I had the privilege of giving a eulogy at Joe’s funeral this year. Here’s what I said, which I think is a good representation of what he meant, not only to me as my father, but to others as a mentor, colleague, and friend…
I think about him when I see the water (ocean or lake), and remember the years we spent on a small boat together laughing and fighting and arguing and napping; I think about him when I hear Brownie or Chet—because he loved them and wanted to play like them (I think he played better)—or Miles and Winton and Freddie and Maynard, because he thought they were full of shit, or played flat, or just hit high notes (I think he played better); I think about him when I have a drink, because he was someone who lived life to the fullest, and took everything to the edge, yet still made the bell the next day and put food on the table; and I think about him when I’m with my children, because I want to give them the best of what he gave me and hold back the rest.
The love you have for a parent isn’t easy, or able to be captured in Hallmark card sentiments; the work of a parent is usually fun, frequently difficult, often impossible, always rewarding, but never easy or straightforward. I’d say the same of him. You all sitting here knew him for far longer than I did in my my 46 years, but I think I got to know some things about him:
– He was a good man—there’s a right and a wrong, and he wanted to be on the side of the right
– He was an impossible man—when he dug in on something he believed in, there was no moving him no matter the cost
– He was a happy man—he enjoyed life more than almost anyone I know
– He was an angry man—I don’t think he ever completely got over the trauma of his time in the war
– He was a tangle of contradictions—good, bad, happy, sad, content, restless…aren’t we all?
The love I have for my dad is huge, the pride I feel is deep. I don’t think I’ll ever understand all of him, but I realize I don’t need to. He loved me, and was proud of me, and although sometimes he struggled to show that, at key times—at some of the most important times—he managed to show it loud and clear, which is more than many people can say about their fathers.
So now, with this most vital of men, this most creative of artists, lying here at the end of his life, before his friends and family, in a ceremony he never would have wanted, I’ll say that he was someone who lived fully, who never backed down, who never apologized for who he was or what he felt or what he did or said, and, no matter what you thought of him, good or ill, always tried to do the right thing, and more often than not, managed to do it, which is something we should all strive for.
4 thoughts on “Eulogy”
This is a beautiful and fitting tribute. Miss him immensely! Hope Helen is fine. Thanks for posting this!
Nick – thanks for your kind words. Helen is doing great…lots of grandkids to spoil her!
I met Joe Shepley in 1963 when I was eight years old and in the 4th grade as the Hastings-on-Hudson, NY public school. Joe was the director of the elementary-school band in those days, and along with Peter DeLuke (the high school band director) and Ed Ryglewicz (the high school chorus director), he was responsible for creating a truly exceptional music program in the Hastings schools. I thought I wanted to play trumpet, like many eight-year old drums, but Ed said to me, “You should play trombone. You’re tall and will have long arms. And we need trombone players.” The Hastings schools have produced a lot a great professional musicians (I’m not among them), and many of them have Joe to thank for the great start he gave them. Happy to share other memories with Joe’s family. I now wish I’d had the chance to reconnect with him before he passed away. Best, Dan MacEachron
Meant to say “like many eight-year old boys,” but I also wanted to play drums, which my mother ruled out.