Euology for Paul Alger Written and given by LuJane Herbert, daughter March 13, 1991
I know that this is a solemn occasion but my father was never a solemn man. He spent his life smiling and working at getting others to smile and laugh. This Eulogy will most likely not be a normal, ordinary Eulogy but then my father was not an ordinary man.
Paul Alger was born February 25, 1924 in Enterprise, Utah in Washington County in a home still owned by a member of the family, his sister Madge Hunt. Dad told me he was quite young at the time and that he couldn't quite remember the occasion.
He was born into a family of 11 children, nine of which were older sisters. They, of course, were delighted to have a little brother around and consequently he was spoiled and coddled and loved more than most little boys.
Dad's childhood was full of adventure and usual boyhood shenanigans. He tells of a time when he was about 3 or 4 years old when he decided to kill a rattlesnake by himself. He'd watched his dad do it and was sure it would be no problem for him. However, his mom happened to hear him say, "Hello, Mr. Rattlesnake" and she was there in a flash to assist.
Full of mischief at age five he and his nephew, Albert, who was just a year younger, decided they'd like to take a joy-ride. Daddy invented a way they two of them could successfully steal a car and take it for a ride. Being too short on one end to run the steering wheel and the pedals he had Albert get on the floor and manipulate the pedals while he steered the car. They drove it over to his sister, Gwen's, house and in order to get there the two little tykes had to pass over a narrow bridge. He says he thinks his dad was actually pretty proud of him but he received punished just the same.
Grandma Alger would really worry about dad swimming and would guard him and worry about him. He loved to tease her because she could only swim if the water went up to her knees. Living in farming country there were always a lot of gates to open and close when you went anyplace and dad was elected to be the gate opener and closer. He said there were umpteen gates for him to open everytime they got in the car. When he found out the family was going to drive to California he became quite somber and finally asked how many gates he'd have to open between Enterprise and California.
At a very young age he was taught the importance of sticking to your word. In his history he writes:
"My Dad told me he'd give me a .22 rifle as soon as I was strong enough to cock it. It was a bolt action gun and you had to manually pull the bolt back to cock it. I used to practice every chance I got -- I'd lay the end of the barrel on a rock so I wouldn't get dirt in it, put the butt in my belly and grab that bolt with both hands and try to pull it back. I was somewhere in my 5th year when I finally managed it and true to his word, my Dad turned the gun over to me with no strings attached."
Dad was only about 10 years old when he learned about hard work and responsibility. He had to fill the boiler room at the school with cord wood every night, rain or shine, with an old iron wheeled barrow. It became tougher when they built a gymnasium over the hole he tossed the wood into because then he had to drag the wood, one piece at a time, through a tunnel about 30 feet, throw it in the hole and then go in and stack the wood neatly. Pushing the wheelbarrow was no easy job either. He had to jostle it through snow or mud and with an iron wheel it got a little rough for that little 10 year old boy. Needless to say, hauling that wood never became an obsession.
When he turned 12 years old his father became quite sick and the entire job of being janitor was turned over to him. He writes,
"I was still young enough to be afraid of the dark and there was never a spookier place in the world than that old school house at 3 or 4 a.m. There were two huge metal ventilators on the roof that were always banging and sounded just like doors opening and closing upstairs. The expansion and contraction of the big wooden floors upstairs made them creak and groan like someone was walking around up there. I had to feel my way along about 100 feet of hallway and down a flight of stairs to the "broom closet," which housed the electric panel that controlled all the lights in the building. There I had to strike my first match to tell where switches were to turn on. They only gave me about four matches to take with me and flashlights were unknown -- to us at least. After I got the hall lights turned on I felt a little better. I only had one more bad place to get through -- the boys rest room. It had its own light switch and no outside windows and a darker place you can't imagine. I would creep in and turn on the light then the first thing you would see would be your own reflection in a large mirror on the opposite wall. This just about stampeded me until I got used to it. Strangely enough, once I got down in the basement where the furnace was I felt quite safe and went about the business of carrying cord wood to the furnace and getting it to burn."
Dad loved basketball and explained the reason why he won every spelling bee the school put on. He said the winner got free tickets to the basketball games and with no money to purchase these tickets this was the only way he could attend and feed his first love.
He went on to become the star of his high school basketball team and with his height of 6'2" he was the team's center. He played Legion ball and the team took high honors.
Dad enlisted in the Navy shortly after high school and while in boot camp in Oklahoma he sent for his sweetheart to marry him. She answered the call and met him there. They found a preacher willing to marry them but were shocked when the witnesses turned out to be pigs and chickens and "cleaning up" to this preacher meant wiping the mud off his hands and slicking back his hair with spit.
The story of this May 11, 1943 wedding is so appropriately visualized in an "ode to a marriage" written by Jeanne . . . let me read:
"I guess we're ready to proceed." (The two were in a daze)
They really weren't accustomed to these Oklahoma ways.
"Hey Maw," he yelled. "Come on in here and shoo out the old cow.
It ain't quite too appropriate to hold this wedding, now.
The pigs and chicks can witness, but the main one you'll be, dear.
Come and see the love birds that ol' Paw will marry here."
The couple exchanged glances thinking "This must be a joke."
But their thoughts were interrupted, "Are you two Christian folk?"
Paul was in a flutter and he answered clearly, "No."
"We are here from Utah. We are Mormon folks, you know.
" I'm not sure who was craziest, the guy with hog's perfume
Or those non Christian Mormons being married by that loon.
After their unique wedding, Dad took mom back to the apartment, gave her a kiss and went back to the base. So much for romance and honeymoons.
The couple stuck it out and out of that union came six children, four sons and two daughters. They moved from Las Vegas to California to Utah to Idaho and Washington. During that time dad mechanicked on cars, airplanes, trucks and heavy equipment. He taught engine repair at a state college and helped to build a dam and an oil pipeline. He built wrought iron furniture, decorated houses with his welding genius and ran a trailer park. His inventions and gimmicks were the wonder of all who knew him. He always told me he was lazy and his inventions were ways to make it easier. . . like his electric log splitter and his wrought-iron twister.
Dad was always the life of the party and his singing and guitar playing was always remembered by anyone who heard it. He had an amazing memory for lyrics and could sing ballad after ballad that went on for five or six verses without hesitation.
Daddy had a heart of gold and would have given anyone anything if they needed it. His kids were the light of his life and even though he had a tough time verbally expressing affection especially to his sons, his actions always showed his deep love. We all knew he loved us and I have not doubt that he knew the love was returned unconditionally. His warmth and humor always came through in jargon such as "Zee grubs tennis slouch bull of slob ski" or McGee and McGoo when speaking to his sons. And his daughters procured nicknames like Ryar Jane and Steppin fetchet.
Each one of us kids have our own personal memories of our dad, I'm sure. I know there were many, many hours spent in the shop with Dale and with Russell. There must have been much out there that now makes that shop special to these two guys. I know that Paul Dale shared more with dad than just his name. Their talent and love of music is obvious but dad was able to live vicariously through Dale as he went on to do things that dad always dreamed of doing.
Russell came along a little later in his parent's life. A time when dad and mom both needed the companionship that Russ was able to give. The rest of us kids were gone by the time Russ was old enough to communicate and he was truly a God-send to both his father and his mother.
Jeanne spent numerous late nights with her daddy as she grew up conversing and singing with him, getting to know and understand him in a very special way. They had a bond between them that could easily be seen.
Dennis and his dad had a relationship that was grand and unique. They shared a love that anyone could see just by looking at them. Dennis, with his tender heart and unique compassion could see through Dad's tough exterior into the very core of his being. I always wondered if the closeness they shared stemmed back to the time when Dennis was at the garage with his dad in Enterprise and fell out of a car on the hoist, landing on his head or when he slammed his fingers in the car door and quietly nearly apologetically asked if dad would open the door PLEASE!
I don't think I've ever seen love and devotion go deeper than it did with my father for my mother. He was dedicated to her and in his last days she was the only person that could comfort him. And she was devoted to him. Nursing him. Loving him.
A couple of years ago when a few of his children were gathered around his special table in the kitchen, he made an observation that was later put on a plaque for my mother. He said: I wonder if you realize just what a special mother you have. Not only has she been a wonderful mother to you, but she is also a wonderful person. I hope you kids really appreciate the type of woman she is. She has said she wished she could be more like my mother, but I'm telling you she is every bit as wonderful a woman as my mother, and I want you kids to know how lucky you are to have her.
Dennis answered, "You're preaching to the choir Dad." We all agreed. We have the greatest Mom in the world.
To him, mom was always an angel. . . his children didn't always agree with him but on that point it has always been unanimous. Dad had a tough time leaving this world but I'm sure the most difficult part for him was that he didn't want to leave his sweetheart. To be separated from her for even a short period of time was torture. He loved her more than his life.
Dad never lost his sense of humor. Two days before he died he had to have an x-ray and when the nurse asked him what he would like her to do with his pants he replied, "Just hand 'em to momma, she wears the pants most of the time anyway."
Dad died, quietly in the Tri-state Hospital March 9, 1991 at about 3 p.m. with his oldest daughter, Jeanne, at his side. He has spent these last few days, I'm sure, in a glorious reunion with his mom whom he adored, his father and his brothers and sisters who have all welcomed him with open arms. He has also spent some time, I'm sure, looking over my shoulder seeing what I was writing.
I'm going to close with a few thoughts I jotted down while I sat in the hospital with my father last Saturday morning. They really don't have a lot to do with a euology, I suppose, but I have a desire for my mother, my brothers and sister to know how I felt during that critical time.
I'm sitting with my father in the hospital waiting. . . waiting, I suppose, for him to die. That sounds so heartless but he's leaving us now and as much as I thought it wouldn't affect me, it's breaking my heart.
I hold his lifeless hand and remember how those hands were once so capable, so strong. . . so gentle. How with those giant hands he could scoop me up onto his lap for a warm embrace, touch my cheek and wipe away my tear.
I want more time. Time to REALLY tell him how I love him and try harder to understand his eccentric, hermit-type ways.
He looks so small, this great, stupendous man, as he lays working harder at grabbing air than he did at building a house or lifting a child.
His once mighty chest is sunken and weak now. His magnificent heart trying to beat its last. With each labored breath I pray he'll be released but dread the thought, hoping he'll stay. He continues. . . hanging on. . . hanging on. . . for what? For me to say "I love you"? I do daddy -- I do. I'd yell it from the housetops if it would bring you back, whole and healthy. But I know it won't and it's selfish of me to hope such a thing. You're headed to a place where air is free, and breathing is not work. Where you'll find unconditional happiness and acceptance with our Savior. Oh, that I could go with you.