And so I say to him, here and now, "I Thank You" and "I Love You".
To Jennifer and I, he was “Dad”. To all of you he was “Bob”, “Bobby”, “Uncle Bobby”, “Uncle Bob”, and “R.W.”. But despite all of the different hats he wore, we all knew the same man. Whether he had nothing or had it all, whether he was a child or an adult, whether before or after fatherhood changed his life. At every age and in every context, we all knew the same towering, iconic figure who had the strength of a legend, the integrity of a hero, and the heart of an angel.
Our Dad’s larger-than-life stature was genuine, but he was, like one of his heroes, John Wayne, truly a gentle giant. Underneath his powerful presence and brilliant wit was the precocious child who evolved without growing old. He never mellowed with age, and never lost the twinkle in his eyes that fueled a self-described “insatiable appetite for knowledge”. He devoured information from books, TV, and the internet, storing it in an extraordinary brain that never, ever lost its edge.
To everyone who knew him, our Dad was a living legend. But our Dad was also a profoundly sensitive human being. He always looked up with reverence to his sisters, Barbara and Diane, and viewed all of their children, and our Mother’s nieces and nephews, as his second children. He was a man of deep faith who neither doubted nor downplayed the role that angels played in guiding and protecting he and his loved ones. Chief among these guardian angels was my father’s father, Robert E. Jeffrey, whose name he gave me the honor of carrying. Jennifer and I were not fortunate enough to know our grandfather in life, but we grew up with his portrait watching over us everywhere we lived. And his presence was ever felt through our father’s love of him, and our father’s incurable sadness that his father passed away before his children were born. Jennifer and I now know that sadness, too. But we take our greatest comfort in knowing our Dad is now among the many angels who watched over him, including his Dad.
Dad provided counsel to countless family, friends, and colleagues, and was a natural mentor to the many, many people who looked up to him at every age and facet of life. He was the least judgmental man I have ever known, living by his own, defining motto: “I deal them in before I deal them out.” He believed in equality above all other principles, and my sister and I are blessed to have had a father who was truly and utterly devoid of prejudice. He loved nothing more than sharing happiness with others. He was an individual of boundless generosity who never felt more pride than when someone told him how comfortable they felt around him. Somehow our Dad was always surprised by how truly loved he was. But as with everything else in his life, he earned it. He earned people’s admiration. He earned people’s respect. And he earned his truly iconic reputation.
Our Dad was at his happiest when with Jennifer and I and our Mom, his soul mate and wife of 42 years. Our mother was his muse, the source of his strength, and the love of his life. Theirs is a love story that goes on eternally as he and our Mom continue to get us through this now. Our Dad raised Jennifer and I to only ever be ourselves, and provided unending support and encouragement to follow our dreams. We always felt loved and accepted, because we were.
Jennifer and our Mom and I have felt our Dad’s presence wrapped around us since the the day his journey here ended. And so on behalf of all four of us, I offer my condolences to all of you who loved him, for there are so very many people in this room for whom the loss is no less devastating than it is to us. I know our father is honored and amazed by not only the love and celebration of life, but by the wave of compassion and breathtaking generosity of so many people bringing comfort to our mother and Jennifer and I. We are overcome with gratitude to all of you, and so is our Dad.