written by his granddaughter, Nancy Flanagan Kelly
How do you measure the life of a man? In minutes? Our Poppy had nearly 42 million minutes on this earth. While it is quite an impressive number, I don’t think it means much. I think a man’s life should be measured by the influence he had on others. In all his minutes in this life, Pop had a lot of influence on us. I don’t pretend to know the meaning of this life, but if I had to make a humble guess, I’d say it’s all about relationships; and our Poppy had a lot of them. He started his life in 1930 as a son, then as a brother, cousin, and friend. Later, he became a husband, and not long after that, a father. In the days I can remember, he became a grandfather and a great-grandfather. He directly influenced the creation of 16 other lives, and that’s just so far. We are sure there are more to come.
In his nearly 42 million minutes, Poppy did and experienced many things, some naughty, mundane, and sad; others joyous, exciting, and fun. As a young boy, he made a macaroni necklace for a girl he liked, and when he gave it to her, she stamped on it, breaking the necklace, and probably his young little heart along with it. He attended St. Clement’s School and West Catholic High School, where I imagine he gave teachers like me some trouble. He admitted to playing hooky and smoking cigarettes in those days! In his late teens, he joined the Marines, and served our country for a few years. Not so long after that, he met the beautiful and somewhat shy Nancy Collins on the boardwalk in Wildwood. With his boisterous and fun-loving personality, he won her over (although I think if Gram were to tell it, she’d say it also had something to do with a hole in his sweater as well). Even in very recent years, he looked back fondly on sitting up all night and talking on the very first day they met. Gram fondly remembers that they even went to mass after sitting up together watching the sunrise. They married in 1952, and soon thereafter started the family that has become us. He was anxious to start a family, and was concerned about bringing home enough money, but somehow, together, they always made it work. I’m not exactly sure what life was like in those days. I know that Poppy volunteered for the fire department, coached the Colwyn Comets, worked for Altair Airlines, and traveled some, to France and Hawaii. He enjoyed Sunday football, barbeques, and family dinners. And things didn’t change much as the family grew.
I was the first grandchild to come along in 1981. He swore that his house would remain free of baby clutter, but then he met me, and he was bit by the grandparent bug. He then made the baby cradle that has now been used by all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Following me, was his first grandson, Frankie, his namesake. By the time Colleen, his third grandchild was born, he was a grandfather pro – babysitting me while my mom was at the hospital having Colleen, he even allowed me to play hairdresser with him, putting barrettes in his hair and taking photos of the whole event. I imagine those must have been some truly wonderful years for Pop, with so much family and happiness.
Those were the years of FedEx shirts and “finger pockets,” of Billy and Pop sharing “tomato soup.” They were the years of fun Sundays spent together. Of the Myers boys running around the yard, selling kisses for a dollar from the front porch, and swimming in the pool, and Poppy jumping in from the tire swing! They were the years of barbeques on the deck, of singing old-fashioned songs, even one named after Katie. They were the years of Colleen’s “favorite greens” and always having them for her, every Sunday, without fail. They were the years of serious planning for Christmas decorations, and being my “carry boy,” every single week. Of Phillies games in the kitchen, of goodie bags, of Smitty and Crystal and afternoon naps, of trips to Linvilla Orchards, and family above all else.
Our Pop dedicated his time to the Church. In his retirement, he helped his good friend Father Cox at St. Clement’s, becoming a lector and Eucharistic minister. He attended daily mass for a number of years, and developed a close relationship with God. He was in good standing with the Big Guy, praying for us each day, and doing his service to the Church he loved.
In recent years, Pop experienced some hard times, first with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, then over a year ago, lung cancer. But always by his side was our wonderful and strong Grammy. I remember sitting at their dining room table only a few months ago, watching Gram pour him a cup a coffee and bring it to him. After she set it down, Poppy kissed her hand and said “I love you,” and his eyes said it as much as his voice did. There was no disease of mind or body that could break so strong a love.
It was around the same time that I asked both Gram and Pop to write down a few memories for posterity’s sake. We spent some time reminiscing together, even though I was not a part of many of the memories they shared with me. I will end this eulogy of a great man with some of his own words, written in Grammy’s hand, but coming from his own memory. Answering what stories he would want to live on after he’s gone, he said he wants us all to remember how much fun was had while his kids and grandkids were growing up. Something he wanted us to know for the rest of our lives is how much he loved all of his children and grandchildren. The advice he wants us to take from him is to get a good education and to never lie. When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said as a funny and generous person. Since we have all witnessed his humor and benefited from his generosity, I don’t think that will be too difficult a task. When we remember our Poppy, and some of the nearly 42 million minutes we were blessed to have him, let us not be sad (as I say this through teary eyes), but let us remember the truly good times, his love, and our laughs together.