Dad’s Eulogy (by Tom)

There have been a lot of jokes over the past couple of days about how my dad was a “grumpy old man”. While, over the past couple of years (ok, decades), I could sort of see what you meant, this is not the man I remember

The Mike Payne I remember was curious, patient, a quiet mentor, devoted, generous, selfless and funny guy.

Dad and mom both raised us to be active participants in our community, which was almost universally centered around our church and schools. Dad organized events, was a leader of the parish council and a Eucharistic Minister for 40 years. He had his .

first heart attack filling pothole in the parking lot outside. And he came back to give more.

Dad was a salesman. He sold “paper products and maintenance supplies” in the days before Staples. I proudly tell people that toilet paper put me through college.

Another memory focused around Christmas gifts. Not only did he wrapped all of our gifts, every year he set up an assembly line to wrap 100’s of gifts for his clients. And when it was all over, we looked forward to getting one of the crazy gizmos ourselves

But dad was a frustrated engineer.

Dad was the original “maker”. In Brooklyn, he designed and  built the bunk beds that Deb and I slept in. And all the furniture on the room. He built a custom corner desk to maximize space in our apartment. I remember the wooden barrels he painted orange and topped with green pillows that provided extra seating for guests. In Tappan, he remodeled our basement with recycled pallet wood, building couches, a coffee table, bookcases and a bar, proudly named the Tinker Tavern. And by now I am sure you have all heard stories of our 18’ handmade canoe built in the backyard.

He was always anticipating the needs of others. In Brooklyn, I had a pretty extensive model train setup. When we moved to Tappan, he ensured I had a similar setup in the awkward crawl space in our basement. He also built us a BB gun shooting range in another part of the crawl space complete with a pulley system to retrieve the targets.

I would be remiss to not mention Floatpak, Brass trap or Add a Handle. He had hoped these inventions would put the family on easy street, but they never really panned out. It was certainly not due to a lack of trying. Tara has picked up the mantle, so perhaps they may still see success.

It was from dad that I developed my love of wandering the aisles of a Hardware store.

He was also the one who taught me that at a restaurant, the menu is just a suggestion.

When I graduated from RPI, we agreed that when it came to electricity, I would handle the thin wires and he would deal with the think ones.

While our apartment in NYC was apparently too far away, Chappaqua was a different story. He removed a wall…built our bookcases…wired the backyard…textured the living room ceiling

I vividly remember the first time I cursed in front of him…I was back from college. We were in the basement working on something by the bar. The words just casually slipped out and an expression resembling pride rose on his face that I took to mean “it’s about time!”

While his stance eventually changed, He seemed genuinely upset we didn’t seek his permission before making him a grandfather

Mom wanted to share the story of Humpty Dumpty and duck tape, but I think she has shared  that enough by now.

Deb wanted to ensure we remembered the story of how mom and dad met. Dad had just moved in across the street and tossed a football towards my mom. At this point there is controversy over whether he hit her with the ball or she caught it. But either way, he yelled “when I get back from confession I am coming over to pick you up for a movie” . That kicked off their romance 66 years ago.

Deb also wanted me to recall one of his favorite about public speaking: “I like a finished speaker, truly I do. Not one that’s polished, just one who is through.”

Sorry dad, I’ve got some more…

He shared his love of golf and bowling with anyone within earshot.

And while Jennifer will point out that neither are really a sport, more a pastime, she remains the only family member to have suffered a bowling related injury, unless of course you count the fact that my grandfather died in a bowling alley.

We all bowled. Some us were even on leagues. But dad was always the best, consistently scoring 250 while the rest of us hoped to break 100.

And most recently, when we were trying to track down Aunt Arlene with the awful news, she didn’t have her phone because she was out bowling.

At one point golf was his passion

He played, he studied, he analyzed, he obsessed

He read every book he could find, reviewed articles, watched shows. He could tell you what was wrong with your swing in an instant (whether you wanted to know or not) and would have a series to tips, tricks and contraptions to help you improve said swing. But his real secret was his knowledge of the rules. Every obscure rule could be used to his advantage.

Another passion was hunting…or better known as “armed camping”

I was disappointed I never participated. It just never worked out. He always planned to build me a rifle stock with a camera mount in case I didn’t want to actually shoot a deer.

I felt the deer were safe, since after 40 years, he got as many deer with his rifle  as Jennifer got with her car.

So many stories of “tree stands” and the plans he had for next year’s revision.

As we prepared photos for his memorial, my heart was lifted recalling the obvious joy and pride as he had for his grandchildren.

Tristan has adopted dad’s love of guns and knives

Abigail appears to have inherited his love of power tools  and

William has fully embraced the creative use of duct tape

I am sad to say, I have been waiting for this day for a long time. Dad had his first heart attack at 42. His dad died when he was 11. We always assumed smoking would be his demise. But then he lived long enough to actually get cancer (a record for the family). And then he survived diabetes on a diet of coffee cake and grapes. We were called to the hospital more times than I can remember. This last time was just a simple case of pneumonia. But as my Don Bosco friends may remember, like the deacon’s wonderful one horse Shay, he would simply fail, all at once, in a single day.

Earlier this week, someone sent Deborah a poem that mentions how on a headstone, you will find a birth date and a death date but they say what matters most is the dash between the dates. Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash. I think my dad had a pretty good dash, even if the latter part was somewhat grumpy. We love him, will miss him and will embrace the memory of his dash

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