Rod: In the past couple of days, we’ve been sharing memories and stories about our dad, and some things were always the same. His strongest qualities were unwavering and have shaped us into the men we have become. Each of us would like to share those qualities with you today, to help you see Clare as the loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend that we loved. I’m Rod, the oldest son, and one of my strongest qualities that I learned from my dad is being determined. Growing up, Dad taught me determination by always persevering, working hard, and valuing education. Dad was born and raised here in Jetmore and rode his bicycle to school every day. He enjoyed playing in the marching band and being on the basketball team, but we all think playing basketball was his way of catching the eye of the cute cheerleader from Ingalls. At the insistence of his father Frank, Dad left high school in the middle of his senior year to begin his college education and finish his high school degree while attending the University of Notre Dame. After one year, he enlisted in the Navy, serving his country for almost three years. Determined to finish his education, he went back to Notre Dame enjoying three more years of college life and playing clarinet in the marching band. On September 4, 1948, he married that cute cheerleader, Julia Irsik, from Ingalls, returned to South Bend with his bride, and graduated cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering in 1949. My father’s determination, success, and value of education impacted my life and my decision to become an educator and counselor. His appreciation of lifetime learning has been something that I’ve been able to pass on to many students and my children as well. My daughter Mandy is completing her thesis at the University of Oxford England, and my son Pat is busy doing research in nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin, and I know both regret not being here with us today. But, I also know that they are honoring their grandfather’s memory in the best way they know how, by modeling his determination and value of education.
Sid: For those of you who don’t know, I’m Sid—the good-looking one. One thing I remember about dad is that he was very capable and skilled at anything he chose to do. My mother seems to think I inherited that quality from him. Dad’s ingenuity allowed him to succeed in all aspects of his life. With his degree in electrical engineering, Dad chose to return to the family farm to work with his father and brother Wayne. From there he raised his family and was a true steward of the land, continuing the work his mother Seraphine taught him as a young boy. Dad’s job growing up was to peddle the family’s produce in town, giving him the background he needed to work on the farm. Dad’s involvement in agriculture didn’t stop at his love for the land, but included a respect and very capable hand with livestock as well. Dad’s cleverness and ingenuity rubbed off on me, and like him, I returned to the family farm to work and raise a family. He was a great mentor on the farm, yet he was very willing to let go and turn over the control. . . . He was a great problem-solver, and from that I learned to look at things from a unique perspective, examining all angles of a situation. Perhaps that’s why I love any type of puzzle, just like my dad did. As boys, Rod and I decided to rig a 5-foot kite to a wire roller attached to the axle of the farm pick-up. We jacked the pick-up off the ground and released over a mile of string, making the kite a speck in the sky. With the same ingenuity, Dad helped the grandkids fly kites many years later by attaching the kite strings to fishing reels, allowing them to easily release and reel the kites back in. I can only hope that I remain as capable and clever as my dad was until the very end.
Tom: I’m Tom, the middle child. One of dad’s attributes that was never failing was his devotion to his faith, his family, and his friends. I’m sure many would describe dad as very loyal and dedicated to his beliefs. Dad went to church every Sunday, but lived his faith every day. Mom and Dad raised us to behave in church, which I’m sure was a challenge with five rambunctious boys; but they made us sit right up front so that we paid close attention to the beauty of the mass. Dad was also clearly devoted to his role as a loving husband and partner to our mother, Julia. He always treated Mom as his beautiful bride, even after 63 years of marriage. He always put his family first and made it a point to set aside family time. Work was finished early on the weekends so that he could watch baseball with us boys and take us outside to play catch. His pride for his family grew with each new addition. Although he was such a humble man regarding himself, he was clearly proud of his children and grandchildren. Dad was also very devoted to his friendships. From his high school buddies, to his Notre Dame classmates; his golfing and bridge partners, to the Cowboy Breakfast group, he maintained strong relationships with those he cared about most. Dad’s constant devotion to the things most important to him taught me the value of being dedicated to my faith and family, even with the hectic life of being a doctor. Celina and I have tried to pass on these values to our children, always making time to visit family—whether they’re in Kansas, Canada, or Ireland. We also hope we’ve instilled the love of the Catholic faith into their everyday lives. I feel the same pride as my father as I watch my children devote their lives to the same values he cherished.
Mike: I’m Mike. I guess you’d call me the ornery one. Dad was such a fun-loving person, something I always admired and wanted to become. He was a friend to everyone he met and was just comfortable around others. Dad had a subtle sense of humor, being funny without even knowing or trying. In his youth, dad may have even been a bit ornery, too. He earned his nickname, “Buckshot,” in high school when he and some friends were out pulling Halloween pranks. Someone discovered the group and decided to scare them off with a shotgun. Dad, bringing up the tail of their retreat, received a backside full of buckshot, which he had to have removed at the hospital. Dad found himself in the emergency room again just a few years ago after getting stranded during one of his country drives. After walking several miles in the bitter cold, Dad sat to rest, hoping to be found. Even in the face of crisis, his fun-loving spirit and sense of humor was present. He was awakened at the hospital with Kyle Beckwith, our mortician and local EMT standing at his bedside. His first comment was “Kyle, I’m sure glad I’m looking at you, but am I in the right place?” Kyle and everyone present broke into laughter. Even in his final days, Dad was still making us laugh. Just two days before he passed, his friend and cousin Harold Schauvliege came to visit. Reminiscing about their drives through the country, Dad was anxious to get out of bed saying, “If I only had some shoes, we could get the hell out of here.” He lifted the sheets to look at his feet and repeated, “Nope. I don’t have any shoes.” Dad was naturally funny—a quality I feel I possess, but my kids remind me that I’m probably not as funny as I think I am. That’s just their opinion. I guess I just want to spread the same joy and laughter that my dad shared with everyone he knew.
John: I’m John, the youngest son. After talking with others close to Dad, we’ve decided that of all his best qualities, one stood above the rest. Dad can easily be described as a gentle soul. His kind heart and patience was evident in everything he did. Dad handled having five sons very well. He seldom raised his voice or lost his temper. On the rare occasion that dad got upset with us, which usually involved leaving the cattle gate open or messing around in the barn, his anger was short-lived and he never belittled us or used foul language. That was left to “Grease Monkey,” our hired farm hand. Even in his anger, Dad maintained his control and dignity as a polite and gentle man. Dad’s gentle spirit was also apparent each time he held one of his grandchildren or great-grandchildren. In every picture we have of him with the kids, he’s looking at them with the most caring and proud smile. Even in his last days, Dad never lost his respect or appreciation for those caring for him. He’d thank the nursing staff, even when they were poking and prodding him. Anyone else may have been depressed or withdrawn, but Dad’s gentleness resonated in his every word and gesture. He humbly accepted our care in the end, even thanking Mom for feeding him after every bite of one of his last meals—a Wendy’s frosty. I’m humbled to think that I’m anything like my father. He was the most amazing man and the best example I could have had growing up. I hope his gentle spirit not only lives through me, but through the rest of his family as well. I hope you’ll all remember our father as the determined, capable, devoted, fun-loving, and gentle-spirited man we love. We’d like to take this time to invite anyone to share a favorite story or memory of our dad. Please feel free to speak from where you are sitting.