Now the master of fine arts, or MFA, is the new MBA. - Daniel Pink, bestselling author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future

Monday, March 24, 2014

Eulogy for Peg Douglas: March 23, 1928-April 1, 2012

Peggy Manley Douglas was born in New York City on March 23, 1928 to May and Michael Manley. She was 100% Irish.

She was the eldest of three—Peg, Michael and Eileen, who has now officially been promoted to matriarch.

Mom was a member of St. Patrick’s parish and the Bay Shore community for 81 years.

My mother gave birth to ten children, and lost one, Kathleen, shortly after her birth. She considered Kathleen to be our guardian angel.

With my father, she built and kept a beautiful home where they raised nine children. I recently asked Mom whether she and my father talked much about their plan for children before marriage. When looking for property on which to build a house, she told me, they looked at a piece of property on Lanier Lane that backed onto a lake. She told my father she didn’t think it was a good choice “in case they had children.” And that was the extent of their prenuptial conversations about the incredible, large, healthy family to come. Being a mother was a huge part of my mother’s life. And even though she would jokingly say, “Who would I give back?” she was immensely proud of her brood, and our brood of 23 grandchildren, and their growing brood which now numbers 10.

When I called one of my Bay Shore friends to tell her about Mom’s passing, she said, “I can’t believe it, your mother was such a fixture—she was larger than life.”

I like to think of her as a force of nature. She was physically strong, beautiful, stubborn, independent and gregarious. She touched many, many lives. At 83 she was still being approached in Bay Shore stores by friends of her kids saying, “Hi Mrs. Douglas!” Even in the rehab center at Our Lady of Consolation a few weeks ago, a fellow patient called out from her wheelchair across the room in physical therapy, “Aren’t you Peggy Douglas?” Although my mother didn’t know her, the woman recognized her from her work years ago as a volunteer in the Southside Hospital gift shop.

My mother had a large cohort of first cousins in Ireland, England and the U.S., and several second cousins are here today. She had a wide circle of new and life-long friends from Seton Hall High School, the Bay Shore post office, volunteer work for Southside Hospital, her work at First National Bank, our neighborhood, Bay Shore Yacht Club, the Hibernians and through many more connections. After my father passed away, she met an old schoolmate at a high school reunion, Tom Fox, and they became loving companions and confidantes until the day she died. One of her newest friends is Sister Catherine, her roommate from Our Lady of Consolation—and we’re so glad you are with us here today.

Like I said, Mom was a force of nature. Part of her vast personal legacy was her determination to continue to live and to thrive. Any day now she was going to get back on her exercise bike. If any of us pointed out that she might not, she would say, “Watch me.” I think in her mind, she was still 45 and strong. She was always young in spirit and refused to believe she was 84.

My mother was a force of nature and she was a woman of contradictions.

She often said, “I don’t want to be a burden to you children,” or “I don’t want to bother the kids.” But in one of my last conversations as we were getting ready to say goodbye she said, “When you hang up, call Michael and tell him to bring me a chocolate milk shake from McDonalds when he comes by tomorrow.” She was very good at giving orders.

My mother never lost her appetite—for chocolate, or for life.

We were incredibly blessed to have her for so long, and to know she was so well-loved as a vital part of many communities and circles of friends. My siblings, our families and aunt Eileen thank you for coming today to help us celebrate Mom and lay her to rest.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Eulogy for James Monzel

James Alan Monzel was my brother-in-law. With my sister Suzanne, he became a parent in 1992 when Eric James was born. This was a defining moment in Jim’s life, and I believe being a father was his greatest source of joy. Jim was a good father with hopes and dreams for Eric. He taught Eric how to talk, to ride a bike, care for animals, swim, and how to not be afraid of a roller-coaster. He taught him how to tie his shoes, blow out his birthday candles, run the wood stove, and a host of ways to be a contributing member of the household including some of Eric’s favorite activities – lawn mowing, snow shoveling and household recycling. Jim taught Eric how to figure things out for himself on the computer, do math, fish, build a car for the annual Pine wood derby, and more recently, how to drive a standard.

According to his family and friends, Jim was unabashed, curious, inquisitive, quick-witted and sardonic. He was humble, non-pretentious, passionate, focused, dedicated, fun to work with and surprising. He was a sailor, skier, and was tender with the children. Jim had a keen knowledge of really obscure facts, based in part on one his favorite books—The Book of Totally Useless Information. Jim delighted in spieling off such gems as why peas spark in the microwave and why military uniforms have non-functional buttons up the cuffs of the sleeves. Jim was cheerful, playful, and opinionated. He was an introvert, gourmand, world traveler, music lover (especially Todd Rungren, who he thought was a God), a mentor and an animal lover. Jim was a loving father and a good provider. He was a pyrotechnics master—setting up extravagant displays of fireworks for the kids, and a pro at driving up his icy driveway in the winter. His non-technical family members might think of him as a geek or a techie (not to mention a trekkie), but to his colleagues he was an expert. Jim was a leader in his profession, organizing annual conferences, publishing articles and with colleagues, he held a U.S. patent. As an active member of the AA community, Jim had almost two years of sobriety—a testament to his fortitude and to the hard and important personal work he was engaged in at the end of his life.

As I’ve sorted through pictures the last few weeks looking for images of Jim to share with Suzanne and Eric, I’ve been struck by the wide variety of locations where Jim is found. There are shots of Jim and Suzanne in Buffalo, NY where my son Drew was born, shots of them in Syracuse with my daughter Maureen at the zoo, shots at my parent’s house in Bay Shore, and at the beach on Fire Island. Suzanne and Jim were ever-present as I was moving around getting an education and raising my kids. Although Suzanne was the extrovert in their marriage, managing the connections between family and friends—Jim always showed up, he was there. I’m sure he felt adrift when with Suzanne’s family of 9 siblings, but Jim was an integral part of the family. He might have listened quietly while conversations flew, but could be relied upon to insert the surprising and well-timed one-liner that made everyone laugh. When friends and family descended on Suzanne, Jim and Eric at the Monkton house for holidays, Jim eventually snuck off to his room or the basement to play a video game. While the guests sat around the guitar players in the kitchen after a feast, Jim might retreat to the living room to watch his complete collection of Dark Shadows, but he was always happy to have a house full of guests.

Jim fed us well. He was the first one up, and a thermos full of fresh coffee could always be found on the counter as evidence of his early morning productivity and hospitality. Soon Jim would begin his famous ritual—making breakfast. One of Jim’s first jobs was a short order cook at HoJos, and he never lost those roots. Over the years he had perfected the art of making bacon and pancakes, and his griddle was one of his prized possessions. Jim’s method included frying 6 strips of bacon at a time, laid out in perfect rows, flipped at just the right time and cooked to perfection. Each batch was placed on a paper towel, with a paper towel on top for the next batch. Jim brought to his breakfast making the kind of focus and precision needed for a career focused on the intricacies of computer chips and circuitry unseen by the naked eye. Although he sometimes came off as a little rigid, there were mornings when that last batch of bacon had seven strips rather than six. Unphased, Jim squeezed that last strip on the griddle.

Jim’s untimely death has been a shock and a sorrow for his family, friends, colleagues and community. We can hope to find comfort in being together today, in the song and prayer that we share.

Jim will be missed by many. As his colleague Ed writes, “Jim touched many lives, for the better.”

I want to read an excerpt of a poem by Liam Rector, written as Liam was contemplating his own death and thinking about the one’s he would leave behind. The poem includes some of Liam’s doubt about an afterlife and questions about his life and place in the world, and includes what I think of as good advice for his children, and indeed for all of us. From the poem titled Now.

Born alone, die alone—and sad, though
Vastly accompanied, to see
The sadness in the loved ones

To be left behind, and one more
Moment of wondering what,
If anything, comes next. . .

Never to have been completely
Certain what I was doing Alive,
but having stayed aloft

Amidst an almost sinister doubt.
I say to my children
Don't be afraid, be buoyed —

In its void the world is always
Falling apart, entropy its law —
I tell them those who build

And master are the ones invariably
Merry: Give and take quarter,
Create good meals within the slaughter,

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

Be buoyed.
Give and take quarter.
Create good meals.
Don’t be afraid.

My heart goes out to all of us today, especially to Suzanne, Eric, Michael and Steve, who traveled long and well with Jim. My prayer for Eric is that he continue to travel with his Dad, taking the full measure of Jim and his life forward into his own life.

To Jim, if you’re listening, God rest your soul brother. May flights of angels sing you to your rest.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Palimpsest: Yale Literary & Art Magazine

Project: Oversaw production, publication, marketing and distribution of four issues of award-winning multi-media, cross-disciplinary magazine at Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Palimpsest served as laboratory for student editors, writers, and designers across 13 graduate and professional schools at Yale: each issue is an artist book which includes a cd and/or dvd with original music, film, video and digital artwork. Issue #4 includes a make-your-own paper theater with changeable sets based on a play included in the issue and an alternative audio guide for visitors at the Yale Art Gallery, one of the many collaborations of the magazine. Advised editorial teams and managed print and dvd production with local and international printers. Issue #5 designed by artists of the firm agency: collective, click HERE for details.

Samples and Thumbnails (Click to pull up all by category and see below)