Remembrance of Uncle Jim

By Thomas Macauley on

By James Joseph Macauley

In Remembrance of My Father – James W. Macauley
By James Joseph Macauley
September 6, 2002


Good morning.  I think we can all agree, particularly those of you who may have come from the Bay Area, that it’s a beautiful day here in Granite Bay.  On behalf of my mother, my sisters and myself, I would like thank you all for joining us in this celebration of the life of my father, James Walter Macauley.

The Son of James and Ester Macauley, and Elder Brother to John Macauley, my father was born on the 7th of May in 1924 and recently celebrated his 78th birthday.  He was married on August 25, 1946 and is today survived by his wife and life long friend Patricia, to whom he was married for 56 years.  He is also survived by his five children, Nancy, Janice, Jim, Jeanie and Jennifer and by his 9 grandchildren who range in ages from 26 to three.

When my mother asked that I say a few words at today’s memorial service she asked me to remember that we are celebrating our time together with Dad.  That we were fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been a part of his life and grateful that when his time to die had come that he had passed away so gently. She also reminded me that Dad had always hated going to funerals. Hated the feelings of loss that accompanied the passing of a friend or loved one.  Hated the sometimes awkward nature of conversations with the families and friends of the dearly departed. Never quite sure of what he would say or how to say it; uncertain of the value of his feelings.

He only went to funerals because it was “The Right Thing To Do”.  Because not to attend would otherwise have violated that unwritten obligation that he had to those that he called friend or loved one.  He went as a matter of conscience.  So I know as I stand here today that he is both grateful and flattered by each of you for taking the time to honor him by being here with us in remembrance of his life.

It is of course, difficult to ignore the fact that a funeral also places one in direct confrontation with one’s own inevitable mortality. I sometimes think that this fact perhaps more than any other weighed heavily on my father when confronted with that feeling of loss created by the passing of a loved one. Dad had already had more than his share of dealing with that kind of direct assault while serving in the Philippines between 1943 and 1945. He had enlisted with Art Blumm, a boyhood friend, in the spring of 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  After receiving his training here in the United States he was shipped to the Philippines.

Like most of the young men of his generation, though battle ready Dad was nevertheless unprepared and too soon exposed to the horrific nature of war.  While serving on Okinawa Island in 1945 my father was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery under fire.  An excerpt from the general order awarding the medal to him read as follows:

Private First Class James W. Macauley, 19187886, Infantry, United States Army.  For heroic service in connection with military operations against the enemy on Okinawa Island on 13 April 1945. Private First Class Macauley, an ammunition bearer in a mortar platoon, volunteered to help carry rations five hundred yards to an adjacent unit. Upon receiving heavy enemy fire, most of the detail turned back but he and three others continued with their mission. On the return trip, one of his comrades was mortally wounded so he remained alone with him and administered first aid to ease the man’s pain.  This was done under the same heavy artillery barrage. In completing his mission, Private First Class Macauley helped supply the adjacent unit with rations enabling them to hold the ground they had gained. Private First Class Macauley’s devotion to duty is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.  Awarded By Command of Major General Bradley.

My Grandmother told me about the medal when I was a boy and I was naturally very proud, as any young boy would be.  But, Dad and I never spoke of what happened.  It was part of his past, something that he wanted to leave behind.  It wasn’t glory for him, it was real life, real pain and real death.

When Dad returned home after the war he and his high school sweetheart, Patricia Margaret Hons, were married.  They had become engaged in 1943 before Dad had left for the war and like the women of her generation she had waited faithfully for his return.  Their first child, Nancy Ellen was born in 1948.  Janice Lynn was born two years laterin 1950, followed by James Joseph in 1954, Jean Anne in 1955 and Jennifer Ilene in 1961.

After the war, Dad studied Accounting at Golden Gate University on the GI Bill. He became a CPA and for a time ran his own accounting practice.  But, circumstances forced him to seek alternative employment and in July of 1956 he found a job working for the Federal Government in the Audit Agency for the department of Health Education and Welfare.  He loved the intellectual challenges posed by the work but hated the indifference which the bureaucracy had for the fraud, corruption and waste that he believed were rampant within the federal programs.  For 22 years he grappled with the system to try and make a difference, working with and along side of men like Roy Coulter, Billy Ross, Dennis Norris and George Auker.  These men were his co-workers and his friends.  When I was in college and periodically at odds with my father over one issue or another,r I remember Dennis Norris, during one of his many visits to our home, telling me “You know Jimmy, your father is a man of principle and uncompromising ethics.  That makes him a real pain at times but he is very proud of you and you should be very proud of him”.

Dennis was my father’s friend and he was right about Dad.  Dad had a very strong value system and there were certain principles that I think guided him through most of his adult life. For example he used to say about Money:  “Money Can’t Buy You Happiness but It Sure Can Do A Lot to Make You Free.”

And, on the subject of Business Negotiations he told me more than once “You don’t have to win all the time.  But, you always have to be fair.  Never try to take somebody’s last nickel. They’ll hate you for it”.

I guess we all know, life isn’t always fair. Dad’s response to that particular dilemma,  “Well, So What, What are you Going To Do About It.  Deal With It and Move”.

And, more than anything else, as Dennis had observed Dad believed in principal and in ethics.  And, I remember the lesson well because he made sure I didn’t forget it. When he wanted he could be profound and highly introspective “You know” he said, “there are only two things that are truly your own..  The first is what you learn in life, what you know to be true. And the second is your personal integrity, what you know to be right and wrong.  Those are about the only things that nobody can take away from you!”

But, there was also the pragmatic side to him and the occasional whimsical comment made in passing.  Recently, with a smile and a chuckle just before lunch he looked at me and said  “Well, if I had known I was going to live this long, I would have probably taken better care of my teeth”.

When my father retired from the Federal Government on August 23, 1978 he was 54 years old.  His letter of resignation was only 5 and ½ lines long and consisted of less than 50 words.  The last line read, “Having worked as an auditor for DHEW since July 1, 1956, I take this action with some regret”.  There was of course a luncheon given in his honor and from his friends at the office the proverbial “Gold Watch”. On the front of the watch were inscribed his initials.  On the back, the date of his retirement.   I was not in attendance that day.  For him a major chapter in his life had come to a close.  But for me one was just beginning.  Betsy and I had been married on August 12th, only 11 days earlier and were honeymooning in Hawaii. I’m not even sure I knew he had planned to quit.  As all of us here today know, Dad was in many ways a very private person and unaccustomed to sharing many of his deepest feelings.  After all it was one of his principles, “What are you going to do about it anyway.  Deal with it and Move On.”

So that’s what he did.  He took what he had learned , what he knew and what no one could take away from him; he took his reputation and his pension from the Federal Government and he found himself another job with the City and County of San Francisco in the Department of Social Services.  This was an organization that was truly screwed-up and one where he again spent his days grousing, complaining, and doing what he could to fight the good fight.  It was an uphill battle, a constant argument that couldn’t be won, and he reveled in it.  I don’t how many times I suggested that he quit, give it up and go have some fun, but there was no quit in him.  “Give it up, “ he would say.  Forget it?  These people need me.  They are a bunch of clowns.  They don’t know what they are doing!.”  So he went to work every day and did his job to the best of his ability.

Early in 1985, he suffered a heart attack while at work.  He had tried for years to cut back on his smoking, a habit he had picked up while in the service.  The doctor told him to either quit or die.  So he quit. – Cold Turkey and I never saw him smoke again.  So much for addiction.  He took a little time off to get his bearings and I think most of us hoped he would just retire.  But, he was too restless and he liked the job and let’s face it, he liked receiving the money he was paid to do it.

So, by May 13th he was given a clean bill of health and he was back to work.  His brother John had been traveling on the east-coast the day Dad returned to work.   He wrote: “Dear Jim, I know we don’t write each other but I just arrived in Philadelphia and I was thinking of you.  It is 9:30 pm here and 6:30 pm in S.F.  You have just completed your first day back at work since the results of your victory over illness from which you have so wonderfully recovered.  I pray the day was pleasant and that you did not stress yourself.  Please consider this in all you do.  Take care of yourself.  You are a great guy and a wonderful brother.”

I found this letter in some of my father’s things.  I know it was important to him and I know he appreciated his brother John for taking the time to write it.  (I hope Uncle John you don’t mind my taking a moment here to share it with the folks who have joined us today.  Your relationship with Dad was always very special and you have always been an important part of his life.  In some ways you are very different people, but I know from him that your relationship was built first on friendship, then on trust and finally on family. I know my father loved and respected you very much and always appreciated the kindness and support that you so freely gave to him.)

On May 31, 1994 (that’s your Birthday Jeanie) and shortly after his 70th Birthday Dad received a letter from the General Manager of the Department of Social Services informing him “With Regret” that his position would be eliminated effective July 1, 1994 as part of a budget cutting effort within the department.  He had been there a long time.  And the work had been a large part of his life. There were some difficult days ahead but, as always, he would adjust. There had always been life after work for Dad.  Things to do that he would immerse himself into.

When I was boy the piano loomed large.  It was his escape from all reality.  First The Moonlight Sonata and then The Warsaw Concerto.  He must have worked on the Warsaw Concerto for years.  And, he’d sit and practice for what seemed like hours at a time.   As a teenager I remember the song of choice became the Rhapsody in Blue. I’m sure there were many times when we all wished he would find something else to play but the precision required to play, the intricacy of the music, the movement of his hands up and down the keyboard always impressed and amazed me. I loved to watch him play, just as I love today to watch my own children sitting at the keyboard that once belonged to my grandmother, a gift to my family from my father several years ago.

Or there was gold panning not 30 minutes from here on the American and Consumnes Rivers.  We would go to the river almost every weekend.  Arrive by noon and haul the equipment down the hill.  He had his favorite spots and he’d spend the day splitting or moving rocks and looking for that next big nugget.  We’d all swim or fish and picnic on the river and when it got too dark, too cold, or when mom just got tired of us running around we’d haul the stuff back up the hill and head for home.

One time, I remember it was just he and I.  He looked over the river and said, “There’s the spot I want to dig today.  Right there” and he pointed to a spot high up the bank on the inside of a sharp bend in the river.  “But, we’re going to dig differently today.  We’re going to forget about the gravel on top, because I have an idea that we should be going straight down to bedrock.”  So we spent the next several hours removing everything on top and when we got to the hard rock he opened it up with the bar, took a quick look, and started to laugh.  He threw a little water on the crevice that he had opened in the bedrock and we watched with delight as the flakes of gold appeared on the rocks.  I had a lot of trouble getting him out of there that night.  He had found his glory hole and he didn’t want to let it go.  Before heading for home late that night we partially covered up the hole less someone accidentally stumble upon it the next day.  And then we were right back at it first thing the next morning.  God he was happy!

When we moved back to San Francisco in the mid 60’s the weekend trek became Golden Gate Park, the DeYoung museum, the Planetarium and Steinhart Aquarium.  It stimulated the intellectual side of his personality and he enjoyed sharing it with us.  From there we’d head down to the wharf to places where he used to fish as a boy.  And, of course there was always Playland at the beach and the trip to the Hot House for enchiladas.  Dad loved the city.  It was the place of his childhood.

The stock market appealed to another side of his personality. The player, the risk taker, the opportunist.  He read the Wall Street Journal every day in search of the next trend.  To be ahead of the crowd he’d drive downtown or stop at the Greyhound bus depot to get the Barrons on weekends.  Dad never felt like he had a lot of extra money to play with but he loved being in the game.

There was Alaska Airlines and Oxidental Petroleum when I was a boy.  He and Roy Coulter would chart price action and volume and then he’d buy a couple of hundred shares when he thought the timing was right..  Sometime in the early ‘80s he got interested in playing stock options. “Buy the July 45 Puts on ASA, a South African Gold mining company”, he said when he called me at work one day to give me a hot tip.  “I think the stock is going into the low $20’s”.  He was right. Over the next several weeks the market for ASA turned south and we made a little money on the trade.  I returned the favor in the winter of 1995.  I became enamoured with Intel that year and for a while, together he and I made a small killing.  Fact is, I guess I live in Granite Bay today because Dad introduced me to the option markets in the early 1980’s. I still play, and oh by the way Dad I’m still waiting for the next tip!

Dad also loved to gamble – mostly in Reno. Always slot machines.  The worst possible odds in the house and therefore the most challenging.  Put in a quarter, and win a thousand bucks.  And, he could do it for hours.  Patiently, one quarter at a time – one machine, one location, one game.  Over the last several years the location was Circus Circus and the game was electronic Keno.  Not any Keno machine, but the 5 machines next to the door.   You know the ones with the “light pens”. He would sit and study the patterns of numbers as they would come up on the screen modifying his next selection based on predefined relationships that he had discovered over time through pain staking analysis.  Certain that this time he was right:  “I figured it out” he would say, “now listen, if you see 17 and 19 come up together, well that means”…. And he would go on for a time about the other numerical relationships to look for.

So I went to Jackson Rancheria 5 weels ago before he died to try out the system. When I came back with my pockets empty I told him that based on the outcome I thought the system still needed a little work.  He laughed and told me I always had a problem being a good listener and so he explained it to me again, in detail as he was often want to do. But, if you folks want to know how it works, like most of my Dad’s extraordinary finds, I’ve been sworn to secrecy so don’t even bother to ask.

But, the greatest find of them all is the one you see before me.  This my friends is a “Solid Gold Lyon”.  My father found it years ago in some thrift store and he and my mother collected it along with 50,000 other items of unique interest over a 15 year period.   Paintings, furniture, sculpture, pottery, glassware, silverware, china, rugs, jewelry, rare books and yes even the occasional gold and silver plated bowling trophy, and of course the blue ducks. He and my mother over the years have become experts in the collection of many fine artifacts and they have the inventory to prove it. Is the Lyon solid gold?  I confess I don’t know whether he is or not.  But, when I took him out of the place where Dad had hidden him so many years ago and Betsy and I brought him to the Manor Care facility where Dad had been staying these last few months, that Lyon brought a huge smile to my fathers face and a few tears to Betsy’s eyes.  “You found the Lyon” he said with a renewed energy.  “Good, you know, I think he’s solid gold.  I don’t know for sure but I think he is.  He’s too heavy to be anything else.  Let me see him”.  I handed the Lyon to Dad, he looked him over and off he went again on why he thought this metal casting was really something special, something very unique.  Just as he had done so many years before when he had shown me his prize for the very first time.  And who knows, maybe this Lyon is really something special. Think of it, solid gold!

My Father was always the treasure hunter. Always looking, always hoping for that opportunity to have or to find something that would set him apart from the rest of the world.  Something that would make him unique.  There was no question he was willing to work hard for it.  He never expected to get anything for free.  And, there wasn’t any question that he was smart enough to be at the head of the class.  He was a highly intelligent man well versed in a variety of subjects.  Well read, well spoken and well liked.  And, I really don’t think he wanted the recognition because he thought he was any better than anybody else.  Well, maybe he thought he was a little better. He just wanted what I think we all want.  He wanted his 15 minutes of fame.  He wanted to be recognized as someone of value and someone of importance.  He wanted to be unique. And I think he was, even if he was also as my sister Janice once said a little bit “quirky”.

My father had big dreams for his life.  Not all of them were realized.   There were good times intermixed with periods of bad, some of which were of his own making.  My sisters and I were not the Brady Bunch and my parents were not Ozzie and Harriet.  There were financial successes and there were failures.  As a government employee, try as he might there wasn’t always a lot of money left over at the end of the month.  Cars broke, houses needed repair, kids got hurt, my teeth need to be fixed, there was always something on the list.  But, somehow my mother and father were always able to put it together to make ends meet and they were always there for us.  And, they were there for their parents when they needed them and I believe at one time or another have also been there for all of you.

When it was time for my sisters and I to go to college they couldn’t afford to put us through school, but they found ways to help us get there on our own.  And we learned how to be self sufficient in the process. When it was time for us to be married and have children of our own, they stepped back and allowed us to live our own lives without interference and we now have our own families to be proud of.  And, when it came time for my father and mother to prepare for the last phase of their lives together, we were all there to do all that we could to make things as easy as possible for them both.

My mother was there at my father’s side every day through thick and thin, for better and for worse.  She nursed him, she cared for him, she comforted him she attended to his every need and she loved him without reservation.   My Father and My Mother are unique!  Their children love, respect and admire them for the people that they are. We are better people for having been a part of their lives and we and their grandchildren will be their 15 minutes of fame. We are the legacy that is left behind.

I love you Dad and I will miss you.

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