A Life Well Lived

October 18, 2012

My Dad died on October 13, 2012.  I don't have a pretty or poetic way to announce that; I just have the fact.  What I do have is a pretty/poetic way to tell him how much he meant to all of those whom he touched while he was here.  (keep reading, it'll happen)

Before I get into the story of my Dad's life, let me talk a bit about his death.  I'm one of those who look through the obituaries whenever I get a chance.  Not to find out if I'm in there, and it might seem a bit morbid, but I like to know how people died.  Each birth is such a celebration, with weights and lengths and hours of labor and stuff and junk, and we all know how that happens.   There are few options for how we enter this world, there are many for how we leave it.

It was truly my honor and privilege to present my Dad's life story at his farewell service, and it was so wonderful to see how many people came to say goodbye; how many lives he touched.  The bulk of this post is a tribute to Dad... the video that Cindy, TJ and I (along with many others!) made and the story that I put together with the help of Ken, Mom and the rest of the family.  But before we get into how he lived, let me tell you how he died (you know you're curious!!)  This is my understanding of the short time leading up to his passing.

Sometime in the very early morning hours of October 12, 2012, my Dad took a fall getting into/out of bed.  He landed with his legs in a W shape (like the photo here ->). That's a pretty easy position for a baby, but for us adults, that's not a good place to be.   He was a big man, and mom is not really gigantic (kinda tiny), so it required some emergency-responder assistance to get him out of that predicament.  Being in the position in which he was for an extended length of time led to some pretty bad muscle damage.  As a result, he was soon flown to McKay-Dee hospital in Ogden, UT.  (Dad never was a fan of flying, btw)

A short time later, Dad was taken into surgery to relieve the symptoms of Compartment Syndrome, which was a result of his fall.  Throughout the afternoon family started gathering, as the effects of this started running through him.  Renal failure, blood pressure problems, extreme pain.

On Saturday, October 13, he seemed to be doing better.  The doctors were optimistic about closing up his leg on Monday and were talking about dialysis and getting him out of ICU.  He was even flirting with the nurses and complaining about the helicopter ride.  The family was told to go ahead and go home that evening, but were called back a short time later.   His heart couldn't take it and he slipped away.

As you can probably guess, this is not an easy post for me; I'm going to get straight to the point (I know, right???)

I'm thankful that he got to see  his family around him at the end.  And that his passing was relatively quick.  And more than anything, I'm thankful that I got to be a part of his life.

This is the life history as read at his service.

It’s amazing to see how many people are here to celebrate the life of my dad, and to say goodbye. It almost makes me glad I got a front row seat up here... (almost)

I was chosen for this part of the program not for my great speaking skills (which will be painfully obvious to you soon), but because I wasn't there for the family meeting… :-/ There’s a lesson there.

How do you describe such a man? How do you summarize such a great and wonderful life?

As with any good story, you start at the beginning. Theodore B Hathaway was born in Twin Groves Idaho on December 11, 1934 in a chicken coop. Of course it wasn't a chicken coop until years later, but that gives you an idea of the size of the house they lived in at the time. Born at home, he was the third child of 7 for Delbert Earl and Claudia Margaret May Hathaway, had lots of coal black hair and weighed in at 12 lbs 13 oz. (I’ll give you a second for that to sink in.) Dad was told that when visitors came to see him they never commented on what a cute baby he was, they would just say “look at all the hair!”

None of us kids remember much about my dad at that time (that’s supposed to be funny), but we all know the stories. Dirt poor but didn't know it, milking the cows by hand morning and night, living in a house with no electricity, living in quarantine because of scarlet fever, outhouse tipping, walking to school in the snow uphill both ways. He even talked about hitching the horse up to the car to pull start it.

One of Dad’s favorite childhood stories was about running away from home. I’d like to read that story in his own words…

I got mad at my parents one day and decided to run away from home, so I took My horse and my fishing pole and I was out of there, I was going to make them sorry for whatever it was that I thought they had done to me or else wouldn't let me do, So I decided that I would go over to the island and live, they would never think of looking for me there. I got over to the island, which was no big deal on a horse, and I decided to do some fishing. I had caught two or three smaller ones and then I hooked a big one, it took me a quite a while to get him in, I think he must have weighed about 10 lbs., then I through my line back in and another one took it. I don’t know how big he was but when he came to the top of the water he took one look at me and turned sideways and snapped my line like it wasn't even their. I was so excited by this time that I got back on the horse and went back home to show them my fish. The worst part about it was they didn't even know that I had run away from home. I decided that it probably would be best not to tell them about it.

Dad’s brother Murlan died young, and Dad was told that if he wanted to he could have his trombone. He had a great love for music, and sat first chair through much of high school. That trombone is the same one that Ken played, and I’m pretty sure it’s still in use by one of the grandkids out there now.

When he was about 12 he was driving a truck for one of the local farmers he was working for and got pulled over by the police. The officer told him to turn around and take the truck back, and tell the farmer that he wasn’t allowed to drive until he got his license. Life in a small town, ya know.

Dad also tells of working with an uncle at the high school in St Anthony, and he swears that he did all the work while his uncle sat and thought of things to have him do.

During high school Lyle Jones, Dad’s best friend since 4th grade, was dating Blanche Smith who later became Aunt Tink. Dad asked Tink’s sister Ronna out on a date, and much to his surprise she consented. They double dated with Lyle & Tink, going to see a movie in Grandpa’s car. Mom later asked Dad why he asked her out on a second date and he said he just wanted to see if she could sit between the seat and the passenger door again.

He must not have been too scary, because on June 14, 1954 they were married.

After they were married they moved to a little cabin in Salmon, Idaho by a bend in the river. Dad liked the outdoors, and loved being able to step out the front door and catch dinner. He also liked to hunt, and the local Fish & Game told him that as long as he used whatever he got, he could hunt out of season. I've never known Dad to take more than he needed. While they were in Salmon they had their first child, who we know as Ken. Ken was taking his sweet time coming into the world, so the doctor told Dad he might as well go home and get supper. Evidently Ken liked the idea cuz he showed up while Dad was gone.

One night they woke to the smell of smoke; the stove had exploded and the house was on fire. They got out with just themselves.

They moved to another house near Aunt Kate & Uncle Ru. Dad was working at the Cobalt mine when that house burned down too. Kate ran over to help mom, and they got out with just Ken and the freezer; losing everything else. Again.

Dad got a job working for Boeing in Washington state. That’s where Ken says he got his first view of the ocean. Dad says Ken was good at filling his shoes… with sand.  The job there lasted for about a year before the layoffs began. Work was hard to find for anyone, and there really was nowhere to go and nothing to do. When they were down to their last can of beans, they got a letter from grandma & grandpa, who had no idea of the dire situation they were in, with a check for $25. Just because.

With money in their pockets, they moved back home to Sugar City Idaho, where Ronna was from. In 1959 there was an earthquake in the middle of the night; the Hebgon Lake earthquake. The quake shook mom awake, so she shook dad awake and said “We’re having an earthquake!”. In typical Dad fashion, his response was “So what do you want me to do about it?”

Dad got a job putting the fence up around Thiokol here west of Tremonton, so he stayed in the campground above Mantua (near Brigham City, just south of here) and the rest of the family stayed in Sugar City. When that job finished, he got work at Thiokol as a driver and moved the family down to an old schoolhouse near Salt Creek, just a few miles southwest of here. While there he also worked as a farmhand.

After losing the job at Thiokol, he got a job working for master muffler in Ogden. At that time he also worked land here in Garland, and the boss wanted the hired help to live on the land, so Dad lived here, worked the farm here and drove to Ogden to work his second job there.

The family moved to Willard, about 20 miles south of here, and dad started working as a delivery driver for Pepsi, which I think is where we Hathaways got our attraction for Mountain Dew.

Dad always like cars. And taking stuff apart. So starting a salvage yard seemed like a pretty logical step and it was something he had always wanted to do. He made arrangements to rent a place in Elwood, and the landlord was all in favor of the salvage yard, so Dad started his own business, which would eventually become Ted’s Towing and then Hathaway Enterprises.

He would take mom to Ogden and buy cars at auction, using a tow strap to pull the cars home. Even dad knew that that’s not the safest way to transport cars, so he went to the bank to see about getting a loan for a tow truck. With 2 trucks already in town, the bank wouldn't finance him… so, in typical dad fashion, he built his own.

In 1972, he lost his first wife Ronna. As you can imagine, he was devastated. The community and members of the church surrounded and supported him, and he was determined to keep the family together. And keep us together, he did.

Dad’s brother Lewis’s first wife Carla’s cousin Gloria (can you follow that?) was also recently re-singled, and was set up on a blind date with Dad. Mom said that after the first date she just couldn't keep Dad off her doorstep. He showed up one day and said “Carla says you would never move to up to my house with me”. Mom said she had never said that so Dad asked if she’d marry him. She said yes, by the way. On October 19, 1972, six weeks after their first date, they were married.

Times were tough and 11 kids is a lot to keep fed and clothed, so Dad took a job working for Jone’s Equipment, driving truck to deliver farming equipment. While he was on the road, Ken was in charge of the business. Ken swore he would never work in the towing and auto salvage business. How’s that working for you Ken?

When he was doing long trips, each of us kids, and even mom, got to go with him. We all remember those as some of the best times we had.
Always the do-it-yourselfer, Dad traded work with a carpenter and together they converted an old school bus into a camper. Our family spent a lot of miles and made a lot of memories in that bus over the next several years. When friends got into sand-rails or “dune-buggies” as we called them, he took the body off a Volkswagen, welded jack stands around the bottom and made a roll-bar out of drive shafts. A couple of small tractor tires carefully notched made for good traction in the sand. Through the years we made many trips in that bus, and spun through a lot of sand in that buggy.

Dad loved his business, and he ran it well. When he decided there was good money in towing big trucks, he built his own big tow truck (yes, again in typical Dad fashion). For many years he was the only big truck between Salt Lake and Pocatello, and in some winter storms there would be a long waiting list to get Ted’s Towing to pull you back on the road. That big wrecker went EVERYWHERE and at pretty much any time of the day or night. It wasn't unusual to get a phone call at 3am, or during Thanksgiving dinner, or in the middle of a blizzard to go help someone get back on the road. Dad would crawl out of a nice warm bed and as often as not take one of us along with him to drive 35 mph through a snowstorm to figure out how to pull a loaded semi back on the road and the rest of the way up the hill. And those truckers never forgot the way dad treated them or the help he gave them. It wasn't unusual to hear a truck on the freeway blow their horn to say hello as they passed by Dad’s house.

As business expanded, he moved the office and repair shop to its location by the Crossroads, and even tried his hand at running a gas station there for a while.

Eventually EPA regulations required that Dad move the salvage yard from Elwood. He bought the land by the old sugar factory in Garland and moved the salvage operations there, where the business still runs today.

Dad had his share of health problems through the years. While working a wreck involving transformers, he got into some of the chemicals and was sick for quite a while. He lopped the end of his finger off in a snow blower. And he survived a quadruple bypass.

Dad loved the outdoors; summers were spent fishing or boating or traveling, as kids we had great adventures climbing trees or building rafts and floating down the river. Winters were the most fun, with a pond to skate on and hills to tube down. A tractor, rope and car hood was way better than any snowmobile, if not a whole lot more dangerous.

He was an avid motorcyclist and saw most of the country either from a bike or a big-rig. Along with a love for travel he taught us to take time for ourselves. He discovered a passion for trains, and his big hobby was model railroading. His first wife gave him his first train, and many years later his second wife gave him the patience and room to build the TBH railroad in the basement, where he spent hours in his own little world. HO scale. 🙂

He taught us perseverance. Through 2 devastating house fires, the loss of too many loved ones, and several different moves and jobs, he stood strong. As long as you have family, you have all you need.

He taught us to trust our intuition, to listen to the still small voice. While he was working the Cobalt mine, he heard what he thought was one of the bosses telling him to take a break. When he got up out of the mine he found that no one had told him to take a break, but since he was already out to go ahead and take one. When he got back into the mine he found that a 2 ton piece of rock had fallen right where he had been working.

He taught us to take care of our belongings. When a young Ken shot an arrow into a hornet’s nest and told Dad about it, probably hoping he would go get it for him, Dad simply said “well I guess you don’t have that arrow anymore.”

During the summer he worked for Pepsi, Ken got to go along and help. Ken would sort all the different bottles into cases and Dad would pay him a penny a case. There was a Tonka truck that Ken was saving up for that cost $20. That’s a lot of cases. When Ken had the money and was ready to get the truck, he found that he had left one of his library books out and it got damaged. The Wizard of Oz was $13.50 at that time, and Ken got to sort a lot more bottles before he made that up. He did get the truck, just so you know.

He taught us to bargain. At the old schoolhouse, if you were doing something you weren't supposed to (which my older brothers and sister did quite a bit evidently), dad would threaten to make you sleep in the spooky upstairs rooms as punishment. They quickly learned to bargain and say “can we just sleep half-way up there?” and spent more than a few nights sleeping on the stairs.

He taught us about sports and sportsmanship. He coached little league for Ken and TJ. Ken says dad taught him to throw too straight, cuz when he was young he picked up a rock and threw it at dad and danged if he didn't hit him. He only tried that one once (on dad anyway).

He taught us to care for nature. Once while out cutting hay, he accidentally ran over a momma bird. He took the time to gather up the nest and take it home. The division of wildlife came and rescued the babies. I don’t remember a time when we didn't have pets of some kind. Outside we had pigs and horses and sheep and cows. One of the cows you could sit on while Dad milked it.

Our house was always full of animals (and I don’t mean just us kids). We had baby owls and turtles and lizards (did you know about that mom?) and cats and dogs. SO many dogs. Dad’s favorite dog was Marcus, the dog that now sits and waits for him to come home and doesn't really like all the hugging mom has been getting lately. Dad and Marcus were best buds.

He taught us how to be a family. From the start of his marriage to Gloria, we all called them Mom and Dad. They never considered us anything but one family, and neither did we. He’s been there for all of us, from little league to band recitals; baptisms to funerals.

He taught us to love music. Along with his high school trombone skills, he played guitar and had one heck of a bass voice. He was a choir director’s dream, cuz that man could SING. On any given road trip, we were singing, with or without the radio didn't really matter. For years the family would perform at church gatherings, nursing homes, reunions or just in our own living room. Anywhere we could play was a stage and anyone who would listen was an audience. Several of us have kept up that tradition and even passed it along to our own families.

He taught us about duty, both civic and spiritual. He was president of the Utah Towing association and the Kiwanis club. He served a ward mission and a stake mission.

He taught us to care for those in need. While running a towing and auto repair business, he had the opportunity to provide assistance to a lot of people who were, like he once was, a long way from home with nowhere else to turn. It wasn't unusual for somebody to get parts or service at a really really good price, and there were many times that he brought those people into our home for a meal or two and a place to stay while waiting to get back on the road. Most of the time those people were extremely grateful and gracious, but of course there were a few who tried to take advantage.

Which is where he taught us to stand up for ourselves. During one of those long winter snowstorms filled with pulling people back on the road, he encountered one of those who would take advantage. He pulled one particular car about 20 feet back onto the road and the driver told Dad that he had just come from Vegas where he lost all his money and couldn't pay the bill and there wasn't a thing Dad could do about it. What was he gonna do? You can’t put the car back! Well Dad hadn't unhooked the car yet and when he started lowering the car it back off the side of the road, the money for the tow bill appeared real fast. He called Dad every name in the book (and not the good book) and sped off down the road. As Dad worked his way down the freeway, he ran across the same car a couple of miles away… off the road again. Although he would not pull the foul-mouthed driver on the road again, Dad was not one to leave someone stranded under any condition, so he gave him a ride into town so he could arrange for another truck to pull him back on the road.

He taught us patience. TJ tells the story of fishing with Dad and TJ’s own 2 sons and Dad marveling at the patience TJ showed while baiting hooks and battling the “I’m bored” complaints and TJ reminded Dad that he was the one who taught him patience. While TJ was on one of the aforementioned road trips with Dad, they got stuck in Reno because Donner summit was closed due to snow. There was a video game in the lobby of the hotel they were staying in; one where you guide the rocket through space and shoot all the stuff flying at you. Since they were stranded there with nothing to do (no angry birds back then), Dad stood there for 4 hours while TJ entertained himself on the game.

He taught us honesty. As with most kids, we occasionally got into trouble. To have someone say that they were going to call Dad was the second worst thing you could do as a punishment. We had the occasional butt kicking (never more than we deserved), but the worst punishment in the world was to see hurt in that man’s eyes and know we had disappointed him in some way.

He taught us value. When Ken was younger, he was looking for ways to earn some money and offered to pull some car parts for Dad. Even though money was tight, Dad needed parts pulled so he agreed. Ken thought he could make a few easy bucks by pulling taillights, which is a pretty quick job. He came back to Dad with an armful of taillights and was told that he didn't need taillights, he needed radiators. Pulling radiators is a much tougher job. Ken swore he would never work in the towing and auto salvage business. You really need to quit swearing Ken. It’s not working for you. 

He taught us to work. Dad worked hard all his life. Most of the time he had 2 jobs, even when he had his own business. As he reached what most of us would consider retirement age, he kept working. When his health made him slow down, he still made parts runs and took lighter calls. For the past few years he made a visit to the shop twice a day whenever he could, always with his dog Marcus, and often with one of the grandkids. On Thursday, the day before he went into the hospital, he made the customary morning stop. Thursday afternoon he went to the salvage yard and pulled a new grill for mom’s car. He sat and talked a bit as usual and then went home and put the grill in.

Most of all, he taught us love. He gave a lifetime of love to his first wife in the 18 years they had together, and another lifetime of love to his second in the next 40 years. I know he’s had a beautiful reunion with Ronna, and that they are there together watching and waiting patiently for Gloria and the rest of the family to join them. I hope there are really big pavilions in heaven, cuz that’s gonna be one heck of a family reunion! He had 6 siblings, 11 children, 30 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and made each one feel like they were his favorite. But we all know who his favorite really was. (me) 🙂

Farmer, delivery man, wrecker, fencer, rancher, mechanic, coal-miner. These are not who he was. These are things he did. Son, brother, husband, father, grandpa, provider, rescuer, storyteller, explorer, singer, teacher, traveler, friend, train engineer, role model, hero. That is who he is.

To know him was to love him. To have met him is to miss him. You were well loved, Dad. And you will be greatly missed.

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