Wow. We are blown away. There were several requests for a copy of our dad's eulogy from the funeral mass on Saturday. Here it is below. Love to you all. Thank you seems insufficient.
Just so we are clear here. There will be a dry gin martini with olives waiting for me when this is finished. Joe? We good?
We didn’t worship our dad. His humility would never have let us. I can see him shaking his head at this ‘love fest’ saying – it’s too much. But, he’s not here to tell us what to do, so we will love him up any way we want.
Shortly after my dad landed his one and only -- Hole in One – down in South America using a borrowed set of clubs and a woman’s 5 wood, I received an email one night from him.
It read, “I was doing some thinking. I want you to give my eulogy.” That was it.
I responded, “Have you been drinking?” He replied.
“Yes. Maybe a little.”
I shot a note back. “Where are you, Dad? And do I need to call 911?”
“I’m in South America. But, hold onto this email. You will need proof of this exchange. I might have asked someone else – I don’t recall – Don’t write it until I die though. It’s bad luck.”
That was two years ago.
My dad was the Jack Nicklaus of eulogists. A 20-time major champion. A legend in the eulogy sports community. It’s humbling and an incredible honor to do this for him. Even though I am the one standing here talking, these words are all plagiarized. A collection from family and friends. Mostly though, they are my dad’s.
Dave Sevening took being born on All Saint’s Day, November 1, 1941 to heart. His parents, Harold and Marian Sevening might have been grumpy Germans, but they were faithful people who lived by example and raised their four kids to do the same. Every night, Dave and his brothers Bill, Jim and his sister Mary Ann, would kneel down as a family together and say the rosary. If they were in the car, they’d say it together in the car. They didn’t talk about it or their feelings for that matter, it was just how it was.
Dave’s love of music came from his mother. She loved the big bands and appreciated music, and he did too. Money was tight, so they didn’t go out to musicals. But, when Dave was around 11, his mom went to see ‘Kiss Me Kate’ – she was on cloud 9 for weeks – floating around the house singing the songs -- and that was a memory Dave cherished.
Years later as an adult, when Dave entered his ‘mixed tape’ phase of life – you know, where he made mixed tapes of LP records he had checked out at the library -- he’d sit for hours on the ground in our basement wearing oversized headphones hooked up to the stereo system taping song after song onto cassettes. A lot of the earlier tapes he made were of the records his mom had had – he loved listening to them because they brought him closer to her.
On any given Saturday, young Dave could be found by himself at Sherman Park with a 10-cent kite and a ball of string. He mastered the kite at just the right angle watching it jump through the clouds. Or, he’d meet up in the alley or street for some Norman Rockwell street ball with friends and cousins.
Dave did try to 'live a little'. Take a ‘wild swing’, his buddies who caddied with him at Beverly would say to him. With a pocketful of golf balls and a club, he would take a swing with his club down the median of Garfield Avenue that was only 20-30 yards wide. The key was to time it – because if he missed the open shot, that golf ball would be bouncing down Garfield Avenue. When that happened, he and his buddies would take off running in the opposite direction.
As a kid, he played the clarinet, but only to get out of doing the mandatory Irish jig musicals for St. Patrick's Day. He was a sucker for reference books. He had a set of Encyclopedias that he would read cover to cover.
It was on Chicago’s South Side -- Aberdeen Street mostly – where Dave became a quintessential Irish wannabe – he was surrounded by them on all sides. When he started at Visitation Catholic Elementary School with all the Irish kids, a light was turned on, especially by Sister Jean Marie.
Dave loved word problems – could derive things and figure things out – he could look ahead. He could strategize. Couldn’t memorize worth a dime, but was good at solving problems. Sister Jean Marie noticed and everything changed. She breathed life into an insecure little kid and made him feel SPECIAL.
From then on, the Nuns were Dave’s life-changers – and even later, at Mt. Carmel High School. He trusted them. They mentored him. He was always sentimental when talking about how instrumental they were in developing his core value system. He lived under the careful watch of the nuns where they doubled down on doses of Catholic guilt. He had a reverence for them which made him loyal to them for life.
The neighborhood, the nuns, his parents devotion to faith, his brothers and sister, his love of curiosity, all formed and shaped him. He had phrases that he was masterful in weaving through every aspect of his life.
Dave’s Ten Commandments.
First Commandment: The most important decision you make in your life is who you marry. Choose your mate carefully. You buy into the whole package.
“She was special from the first time I met her,” Dave was known to say. “Something different – and her blue cashmere sweater? Oh boy.”
After 6 years of dating, it was time. There are his words.
“We were there at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Her father was still alive. There were other people there. Her brother Ed and sister Joan. The whole deal over the house was I’d be the one setting up for dinner, the one who stuck around to clean up. That night, all the Busca and Snook kids were running about being a pain in the ass. Aunt Joan said – stick around, my kids are going to put on a show. All I wanted to do was get your mother out the door. I told her dad, I am going to pop the question. We will come back. “
An altar boy as a kid, Dave would often say if he hadn’t met Marge, there was a good shot he’d of landed in the seminary. Dave’s devotion to Marge was deep and unwavering. In a house full of girls, she always came first. Their homebase?
-- Years of marriage preparation for new couples at St. Raphael’s
-- Ten years of Joliet Marriage Encounter journaling and hugging other couples and sharing A LOT of their feelings and singing “There’s a New World Somewhere”
-- Surrounding themselves with other couples that shared their values
Nothing made Dave light up those Paul Newman eyes more than his sweet Margie.
One German. One Italian. But, equals. The respect and admiration they had for one another for 49 years of marriage was as strong last week as it was the night Dave proposed.
Here’s the rest of the story. “We went over to the parking lot of Ryan’s Woods – right by Beverly. Sometimes, we would make out there. I popped the question. She knew it was coming. It was no surpise, but surprised by when. She said yes. I slipped the ring on. We kissed. We hugged. We vowed eternal love. Best decision I’ve ever made in my life.” Yeah, I’d say so Mom…
Second Commandment: God is good. You gotta have faith. You are here to serve.
Dave lived by this day in and day out...service to his family, his job, his fellow man, his church, his God, his environment. He put others before himself. Always. But in serving others, he served himself. This filled him up.
Dave gave quietly to others. He was very careful how he spent his money in most situations, but money was never a consideration when it came to people he cared about.
A silver cross – a gift from his Aunt Jeanette – has had a special place around his neck since he made his First Communion. A reminder of his faith. And it was important.
Grandson Charlie said, “Grandpa Dave is forgiving, gentle and kind.”
Dave had people he took care of – older people, some related, some we were never sure. We referred to them as -- Dave’s little old ladies. He’d check on them, take them to the doctor, help them with really -- whatever it was that they needed. Mom, we all know you did all the heavy lifting on this, but just go with it. In the event of one of them passing away, Dave would deliver a thoughtful eulogy – sometimes to an empty church – with the same passion and attentiveness he would for a close relative.
Third Commandment: Have respect. Be loyal.
A scientist at heart, he started his career in the lab. Plotting away, measuring variables and trying to draw conclusions through the night. More schooling and opportunity eventually landed him in purchasing, then finally, sales. And boy, was he a good salesman.
Dave listened. His conversations with people were respectful and intuitive. He made others feel comfortable. He was a master of relationships. Here are just a few things his colleagues, customers and competitors alike, shared about him:
- Dave was the guy. Any event we had – even if he didn’t have to be there – he’d be invited because everybody wanted him there.
- If he said he was going to do it, he was going to do it. Great credibility. People trusted him. - In my 20 years here at Witco/Crompton/Sonneborn, I have never heard a negative word said about this man. Dave personally mentored me, taught me more about our products at Sonneborn than anyone, along with life lessons, for the same low price.
- We missed him at the Chicago Drug & Chemical Former President’s luncheon in December. Although he wasn’t there, he was with us in spirit. I was honored to speak on his behalf with a story and a prayer he wanted to share with our group. It was very touching and he will forever remain on my mind and in my heart.
- When Dave Sevening walked into the room, you almost felt like there was some kind of love. He left his mark on the world.
Fourth Commandment. Work hard. Be honest.
Dave worked hard. A lesson he continuously told us to do.
Granddaughter Reagan has heard the message -– climbing to places where she wants to well before she should be. Having four daughters in the house meant we were prime for babysitting services. Neighbors would call and chances were, someone was available or, my parents would make sure one of us was available.
Here’s the thing though. Our dad was insistent we only get paid $1 an hour. Didn’t matter how many kids there were. How messy the house was (and of course, we were expected to clean it while we were there). How long we were there. How insane the kids were. None of that mattered to our dad. On more than one occasion, when a babysitting job would land us a little extra – say two dollars an hour – he would make us go back and RETURN the extra money.
And when Beth came along, babysitting ten years later, he adjusted for inflation. Her rate was $2.50 an hour. That was our dad. Connecting the dots for us. Hard work and honesty go together.
Just recently – Granddaughter Avery snuck into Grandpa Dave’s office for some late night chatter with him. “He was so engaged in our conversation that’s how I knew that he really cared about me.”
Fifth Commandment: Look out for the little guy. Don’t patronize him, recognize him.
A quote: Dave means the world to me. He has been a mentor, loyal friend and more of a father figure than I ever had and I love him very much.
Dave felt fortunate that throughout his career, he always represented organizations with high values of integrity, quality and service. He had a particular deep admiration and respect for the team of people at the Petrolia Plant in Pennsylvania – the ones that got it done. They were honest, dedicated, experienced, long, long term locals who besides being family people -- dedicated themselves to the products – the ones that he was selling. To him, the plant workers were equals, if not more important. Because they were doing the heavy lifting.
More – it’s amazing they felt the same way about him as mentioned in the quote I just read to you.
That love he felt by colleagues was compounded 10X by his family.
-- When Dave’s younger brothers were around, it was never ‘this is my little brother’. He’d introduce me as “This is my brother.” I’ll never forget that. It was nice.
-- “He’s the kindest man I’ve ever met,” Grandson Tommy -- now 20 -- said. “I’ll never forget what he’s taught me. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without him and I will pass the lessons he has taught me to the people in my life.”
Sixth Commandment. Traditions and memories are important. They keep you grounded.
Traditions were the cornerstone of 232 Tupelo and the Lake house in Michigan City.
Could even be as simple as a head of lettuce. For those of you who never tasted Dave’s salad dressing, my sincerest condolences. Lucky for us, it was equally important to him to pass down these traditions to friends and family. Just this past Thanksgiving, Grandpa Dave gave very specific step by step instructions to his granddaughter Abby on concocting the perfect mix of ingredients. Important.
Driving the golf cart draped in red, white and blue decorations with his grandkids for the 4th of July parade in Long Beach. Throwing candy and enjoying a brat and beer at the park after. Important.
Playing bagpipe music of Amazing Grace and Taps at sunset overlooking Lake Michigan every night on full blast off your deck was non-negotiable. Dave had plans to learn how to play the bagpipes when he retired. Maybe mom, we just found the silver lining? Important.
Saying grace. Before all meals, Dave led us in prayer in a circle all holding hands giving thanks to God and the people around you. Always closing with his signature -- And they all said, Amen. Important.
Dave also held onto things because perhaps behind each was a treasured memory. The rest of us saw this as hoarding.
Cassette mixed tapes. Marriage Encounter journals. Cut golf balls. Tax returns. National Geographic’s. Hotel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Empty peanut cans. LP Records Vanguard insider reports. Old cabinets. Other relatives ‘treasures’ Exercise machines. Plastic ‘disposable’ plates.
Keith Cotton -- the files from Moore & Munger circa 1986 are already in route to you. Here's the thing--we probably haven't seen the 1/2 of it.
And, of course, the original joint savings account register book from Standard Bank he and Marge started together when they were dating. Important.
Seventh Commandment: No Big Deal. Stuff happens. It is what it is.
The fear of failure was palpable for Dave. It was a driving force for him – a tension he embraced and fought simultaneously. Saying ‘No big deal’ was more for other’s benefit. If he said it enough, maybe then he’d believe it himself.
His mantra when things happened. “I have to pray, hope and accept.” Teaching this to his grandchildren was important.
One time, Dave’s grandson Jack was throwing up all over the place on their trip to Disneyworld. So, Grandpa tended to Jack at the hotel, while the others went on to the Magic Kingdom. Grandpa was super nice about it – he even made Jack a nice breakfast of donuts and eggs, that of course, came right back up. No matter which way he did it, he had just wanted to make Jack happy that morning and go with the flow.
The lesson here: Puke? No big deal.
Even two-year-old Grandson Jake learned this lesson from Grandpa. Jake has been saying “Be happy. Don’t worry, Grandpa” over the past few months.
Eighth Commandment: Love the earth. Don’t Waste and for the love of God, recycle.
Dave loved nature and trees and plants and clouds and the cycles of the seasons. He believed life should be admired and respected. He found solitude and peace in the garden. It was his happy place and he was passionate about it.
Composting…Gardens…..Raspberry bushes. He had three plots behind 232 Tupelo he tended to religiously – even after Sheila’s graduation party from high school when our ‘way back’ turned it into a mud lake with an epic slip-n-slide scene, he nursed the land back to life. And when the crops of his labor produced zucchinis, tomatoes, potatoes, he’d share them all with neighbors and friends.
Up at the Lake house, he tended the the grounds with precision and purpose. He planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs up at the Lake house to bloom in the Spring.
“Grandpa Dave put his heart and soul into taking care of the lake house that was meant for his family,” Grandson David – now in college – said.
And then…the recycling. It drove Dave crazy if the plastic bag you took to use was not the right size for the job – the paper towel you used was too big for the spill – or if you walked out of a room and left the light on. Made him nuts.
Back in Naperville in the 80s – the 80s -- it was not unusual to find Dave digging around friend’s garbage cans after or even during a party. He’d be pulling out aluminum cans, putting bags in the trunk of his car to take to the recycling center the next day.
“Grandpa Dave truly just wanted to make the world a better place,” 15 year old Grandson Mark said.
Ninth Commandment. Be true to yourself.
Confident in his insecurities, Dave was comfortable in his own skin. He had no inhibitions. Innately an introvert – he credits Marge for converting him to the other side – he took comfort in observing. He genuinely loved to see others happy.
At times over the years, he’d say -- I wish I could be more present. He worked at it. He had no idea how present he could be. Because when he was on, he was on.
He’d giggle. He’d tell a group of buddies “I love you” when he’d say good-bye. He’d click his heels walking down the street like a jester. He’d dress up like an old woman for Halloween and steal beer out of a friend’s refrigerator. One time back in the 70s, he painted a face on his belly and danced around a crowded room for some skit.
He had eyebrows that could talk. They were bushy and he’d said he kept them that way because they were ‘very expressive’. One sheepish look down with his eyebrows slightly raised for something you may have done wrong was all it took.
His recent purchase of an authentic Lederhosen outfit just a few months ago was nothing short of sheer joy for him. In his complete get-up, he and Marge spent a Saturday night riding the bus on Michigan Avenue taking pictures with strangers. He loved it. He ate it up.
After sneaking in a late round of golf this past summer with his Grandson Sam, they got caught in the rain running from the clubhouse to the car and got soaked. As soon as they piled into the car, the two of just busted out laughing together.
And down in Disneyworld recently, Granddaughter Lily was having a hard time steering her bumper car – she was stuck in circles with Grandma Marge as her passenger -- Grandpa Dave was cracking up on the sideline.
He was playful – like a jolly ol’ elf. A magical leprechaun. He lit up the place. Granddaughter Evie is right. Grandpa is having a pretty good play date with Jesus.
Tenth Commandment: Its ok to have favorites. Just as long as each believes they are the “one”.
Beth, Sheila, Sue and Me – we were his four ‘favorite’ daughters. Each of us number one on his list because in our moments with him, we were. He really was never faking it.
These are Dad’s words he shared with me from just a few weeks ago.
“I love all you guys. I’m immensely proud of you. I pinch myself what a charming life I’ve led. I’m thankful for each of you. You all turned out great. No thanks to me. You have a strong mother. Who had a strong mother. And you all married well. All the son-in-laws are just great. And the in-laws are great. And golly, the grandkids. Wow. So bright. Just awesome. How blessed. How lucky.”
But that was our dad. Kind. Loving. Caring. Selfless. We were expected to and raised to -- have opinions. Share those opinions. Challenge the opinions of others, and taught to have a voice. They taught us that it’s not about how you act when things go well….it’s how you handle things when things go poorly. They showed us how to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps. We understood love is a decision, and it’s not always easy, but once you decide, you are in.
So dad, we want you to know, we got this.
We will do our best to teach our kids and our grandkids, just like you taught us to do.
We will have faith. We will serve. We will respect. We will work hard. We will look out for the little guy. We will hold on to our traditions. We will remember “It is what it is. “ We will love the earth. We will be true to ourselves. And, we will have favorites. 100s of them. Then, we will hope and pray that some of it sticks.
Dad, you were our favorite too.
I once asked my dad what he learned writing all those eulogies. He told me -- It didn't matter whose eulogy he was giving. It always came down to the same thing. Never about what you have or even about what you achieve. It was always about who that person had become –-HERE. (point to my heart with 2 fingers).
Earlier this week stuck deep in his eulogy file, I found a folded piece of paper. It was a letter my dad had written over a decade ago to friends and family who had attended his surprise 60th birthday party. It read.
"I had great intentions to drop everyone a note, then I was off for a week of business travel and the time has since slipped away. So before the year comes to an end and to save a stamp, I want to take this opportunity to formally say thank you. Please know that I think of you much more often than I ever phone or write. Know that I cherish our friendship (even if we are related) and that I thank God for making you a part of my life. I would not be the same without the love and support I have received from you. With much love and gratefulness, Dave"
And they all said --- AMEN.