On 28 September I delivered the Eulogy for my father, Robert “Chic” Cheetham. I will miss him very much. He was a great guy.
Thank you all for being here
It is my honor to speak today about my father, Robert “Chic” Cheetham. To deliver a eulogy – which is defined literally from the Greek as “True Words”
Dad is not an easy man to describe – oh, I can label him – he has lots of labels:
Son, Brother, Husband, Friend, Father, Grand Father, Great Grand Father. He was a Businessman, a great boss, a golfer, a comedian (not always intentionally), a decent man — An honest guy and my cribbage partner who led us to countless victories over my brothers Rob and Michael also known as the “peg brothers”
Dad was born and raised (mostly) in Brighton. He loved his large family – his brothers and sisters and their families. He was a graduate of Brighton High School where he excelled as a student and an athlete. He loved football and he quarterbacked the 1948 Brighton High team to a district championship. After High School he played football for a team called the River Rats in the Boston Park League. I must admit, I often wondered how such a physically small man could excel at football. Then, when I was in my early 20’s I found myself in a barber’s chair. Somehow the barber got me to mention my last name. An older gentleman waiting for a haircut immediately perked up. “Are you related to Chic Cheetham?” he asked.
“Yes. That’s my Dad.”
Then this gentleman I had never met said, “Well, your Dad was the greatest football player I ever saw.”
I never doubted dad’s size again.
After High School Dad went to work. His High School yearbook shows that he wanted to go to college and become a lawyer – which surprises me because Dad never had a good thing to say about lawyers. But college wasn’t in the cards for Dad. If that bothered him he never let us know it. Instead he did what he had to do – he worked. He married his sweetheart Jane and they built a life together, right here in Pembroke. He created a wonderful childhood for his kids.
I once asked dad about his own father, my grandfather who had died when I was very young. Dad thought for a minute and said, “Papa was tough.” That didn’t surprise me because dad was tough too. But then Dad continued, “Your Grandfather was tough to please.”
Well, that definitely wasn’t my dad. Dad was easy to please. He was always proud of his children – he told us that often. He was proud of his daughter Cathy-Lee and what a great woman she had become. He was proud of Michael a naval officer and a great father in his own right. He was proud of me. And he was especially proud of Robbie. The last time I spoke to Dad he said to me “Rob is the greatest guy I have ever known.”
And Dad was right.
Dad worked harder than any man I have ever known. When he achieved the American dream of owning his own business, he worked 362 days a year at the Brant Rock Super Market. 362 days a year from 1967 to 1982; he never took a sick day; with rare exception he never took vacations. He just worked to create a great neighborhood business. Dad put himself into the Brant Rock Supermarket, and that market was a vital part of the community and he employed countless young people in Marshfield. He was a great boss and he was loved by his team; when he lost his business in December 1982, it was one of the very few times I saw my Dad cry. I know he was heartbroken because he had lost his dream job, but I think what really hurt him the most was the idea that he had let people down.
But he hadn’t let down anybody – we were proud of him.
When dad’s business was flagging, he wouldn’t declare bankruptcy – because to do so would go against his personal beliefs. And I’ll never forget this: after he went out of business, Rob told me about a stack of checks in Dad’s safe at the store. They were checks written by customers in the neighborhood and the checks had bounced; insufficient funds. Now, any businessman would have gone right after those customers for bouncing checks – but not Dad.
Maybe because he grew up in the depression; he knew what it was like to be in tough times. In any event Dad never went after the people who wrote him bad checks. Was that bad business? I don’t think so. I’d call that decency – and Dad had decency in his veins.
After losing his business, Dad just kept working – he just kept grinding. He worked until the age of 80. Along the way he lost his wife far too early when Mum lost a long battle with a cruel and terrible illness. He lived alone for the last 20 years of his life. I’ve heard Dad called a loner – perhaps he was. I know he loved the guy who could stand on his own. He loved Ted Williams – especially because Williams despised the media. A couple years ago, I asked Dad – what was your favorite book? He knew immediately. Magnus Colorado. A biography of the great Apache Chief who fought to drive the Mexicans out of the New Mexico territory. He loved the loner who stood up.
Maybe a loner but never lonely. During the last 25 years he never missed a grand kid’s birthday – always sending something thoughtful – a card; a gift. When we were growing up that was always Mum’s job, but Dad picked it up. He was thoughtful. He LOVED his grandchildren.
When Dad turned 80, we threw a big party for him at Susan’s house in Plymouth. What a great day that was. Dad surrounded by family and friends. And all he heard that day was “We love you Dad. We love you Chic.” When I was going through Dad’s things this week I found a note I gave Dad at that Birthday party. I’d like to read it to you:
Thank you for being a great Dad. I am very proud of you – You are a great man and a great friend. I hope you had a wonderful Birthday – and I hope you know how much you are loved by everyone. Let’s have another big party when you turn 90!
But Dad didn’t quite make it to 90. So the celebration, at least for those of us here on earth will have to wait until we meet again. Because today, while we are still here, Dad is in Heaven. But n closing let me describe Heaven to you, because I once caught a glimpse of it.
Heaven is a tiny raised ranch home in a small town, with a wooded lot, and a log rail fence on either side of the driveway. There’s a Cadillac parked in the garage. In the Driveway, Cathy-Lee is cleaning the inside of a 1975 AMC Gremlin while she listens to Donna Summer on an 8-track tape. In the back yard Robbie is sunning himself by the pool with Roy Seppala and Tommy Croce. In the Dining room Michael and his friends, Bobby and Glenn and Fiskie and all the Daves are playing poker and laughing their heads off. In the kitchen, Jane is making a lasagna and the smells fill the kitchen. There are two cheesecakes cooling in the fridge. In the corner of the yard by the stockade fence, me and Bob and Steve and Mike and Spine and Bucky are engaged in an intense game of nerfball. Mike Curran is announcing the play by play.
And there on the screened porch is Dad. He is tanned, wearing a Marshfield Country Club golf shirt, holding a can of beer. He’s taking all of it in. All of it. He looks around at everything and he smiles and then he says:
“I CREATED ALL OF THIS”
And you did Dad. Right there in a little house on 24 Plan Street you created a little slice of infinity for all of us; A small bit – a tiny approximation….of Heaven.
We Love you Dad.
Copyright © 2018 cjcheetham