A week has passed since my Dad passed away, and I think that
it might be time to admit to myself that he’s gone. Yes, with my
family I wrote an obituary
and emailed it out, and wrote out the details (see below) of the slideshow
that my sister-in-law so kindly put together, but stuff like this, I seem to
sort of compartmentalize, and I think that by sending this out to you all, it
will be a true acknowledgement (emotionally) that he’s no longer here.
Memories from the far past continually pour into my mind:
- the time when we were
creating portmanteaus (one word from two) (a local Detroit
weatherman, Sonny Elliot, was always doing that with weather words), so we were doing
simple ones like breakfast + lunch becomes brunch! And then my Dad
said, “how about ‘sharp’ and ‘witty’”, and before we could say the
obvious, he said “warp”! Somehow, that was hysterically funny, and
that memory, created while we were in the car, going south on Van Dyke (at
the time, M-53), near Rapp’s Orchard in Romeo, just sticks in my head and
pops out at random times
- my Dad teaching my
brother and me how to replace a window pane after we broke one while
playing with each other
- my Dad working on his
- building models of
- building and then using
dark rooms for developing photos of I don’t remember what (in addition to
developing black and white family portraits)
- taking the bus with him
to go to ballet class while he went to class, during the part of his PhD
that required classes
- the one time I went
with him to one of the classes, and thinking that I understood something
because they said the word “nylon” and I knew what nylons were!
Except, of course, I didn’t.
- him coming home and
making a “poor man’s cake”, because he saw the eggless chocolate cake
recipe on the bus. Many of my friends are quite familiar with it,
because that’s pretty much the only cake that I make.
- my coming to the
conclusion that I never wanted to get a PhD because I didn’t want to have
to work as hard as my Dad did to get it. I didn’t realize, at the
time, that he did it in record time, even though he had us (his family)
sapping some of his time and energy.
- Fun and work at our
- Cutting down trees
- Planting trees
- Boating, fishing,
swimming – sometimes with friends and relatives, sometimes with just us
- Dealing with grapes – I
found them yummy, but my folks used most of them to make wine
- Having roast corn on
the cob, fresh from the garden with lots of relatives
- Dad playing chess
(I learned to play, but was no match for him)
- The early adopter:
- Dad loved taking
photos, and he was always adopting the latest technologies:
- Videos with SOUND!
- Dad built a heathkit
computer long before the IBM PC came around AND wrote all of the
programs to do whatever was needed, because things like Microsoft Word
and Excel didn’t exist, yet.
Then there are the memories from the not-so-far past:
- My parents' visits to my
houses in New Jersey or Oregon were rare, and always involved some big
project. In New Jersey, it was fixing the front walk, and in Oregon,
it was building bookshelves.
- All of our travel
vacations – there were very few of them, since the farm was the normal
place for vacations:
- Yellowstone and Craters
of the Moon when we were kids
- Israel, visiting sites
and relatives, after my first year of college
- A cruise up the inside
passage of Alaska in the late summer, after I graduated from college (we
figured that it would be our last family vacation – my brother was also
available for this one)
- A trip to England and
Scotland – I particularly remember a chance walking “tour” that we took
with a bunch of walkers in England who were getting a chance to visit a
bunch of farms. When I mistook them for a group touring a castle
ruin, they invited us along. The fellow who invited us was 84, so
my Dad wanted a picture of him, as his Dad was the same age at the
time. A sort of a “you don’t *have* to be “old” at 84” kind
of picture. And now, that’s as long as he, himself, lasted. . .
- And finally, a cruise
around New Zealand, ending up in Sydney, Australia, before heading
home. By then, he was already having memory creation issues, and
when I asked him to say one thing, specifically, that he remembered from
the trip, he finally came up with “flying monkeys”. I wracked my
brain, trying to think of what he could possibly have meant, and finally,
I realized that he was remembering the “flying foxes” as they are called
in Australia, or: fruit bats. They are HUGE. And they were
everywhere in the botanical park that I encouraged my parents to go and
see before we returned to the US.
I also remember that he loaned me his SLR camera, after
teaching me how to use it, so that I could take pictures when my girlfriend,
Jeannie, and I made a trip to Taiwan to visit her family. My parents
wanted me to take pictures since they knew that they would never go, but were
still interested to see what I saw, there.
And then there are the memories of the very, very recent
past. Thankfully, I was in Michigan for the month of February, so I got
to see him every day. Whenever we did a transfer from his wheelchair to
anything other than the walker, we got to dance, together – something that my
brother had suggested worked really well. Indeed, it did work well – as
we’d rock side to side and I’d “lead” him to the destination.
While he lost his ability to make memories, he never lost
his ability to make jokes. He was constantly saying things that would
make us laugh. He always had a quip for the doctors. For example, one day, a doctor came in and asked him how he was doing, and his response was "I was hoping that you would tell me!" But, alas, no more quips.
I think that this may be what memorial services are for –
for everyone to get together and go through their memories, and send their
loved one on, in their mind, as well as in fact. However, I’ve always
hated memorial services. Probably because I’m an introvert, and having so
many people in one place at one time just saps the energy out of me, even if I
really enjoy each individual conversation that I have with everyone. So
maybe it’s fitting that I don’t have to deal with a formal memorial service at
this exact time? Or maybe I’m just searching for that silver lining in
what is really a dreadful situation. I’m very sorry that I can’t be
together with my Mom, and help her with the myriad of end of life duties that
she’s stuck with. It’s easier to divvy all of those up if we’re
together. FaceTime is great for “seeing” one another, but we don’t have
the remote hug perfected, yet. . .
So Dad, I’m glad that your suffering (from Covid-19) is
over, but I’m so sorry that it had to be in this way. You survived heart
attacks and strokes and a cardiac arrest, kidney issues and more, but the virus
is the thing that finally took the wind out of you, most literally. Yes,
please, rest in peace.
We do still intend to have a proper memorial service after
all of -this- is over. I know that no one is really totally unaffected by
the coronavirus, and many are suffering in unfathomable ways. Love to
all, and virtual hugs to you all.
Here’s the detail of the slideshow
You can click on the gear (settings) on the lower right hand corner of the
video and make it “HD” (for High definition):
you can go to full screen by clicking on that “expansion” box, right next to
it. (This is in Facebook - you don’t need a Facebook account to see it,
but you might need to press “not right now” if it asks you if you want to go to
Leslie Gregory’s page.) The slideshow is also on the FischerFuneral
site, as well, but the quality of the one on Facebook is better.
Others included in the video include Trudy, Leslie and wife
Sherri, and Leora and husband Jay; good friend, Evelyn Raiter; Evelyn’s
parents; Ralph’s brothers Ron & Bob; Bob’s family (Nancy, Allison, Daniel);
Ralph’s parents (Tillie and Leonard); and Family dogs: Prometheus, Orion, and
If not specified, below, then the photo contains Ralph, and
one or more of: Trudy, Leslie, Leora
The number on the left is the video time marker visible when
your mouse hovers over the video timeline. (You can drag the marker to specific
0:33 Ralph & Bob after successfully felling a tree AWAY
from their farmhouse.
1:06 Evelyn Raiter’s parents and Trudy and Ralph (in
1:52 Ralph with Evelyn Raiter to his right (folkdancing at
2:32 Prometheus & Ralph
2:38 Ralph and his parents (Tillie and Leonard)
2:40 Ralph and Trudy, standing; and down in front: Sherri,
Allison, Daniel, Leslie
2:45 Ralph on the roof and Ron (standing on scaffolding)
2:48 Ralph and Orion
2:54 Leslie & Sherri’s wedding: Back row: Leora, Bob,
Nancy; Middle Row: Trudy, Ralph; Front: Sherri, Leslie
2:57 Ron, Bob, Ralph
3:01 Standing: Sherri, Leslie, Leora, Jay; Seated Trudy,
3:04 Standing: Jay, Leora, Trudy, Sherri, Leslie;
Recovering from Heart surgery: Ralph
3:08 Bob, Ralph, Ron
3:13 Bob, Nancy, Trudy, Ralph, Ron, Alice
3:17 Jay, Leora, Ralph, Trudy, Sherri, Leslie
3:21 Jay in the background; Ralph and Bob
3:29 L to R around table: Leslie, Ralph, Trudy, Jay, Leora,
3:33 Standing: Sherri, Leslie, Leora, Jay;
Seated:Trudy and Ralph
3:38 Leora, Leslie, Trudy, Ralph in sweaters we’ve all had
for about 40 years
3:50 Hestia and Ralph having a conversation
3:58 Sherri, Leslie, Trudy, and Ralph at the memory care
facility where Ralph had lived since November of 2017
4:02 Ralph getting a visit from Hestia and Trudy (2/28/2020)
4:05 Ralph and Leora (2/16/2020)
4:10 Last documented hug and kiss. . . The memory care
facility lockdown hoping to avoid the spread of COVID-19 happened just a few
weeks after this. Alas, the lockdown was not enough to stop the spread of
Ralph Lawrence Gregory, age 84, of Saginaw, passed away
Sunday, April 12, 2020, at Covenant HealthCare from complications due to
The son of Leonard Joseph and Tillie Gregory, Ralph was
born on September 7, 1935, in Detroit, Michigan.
Ralph was a devoted husband, first and foremost, and
all of his hobbies complemented Trudy’s. For example, he liked to build
things and she liked to grow cacti, so he built a greenhouse for her. He
loved to photograph, so took pictures of all of her plants as well as family
portraits and vacation photos. He had a great sense of humor that made
the whole family laugh.
Ralph graduated from Utica High School in 1953.
He finished his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Michigan
after his January 20, 1957 marriage to Trudy, and then supported her, and
subsequently, two kids, while Trudy went to medical school. After she
became a physician, and was secure in a job, Ralph went back to school and,
after only three years, earned his PhD in Chemistry, at Wayne State
University. The research prompted him to create a darkroom at home where
he became adept at developing micrographs and photographs (well before the time
of digital photos!), and there-after he became the family photographer.
Ralph’s career was predominantly working at Ford Paint
and Vinyl Plant where he developed various materials/fabrics and bonded
materials for the interiors and exteriors of vehicles. He worked there
until 1991, after
32 years. In 1993, he moved on to TV production where he and Trudy
produced 12 episodes of Bloomtime and a program describing the work of
As they were both retired, they figured they’d spend
more time on their farm. There they planted a chestnut orchard in 2003, at the
beginning of the chestnut industry in Michigan and wound up in the chestnut
business! It produced hundreds of pounds of chestnuts yearly, which they
picked, processed, and sold, until 2013. Following serious health issues,
they moved to Saginaw to live closer to their son and daughter-in-law.
Ralph’s hobbies and talents were numerous: building
furniture, model airplanes, cars, and ships; stamp and coin collecting; baking
and cooking; playing chess; swimming, boating, shooting; photography; doing major
landscaping, including a waterfall and pond at the Romeo home with in-situ
boulders. In 1979, he built his own computer from a kit which now resides in
the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. Ralph wrote his own programs,
using one to produce Macomb Audubon’s Earthstar newsletter, of which he was the
editor for nine years. He seemed to know how to maintain and fix anything
and everything. A real Whiz-kid, even in his later years, and all with
his punster humor.
Ralph is survived by his beloved wife, Gertrude “Trudy”
Gregory; dear children, Leslie (Sherri) Gregory and Leora (Jay Avery) Gregory;
brothers, Leonard Ronald “Ronnie” Gregory and Robert (Nancy) Gregory, and
several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Beatrice Milne,
and his parents.
of concern for the health and well-being of those family and friends who wish
to pay their respects and celebrate a life well-lived, Ralph’s family plans to
hold a memorial service at a later date to be announced. Meanwhile,
all are encouraged to leave a tribute and/or your favorite photo by going to this page. In lieu of flowers, please
consider giving donations in Ralph’s memory to The Nature Conservancy (https://nature.org), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (https://www.pcrm.org)
, or Action on Smoking and Health (https://ash.org/).
Dad was cremated. The burial of the urn will take
place at a future date.
We are truly thankful for the wonderful and courageous
doctors, nurses, and aides who took care of Ralph. Their care was
thoughtful, and extraordinary, with numerous video calls that allowed us some
semblance of closeness, without actually being in the room.
May your fond memories be many,