1974. He was the quintessential "company man" of
the 1950s and '60s, moving his family to Philadelphia, back to Chicago,
and on to New Jersey. He made one last move in 1974, to Minneapolis, and
remained there for the rest of his life.
was not a complicated man. His persona was the sum of his Irish
heritage, his strong Catholic faith, his love for sports (or should I
say LOVE for sports), and his devotion to his wife and family. (If
nothing else can be said with any certainty in this life, my father
loved my mother.)
While he didn't talk much about
being Irish (unlike some of the Professional Irish that can be found in
places like Chicago), his heritage was a big part of his identity. I
remember looking at the program my parents brought home from my eighth
grade graduation. I asked my mother why there were check marks next to
some of the names. "Oh, your father was just counting all the Irish
names while we were waiting for it to begin."
father's father used to get a big kick out of sitting me on his knee and
asking me if I thought I "would ever go back." I always found this
"Go back where, Grampa?" Everyone would laugh at my expense.
One time I turned the tables on him.
"Grampa, do you think you'll ever go back?"
they build a bridge." Again everyone laughed. What on earth is he
talking about? It wasn't until I was much older that I realized he was
talking about the Old Sod (not that he'd ever set foot outside of
As for my dad's Catholicism, well, I guess
sometimes I wish I could be as certain of something as he was of the One
True Faith. He was a true Pillar of the Church, wherever we lived. For
years he was proud to recount that he was among that hardy band at
Divine Infant in Westchester: "We built that church!"
was a lifelong passion for my dad. He followed baseball, football, and
basketball mostly, but people may forget how much he liked boxing, too. I
remember him watching "the fights" on our black-and-white TV on Friday
nights when I was very young. He also went to the first Ali-Frazier
fight in Madison Square Garden in the early '70s, which was a very big
deal at the time.
But probably his biggest thrill in
sports was watching his oldest son play in the City Championship
football game in Soldier Field in Chicago in 1965. My brother always
seemed a little embarrassed when we brought it up (which was as often as
possible), but it was a big deal, too (especially since they won).
my father took me to three All-Star games and a World Series game
(courtesy of Gillette), I think my fondest sports memory that involved
him was when I actually got to run with the ball in a grade school
football game. It was a sweep or a reverse or something (probably a
broken play), but I just remember feeling so proud when he told me
afterward that I "turned that corner and ran like a deer." (I always
wondered why I never got to carry the ball again. After all, Irish kids
are known for their speed.)
Lastly, my dad was
hopelessly in love with my mother. He pretty much adored her all the
days they were together. He was definitely one of those guys who thought
he had "married up."
This is hardly a
complete picture of my dad. I guess it's impossible to sum up a person's
life in a blog post. Even a good New York Times obit wouldn't be
sufficient. But this is what bloggers do; we blog. If journalism is the
first draft of history, then maybe a blog post like this is the first
draft of memoir.
In the days and weeks to come, I'm sure I'll remember more about my father. I'll try to share His Life with you in this space.