Category "In Memory / In Honor"

December 20, 2005

In Memoriam, Jeremiah Fain Epstein

Even though I've lived in Minneapolis-St. Paul for over 15 years, many days can go by when I don't run into or hear about a familiar person (except of course at work or at home). But whenever I return to Austin, familiar people make themselves known immediately. On my first morning back in Austin for the holidays, I opened the newspaper to find the obituary of my favorite anthropology professor from undergraduate days, Dr. Jeremiah Fain Epstein.

I minored in anthropology and loved every minute of it. I took two exciting courses from Dr. Epstein: the Civilizations of Ancient Mexico and The Mayans. His specialty was archaeology of Mesoamerica, and he excited us with the mysteries of ancient civilizations and the research that he and others had done to try to figure out the many puzzles left behind by these enigmatic people. I still remember the paper I wrote for the Civilizations of Ancient Mexico -- it concerned the migration myths of the Aztecs. I remember spending many mornings in the Latin American collection of the library, finding source documents in Spanish that had been written by the Spanish friars of the 17th century. I recall that one focus of the paper was Huitzilopochtli, the national god of the Aztecs.


Of course, my Spanish was extremely limited, but it was exciting to experience what he called "primary research" - not just rehashing what others had already rehashed, but finding source documents and making them give up their secrets. I am sure that his love of research and encouragement of a humble undergraduate contributed to my seeking a research career. In fact, he was one of the three faculty who wrote me letters of recommendation for graduate school.

Obituaries are always fasincating for what they reveal about people we only knew in one dimension. The paper noted that in addition to his career teaching at UT for 34 years, "Jerry was a man of many passions - he embraced life to its fullest and never lost his curiosity. He was an accomplished squash player, saliboat racer and flamenco guitar player, as well as a recognized metal art sculptor."

It was a privilege to have been one of his students; I'm sorry I never had the opportunity to tell him I had passed on his excitement about research to my students. Maybe he'll be reading this...... Thanks, Dr. Epstein

Posted by hgroteva at 6:06 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

May 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mark!

Today is Mark's 21st birthday - congratulations, kiddo!!

You have embarked on an exciting new phase of your life in a new (but familiar) city. We wish you all the best and send our love and support. I look forward to celebrating with you next week.


Posted by hgroteva at 7:58 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

June 30, 2006

Farewell, College of Human Ecology

Today is the last day in the 100+ year existence of the College of Human Ecology at the University of Minnesota.

CHE large banner-b.jpg

Although we have been told that we have much to look forward to in our new collegiate home (a re-configured and expanded College of Education and Human Development), this day should not pass without noting that the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Human Ecology (formerly College of Home Economics) made many significant contributions to the University, to the State of Minnesota, to the U.S., and to the world.

CHE front McNeal-b.jpg

The history of the College is recorded in Journey Home: College of Human Ecology, 1894 - 1996, written by a committee of former administrators, faculty and staff, chaired by Keith McFarland, Dean Emeritus of the college. I won't repeat the history here, except to note that the first baccalaureate program in Home Economics was launched in 1900. So the College was 106 years old at the time of its elimination. Here are photos of the visionary deans that provided leadership for the college from 1900 - 2006.

CHE deans-b.jpg

Although my undergraduate degree was in psychology and my Ph.D. was in child psychology, all my faculty positions have been within Colleges or Departments of Home Economics, whose names were later changed to Human Ecology. That's a run of almost 30 years. As a newbie Assistant Professor back in 1977, I knew little about Home Economics, but knew that Child Development and Family Relationships was one of its sub-specializations. I came to have great admiration, affection, and respect for the discipline of Human Ecology. Although some of the field's detractors don't think it is a discipline, I strongly believe that it is. In fact, its conceptual foundation provides much richer ground on which to stand than is possessed by many other colleges in the university, which are mainly units of administrative convenience (e.g., Liberal Arts, Institute of Technology, etc.)

Descriptors of the discipline of human ecology include the following: interdisciplinary, holistic, systemic, ecological. Its domains of concern are about the application of the arts and the sciences to everyday life - but I don't mean that in a trivial sense. It's about the emotional dynamics of real families in which real children grow up; it's about ways in which educational programs for new parents help reduce the incidence of child abuse; it's about understanding the connections between children's lives in their families, their day care centers, and their peer groups -- and much much much more.

It will be critically important that the human ecological approach be brought forward and integrated into the new collegiate home to which we have been assigned. Fortunately, I think our "adjacent disciplines" have been moving in this direction as well over the past 30 years, so I hope that the interdisciplinary, holistic, systemic, ecological views that we have nurtured in CHE will easily be assimilated by our new colleagues.

As a relatively small college, CHE was able to be innovative and less bureaucratic than some of our larger sibling colleges. Despite the advantages of being nimble in this way, the trend at the U is clearly toward consolidation, centralization, and standardization. The pendulum has swung in this direction quickly and violently; I suspect it will swing back in due time, but probably not for a number of years.

So farewell to the College of Human Ecology -- to its traditions, its innovations, its humanistic values, and its wonderful people.

CHE donor board-b.jpg

At this point, we know what we have lost, but we don't know yet what we will be gaining. So the feelings of sadness have been palpable up and down the hall. Wnen I drove up the hill next to McNeal after being out of town and saw that the college's banner had been taken down, the sense of loss hit me one more time.

A ray of hope is that the university has hired a dynamic and visionary dean to lead the new CEHD; she'll be arriving October 1, although she is already making her presence known. I'm eager to work with her.

Transitions are always bittersweet, and it's only fitting to honor our history, even if the future holds promise. So on the last day of this venerable unit, hats off to the College of Human Ecology, its leaders, its students, and its many loyal alumni. It's been a good ride, and it's been my privilege to have been a part of it.

CHE front McNeal2-b.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 1:38 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

Category "Life"

October 5, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

Almost three months ago, I learned that my father was seriously ill. As the situation evolved, he went into a skilled nursing facility and then we transferred him across country into an assisted living facility closer to my sister and her family. In the process, we had to close his home, make decisions about the disposition of all his possessions, deal with a million business details, and close up his life of almost 50 years in Dallas.

But what I want to reflect on tonight (my last night before returning home) is the kindness of strangers. There is no way we could have completed this process without help from many people: family, friends, acquaintances, professionals and service workers, and people we never knew until this set of crises occurred. As the mystics have said … hidden in plain sight.

Here are just a few examples:

** the salesman from carmax who bought my father’s car and then offered to drive me home (15 miles), since I wouldn’t have a car once I left it there … and then when the deal ran into a snag (odometer problem), he personally made sure that it got taken care of while I was flying to Boston and back on a marathon weekend.

** the social worker from the health unit of the retirement community who offered to drive us, oxygen, suitcases, wheelchair, and all, to the airport last Saturday morning at 8 a.m. in her van.

** the man 2 doors down from my father in the health unit, who, despite his own infirmities, stopped by my father’s room three times a day to make sure he went for meals and waited for him if he wasn’t ready.

** my colleague in the department who, when I grabbed her in the hall (as she was running to a meeting) to ask for the name of a travel agent, was able to provide a referral on the spot that helped me work out complex logistics (including oxygen) with as little stress as possible

** the flight attendant who helped my father make his way to the rest room in first class rather than making him walk all the way to the back of the plane like everyone else

** the accountant who put her own work aside several times on very short notice in order to come to my father’s hospital room to notarize documents

** the residential coordinator at my father’s community who calmed our anxities about all the logistics involved in leaving and made the process as simple as possible

** the estate sale lady who, along with her mother, lovingly wrapped many of my parents’ possessions that were not earmarked for shipping across country and prepared them for sale; she made sure that nothing went to waste – even partially used containers of cleaning solution

** the consignment store owner who, when told that I couldn’t possibly take photographs of everything and bring them to him, volunteered to come to the house and look at furniture and household goods that would not be going on the moving van

** the nurse's aide from India who called my dad "honey" and made him feel special when he was at his weakest

** my father’s friends and neighbors who urged him to get medical care (even though he didn’t) and then stopped by his hospital room periodically in order to check in and make sure he was OK

** the nurse’s aides at Dad’s new facility in NH who cheerily stop by his room at multiple, random times during the day to make sure all is well

** the neighbor who lovingly accepted my mother’s Christmas cactus – I just couldn’t put it in the trash

** my colleagues and students at the U and my sister’s colleagues at the hospital, as well as the members of our immediate families, who have doubtless covered for countless meetings and tasks we were not able to attend to during these crises

** all the friends, family, and colleagues who sent e-mails and phone calls with energy and prayers

To the many, many people who helped make it possible for this venture to succeed … you all have my most heartfelt thanks. There’s a lot of goodness out there – it’s palpable and very real. I’m sure there are many people and events I’m not even aware of who helped us along. All I can say is that I’ll try to do the same for others in the future.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:31 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

December 28, 2006

In Memory of My Friend Sally


My friend Sally Criticos died on December 21; her funeral was yesterday. The world is poorer for her passing but richer for the many gifts she gave to those who knew her. Sally was one of the most courageous and life-affirming people I have ever met. She battled multiple myeloma for a number of years and did it with determination and conviction. She had a lot to do before she died, especially sharing her life with her grandchildren.

I first met Sally when I joined the St. Marks Cathedral Choir -- it must have been almost 10 years ago. I joined at a time of great ambiguity in the group. The choirmaster, Don Small, had just become seriously ill and it was not clear when he would be returning. Sally was the most welcoming member of the group. She helped me learn the ropes and encouraged me to take my place. I looked forward to talking with her every week. She genuinely cared about her friends -- she remembered everyone's life challenges and served as a one-woman referral board for everything from housing needs to educational or family crises. But most of all, I remember Sally for her warm smile and her laugh. A part of her will always be with me and her many friends. I regret that I was not able to participate in her funeral yesterday, but I am currently out of town spending time with my grandkids. I think ... I know ... Sally would want me to be right here! Sally - thanks and godspeed.

Here is her obituary from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Criticos, Sally Eve Born October 15, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. Member of the St. Mark's Cathedral choir in Minneapolis, perpetual artist, and beloved friend of many, died on December 21, 2006. Sally grew up in Brooklyn, New York with summers in Vermont. Graduate of Elmira College, she taught art to elementary school children, was community school coordinator at Kenwood Elementary School, worked at Judy Instructo, National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), and the Wedge Coop. Sally is survived by her sister, Barbara Troxell of Claremont, CA; daughters, Amy Criticos of Spain and Sarah Dahl (Jon Dahl) of Rosemount; and grandchildren, Galo, Olivia, Luke, and Megan. A service of worship in celebration of her life will be held at St. Mark's Cathedral, 519 Oak Grove Street, Minneapolis, on Wednesday, December 27th at 4:00 PM."

Posted by hgroteva at 8:37 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "Choral Music"

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

July 15, 2007

In Memoriam, Howard Don Small


UPDATE: Constance Schey has established a memorial page for sharing reminiscences about Don Small. Go to

I lost one of my most important music mentors, and the world lost an incredible church musician on July 13, 2007. Howard Don Small served as Canon Musician at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, Minneapolis, from 1971 - 1998. Although many things will be said about his extensive professional accomplishments, I wanted this blog entry to be a more personal remembrance.

Although I only sang under Don’s direction for about five years (first in the Cathedral Choral Society and then in the Cathedral Choir), working with him had a profound effect on me as a musician. Let me mention a few ways.

First, his focus was always on the inextricable connection between music and worship. Choirs were not in church to perform. They were there so be an integral part of worship. That always took precedence. (Choir directors do not universally hold this view!) Singing with him exposed me to the world’s greatest choral literature - such a gift.

Don conducting.bmp

Second, he expected and received excellence from everyone - the very best we could possibly give, every time. In turn, he gave the same himself. His dedication and passion for sacred music inspired all of us to continue learning, striving, and improving. Singing under his direction gave me the encouragement to keep trying and stretching.

Third, he valued and supported community. The annual overnight choir retreats were truly bonding experiences for all, and he and Emma frequently opened their home for parties and celebrations. Through the choir, I made some very good friends and shared times of joy as well as sadness. A fellow choir member referred me to Groves Academy for our son; it was truly a godsend. I came to realize how much Don, Emma, and St. Marks were at the center of a hub of vibrant choral activity in the Twin Cities. Everyone who was anybody knew them and their work; many had studied or sung with Emma or Don.

One of my most cherished memories is participating in the recording of the CD, “Blessings Great and Small? during June 1997.

Blessings G+S.jpg

Steve Barnett was the producer, and Preston Smith was the recording engineer. The whole experience was professional at the very highest levels. I had a number of out-of-body experiences during the marathon sessions, just as I am now, savoring the memories while listening to the CD.

Don had experienced a number of health challenges over the past decade, but memories of him are strong and very much alive. Thank you, Don. Rest in peace.


In January 1998, at Don’s retirement party, I had the privilege of “representing? those who joined the choir in the 1990s as we extended tributes during the evening. I found the notes from what I said, and they seem like a very appropriate way to close this entry. Here goes:

Sometimes things that we do as part of our everyday activities touch others’ lives in ways that we never planned, expected, or heard about. You have touched my life in several ways, and it is out of gratitude that I recount a few stories.

I moved to Minnesota in January, 1990, and Susan and our son Mark followed that summer. We first lived in an apartment near Summit and Dale in St. Paul, and we attended the church of St. John the Evangelist. By autumn, we moved to our current home in Falcon Heights; commuting to St. John’s was difficult and not sufficiently rewarding to continue.

I don’t remember how we heard about the Lessons and Carols service at St. Mark’s - perhaps from the newspaper or from a friend - but it was either that Advent or the year following that we attended for the first time. We were both quite moved. About halfway through the service, I remember that Susan and I looked at each other, and without saying a word, said, “This is the place we’ve been seeking.? Thus, your music ministry had a direct connection to our joining the parish of St. Mark’s.

I had sung in a number of choirs through the years and fantasized about how wonderful it would be to sing with the Cathedral Choir. I talked to a number of people about it, including Lee Brant, whom I met at a newcomer’s dinner. All were enthusiastic about my interest, but all spoke of the “C? word - commitment. At that time, my job was totally consuming, and I couldn’t foresee making the time commitment necessary. Not long after, however, I read the announcement in the bulletin about the Choral Society. It seemed to fit my situation perfectly, as the time commitment required was limited, but it would give me the opportunity to sing under your direction.

I distinctly remember the first season I gathered my courage to come to Choral Society. It was winter, and the first rehearsal was to be on one of those terribly cold January or February nights when schools and offices had been closed and the city was very quiet, except for the howling snow. Not knowing whether rehearsal would take place, I called the Cathedral, and surprisingly, was put directly through to you. I asked if the Choral Society rehearsal for that evening would proceed, given the bad weather. Your response was simply, “Well, I’ll be here.? The simplicity, clarity, and assuredness of your response resonated strongly to me, and I was there too! To my amazement, almost 40 people showed up that night, on time for the downbeat. This told me a lot about your professionalism, dedication, and ability to inspire the best in others.

A third small encounter with you led me even further down the path. I had already been singing with the Choral Society for about 3 years at the time of the celebration of your 25th anniversary at St. Mark’s. On the way out of the service that Sunday, I stopped to shake your hand in congratulations, and in thanking me, you said, “I hope you’ll join us for Summer Choir.? That small bit of encouragement and connection, offered simply, was all it took to move me to the next step.

My time in the Cathedral Choir has been transformative for me. My spirituality has deepened considerably. As I remarked to a friend who asked me about my experience, “How could you sing those words week after week and not be affected?? My skill as a musician has improved, thanks to your musicianship, Emma’s contributions, and lessons I have taken with Brian and Rick. I feel that my grounding has been re-shaped and re-discovered. I never think about the “C? word [commitment] - as it’s simply there. I never doubt that I’ll be able to follow through as a full participant. To the degree possible, I now plan my professional commitments around choir, rather than the reverse.


Your retirement evokes many feelings in me:
appreciation - for your qualities of professionalism, musicianship, and leadership - as a teacher myself, I have learned from you;
gratitude - for the opportunity to grow, learn, and deepen my spirituality;
sadness - that you will be leaving, but also;
happiness - that you will be able to be relieved of the extreme pressure of your role to do things at a manageable and enjoyable pace. (Will you be composing?? I hope so!)

So Don, Godspeed on your journey. Thank you for touching my life in small but very impactful ways. I am sure that my few vignettes are not unlike those that could be told by many others. And I hope that when I retire, a few students remember me with the fondness that many (such as I) remember you with.

Indeed, Godspeed on your journey.

from the Fauré Requiem
In paradisum deducant angeli; in tuo adventu sucipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem.

God’s holy angels lead you to paradise; may saints in their glory receive you at your journey’s end, guiding your footsteps into the Holy City Jerusalem. Choirs of angels sing you to your rest, and with Lazarus raised to eternal life, may you forevermore rest in peace.

Haddayr, Another choir member, posted this moving remembrance of Don.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:40 PM | Choral Music | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

August 26, 2007

In Memory, Wayne Caron

Wayne Caron.jpg

UPDATE 8-29-07
I am still not able to comprehend Wayne's death. The deeper it sinks in, the sadder I get. But I found the visitation and funeral service for Wayne to be very healing. The visitation was so crowded that people were spilling out into adjacent rooms. There was no shortage of amazing stories about the many ways in which Wayne touched many individuals' and families' lives. It was good for us all to laugh together. At the funeral service, three things struck me. The priest's sermon focused on the Beatitudes (from the Sermon on the Mount) and on how Wayne's life exemplified the best of them. The measure of a man's life is his love, and not any of the superficial trappings we become so concerned with. Wayne's love was as wide and deep as anyone I know. Second, the priest said in closing that there is a Spanish saying that a person dies 4 times. The first is when his heart and brain stop functioning; the second is after the funeral; the third is after the burial; and the fourth is when people stop speaking of him. We can be assured that Wayne will live on in many, many minds and hearts, and in that sense he will never die. Finally, all these experiences have led me to wonder how much we really know one another. We tend to know each other in the roles in which we interact, but it is the rare event indeed where people from our various non-overlapping social circles come together. It's been wonderful to get to know many more sides of Wayne in the past few days. I wish I had been able to do it earlier.

I lost a friend and good colleague last week. Dr. Wayne Caron died unexpectedly, way too early at the age of 51, from a pulmonary embolism. I am still in shock. I will be writing more here or elsewhere about Wayne, but there is some urgency about communicating the details of the services in his honor. The following information is quoted from a message from Pam:

"As most of you have heard, Wayne Caron passed away very unexpectedly last week from a pulmonary embolism. His son Chris Caron, all of Wayne's family, and I [Pam] are broken hearted.

Visitation will be Tuesday night, August 28, from 6:00-9:00 p.m., at Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel, with memory sharing beginning at 8:00 that night. Please come and bring your favorite stories about Wayne to share with others.

The address of Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel is 3888 W. Broadway Avenue (39th Avenue North and West Broadway), Robbinsdale, MN 55422 (763-537-4511).

On Wednesday morning, August 29, at 10:00 a.m., there will be a funeral mass said at St. Raphael’s Church, 7301 Bass Lake Road, Minneapolis, MN 55428 (763-537-8401). There will be a lunch at the church immediately following.

Please spread the word of these celebrations of Wayne’s life with his friends, co-workers, students and families with which he worked. "

If you want to hear his voice again, here is a link to a video presentation he gave about the Family Caregiving Center.

Please visit the Wayne Caron Memorial Page at

Posted by hgroteva at 10:44 PM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

September 10, 2007

"Nessun Dorma" Sung by Pavarotti

The world lost an incredible tenor last week when Luciano Pavarotti died. I have never been a huge opera fan -- a close friend of mine whose family listened to the Texaco Hour every Saturday while she was growing up once commented that it is an "acquired taste" - and I have to agree. But I do love some of the famous arias. And my most favorite is "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot. It was one of Pavarotti's signature pieces.

Courtesy of YouTube, here he is singing it at the Torino Olympics in 2006. I would swear that during one of his rests towards the end where the orchestra is swelling, the audience is singing it in the background. The whole thing gives me goosebumps!! Enjoy...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:28 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Music - of all kinds

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

October 26, 2007

Memorial Service for Wayne Caron - TODAY Oct 26

The Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, invites you to attend a memorial service in celebration of the life and service of Dr. Wayne Caron from 3:00 - 4:30 on Friday, October 26, 2007 in room 274 McNeal Hall, St. Paul campus.

We welcome you to attend this remembrance of our colleague who was such a great teacher and an inspiration, mentor, friend, and caring professional to those who experience Alzheimer's Disease within their families.

We continue to collect your reflections, stories, photos, and comments about Wayne. If you wish to post anything on his Memorial Page, please e-mail your contribution to

Posted by hgroteva at 9:16 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

October 27, 2007

One Last Farewell to Wayne

Wayne's vast, diverse social network said farewell, corporately, yesterday afternoon. About 150 people jammed the Fireplace Room in McNeal Hall and the crowd overflowed into the hallway, but no one seemed to mind the cramped quarters. Now two months after his untimely and surprising death, his memory still evokes incredible affection and admiration. The stories shared were moving - lots of laughter and lots of tears. But the highlight was Dean Bayley's announcement that the university values the Family Caregiving Center so much, that it is naming it after Wayne. So henceforth it will be the Wayne Caron Family Caregiving Center. The enterprise he struggled so hard in life to sustain has new life, following his death. One of life's bittersweet paradoxes.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:34 AM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

February 7, 2008

In Memory, Gerhard Neubeck, 1918 - 2008


I knew Gerry for 18 years, since I arrived in Minnesota. He was already retired by the time I came, but his stamp on the department was legendary. One of his favorite activities was to participate in the pot luck luncheon that welcomed the new graduate students at the beginning of the academic year. He would always have a poem ready ... witty, pithy, and a bit corny ... but endearing. Gerry, you will be missed. Here's more information about his remarkable journey...

from the Family Social Science website:

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our dear friend, colleague, and mentor Dr. Gerhard (Gerry) Neubeck. Gerry began his professional career at University of Minnesota in 1948 after already experiencing a lifetime of fortune and tumult.

As a Jewish teenager from Dortmund, Germany, Gerry nearly qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in the 3000m run. Soon after, he realized he had to leave his home country. After immigrating to the United States with his wife Ruth in the late 1930s, Gerry became one of the nation’s foremost leaders in the fields of human sexuality and marriage and family therapy (MFT). He served terms as president both of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) and the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (AAMFT). After graduating from Columbia University, he went on to accomplish a number of ‘firsts’ in his field. In the 1960s he taught the first college course on human sexuality.

Profiled in Look magazine, this course gained Gerry scores of attention for his work. He is credited for being the first to use group sessions for marriage therapy and also was the first to pen a book on the topic of extramarital affairs. In 1972 he joined the department of Family Social Science, where for many years he ran the marriage and family therapy program. Over the course of his tenure, Gerry was pivotal in training countless MFT experts including David Olson and Jim Maddock.

After retiring in 1986, Gerry and his wife Ruth spent much of their time keeping busy with their long-time hobbies. Gerry was a prolific writer of poetry and Ruth a potter (dubbed the “Poet and the Potter). Some of Gerry’s poetry has been published and crossed over into the academic world to appear in textbooks focusing on family relations. Since his retirement, Gerry has remained a regular around the department. He read his poetry at everything from new graduate student welcoming functions to faculty retirement parties. Gerry said during a 2004 interview: “Family social science has always stood on the strength of great faculty. Not only the talent of the faculty—including multiple NCFR and AAMFT presidents—but also the intimacy. The faculty has always been very close.? Gerry will be greatly missed.

Excerpt from Gerry’s poem, Affairs of the Heart, published in 1998:

I want to find me
that I lost long, long ago
when I was a child
in a world that was all grown up.
It would be nice indeed.
To become acquainted again
With that me, the me of my youth.

Here is a link to the obituary that ran in today's Star Tribune, complete with a photo of him running in the trials for the 1936 Olympics.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:30 PM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

Category "Life"

February 17, 2008


Tenderness - that's the word that comes to mind when I reflect on Gerry Neubeck's memorial service this afternoon. The atrium of McNeal Hall was packed to overflowing. There was (Minnesota - understated) joy in celebrating his rich life and his wonderful family, but of course it was a bittersweet occasion because of the loss. Music and poetry were the media for communication - wonderful music. His granddaughter played "Meditation" from "Thaïs" on the violin -- a beautiful solo... one that would make the angels weep. His grandson played a wonderful guitar solo. I loved the interplay between him and his Dad, who was standing aside and just behind him. They stole loving glances at each other throughout the piece -- more tenderness. Gerry touched many lives in a positive way ... his spirit will live on for generations. His life has made this world a better place. Rest in peace. (Although his clear instructions, in one of his last poems, was that we should dance on his grave, whoop it up, and celebrate life!) L'Chaim!

Posted by hgroteva at 6:00 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

March 2, 2008

A Tribute to My Dad

Floyd Grotevant 2006.jpg

Paul Mark Dad 0388.jpg

My father, Floyd, died yesterday, March 1, 2008 in Bedford, NH at the age of 87.

He was born on September 20, 1920 in Albany, NY. He graduated from Utica (NY) Free Academy and met his future wife (and my mother) Betty there. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1942, rising to the rank of Signalman First Class. Following the war, he and my mom settled in Utica to start their family. He began working for Campbells Sales Company in 1945, where he was employed for 40 years until his retirement. Most of his working years were spent in Dallas, TX, which he loved because of the warm weather and golf opportunities it afforded. After launching my sister and me and retiring, he and my mom moved to Presbyterian Village North community in Dallas. He was a proud veteran and provided leadership for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day observances at PVN. In 2006, he moved to New Hampshire to be closer to family.

He was an avid movie photographer of almost 60 years. He and mom traveled widely across North America and also enjoyed one trip to Switzerland and several cruises in the Caribbean and the Alaskan waterway. His enjoyment of people came through in his work as a salesman and in the many ways in which he was engaged with life. He loved tinkering in the garage with his “inventions? and editing his movies, always with his favorite Big Band music in the background. We played Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the Andrews Sisters, and others from the WWII era steadily for his last 3 days.

But his true passion was golf. He played every chance he could. He proudly walked the course and carried his own bag, often running circles around the younger salesmen he supervised. Like many of Brokaw’s Greatest Generation, he loved his country, his wife, his family, and his life. His grandchildren all called him “Pop,? and will miss his willingness to get down on the floor or in the pool and play with them. (He didn't want to be called "Grampa" or anything like that, because he wasn't "that old.") The picture above is of my two kids with their Pop, c 1988.

He died peacefully, held by my sister and me, following a bout of pneumonia. When he took his last breath, Robert Goulet was singing "Sunrise, Sunset." Services will be held in Nashua NH. At a later time, my sister and I will return with him to Dallas, where he requested to be placed next to our mom for the rest of time.

A friend sent me this beautiful poem written by John O’Donohue on the death his father. It is on the NPR / Speaking of Faith website (see below for URL to hear him read the poem).

Beannacht ("Blessing") by John O’Donohue
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you. And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.

You can listen to it by clicking here

I'm sure I'll be writing more about my dad in the future. In the meantime, it's sinking in ... very slowly.

Posted by hgroteva at 3:34 PM | In Memory / In Honor

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

Category "Life"

March 7, 2008

Time Stands Still

Time has stood still for the past two days. It feels like I have been lifted out of the normal stream of time and slammed into another dimension, disconnected from the "real" world. The visitations for my Dad were yesterday, and the funeral was today. I was amazed and gratified that family and friends from all over the East and as far away as Alabama made the trip to honor their uncle / brother-in-law / pop / friend.

I reconnected with some cousins I had not seen in 50 years, and others I had only seen once or twice in that time frame. My best friend / college roommate / best man / godfather of my son traveled from New York and surprised me at the church this morning. The staff from Dad's assisted living community turned out en masse to honor the man they had grown to love. My daughter-in-law's father drove in. Flowers were beautiful, and it was a tender tender time. It was close to overwhelming.

I'm very grateful that my sister and I honored our parents several times in recent years (their 50th anniversary, and my Dad's 80th and 85th birthdays.) For his 85th, we put together a large powerpoint slide show with photos going back to the early 1920s. For his visitation hours at the funeral home, we updated the slide show, adding about 40 new pictures. It provided a powerful way for folks to connect with his life history and with each other, since many of them and their loved ones were in the photos too.

We've gotten pretty good at gathering for funerals and weddings. I hope that the years to come will provide many more gatherings for just everyday hanging out. Turns out I have a substantial number of cousins, nieces, and nephews in New England, so my move should facilitate that.

My father loved golf - he loved the physical activity, and it was one of his most beloved ways to engage life. So it was only fitting that I concluded my eulogy by reading a poem that my mother-in-law, Helen Burton-Miskell, wrote for his 85th birthday. He liked it then, and it seemed a fitting way to mark the end of his life.

"Ode to Golf"
by Helen Burton-Miskell

What better way
To start the day
Than tap the ball
Into the cup
Just as the sun
Is coming up;

Or tee it off
Into the air
And watch it fall
This side of there,
But close enough
To make me smile;

Or lift it up
With just the iron
To put it down
Upon the green,
So close it rolls
Into the hole;

Or walk upon
The healthy green
And watch it spring,
Keep springing back,
Despite the traffic
On the scene.

What joy, what joy
To take a swing
And feel that I
As well can fly,
Watching the ball
Upon the wing

Till out of sight
Beyond the woods,
Where it alights.
I search and find.
Feeling as young
As any boy,

Whose surging blood
By nature sings,
I am as near
To heaven here
As anyone
In love with life.

What better way
To start the day.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:57 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Texas"

June 23, 2008

Rebooting a Life

Today was one of those watershed days, full of symbolism and meaning. Today was the day we held the final memorial service for our Dad and buried him next to our Mom in Dallas, their home. The memorial service was at the community where he and our Mom lived from approx 1992 - 2000, and he continued on after her death until 2006. Quite a few people joined us this morning, including a woman who was his secretary for 18 years (her first job; she is now retired and said he was the best boss she ever had). Many people were grateful to have the opportunity to remember him and celebrate his life, since they were not able to come to New Hampshire for his funeral back in March. His best friend, who had been housebound since November, made the special effort to attend.

My sister and I took a drive around the parts of town we haunted as teenagers. Our old neighborhood is still looking good, but down the street from our childhood home is a whole row of tacky MacMansions. If you have enough money, you can have a Tuscan villa, or a half-timbered Tudor, or a replica of Mt. Vernon --- and they can all be on the same street! You get the idea. Our old elementary school looks just like it did in the late 1950s. The church we attended looks as cold as it always felt. But we had fun going down each street and reminiscing about who lived where. It was amazing how we dredged up some names neither of us had thought about for decades.

For me, there was also a sense of closure. It's unlikely that I will ever be in Dallas again. The Texas part of my heart was long ago given to Austin; and Austin and Dallas are totally different cultures, although only 200 miles apart.

But to me it also felt a piece of a larger "reboot" my life is undergoing. New job, new part of the country, new professional responsibilities, new house, now the "senior" member of the family. (I'm not too sure how keen I feel about that - I have lots of tread left on me.) But it all definitely feels new, providing opportunities for both continuity and change. Very exciting.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:53 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life | Massachusetts | Texas

Category "In Memory / In Honor"

June 13, 2009

In Memory, Saige Reisler

Saige Reisler.jpg

Saige Reisler, Development Officer for our College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, died last Saturday after jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge into the Hudson River. She was 33, with a teenage daughter and a new fiance.

Her memorial service today was beautiful, uplifting, even transformative. Her family had put much energy this past week into making meaning of something that seems unfathomable. Life and death are indeed mysteries.

Saige's minister gave profoundly comforting comments, reminding everyone that her spirit is very much with those gathered together. He felt confident that the Lord, rather than turning his back on Saige, caught her spirit before her body even hit the water.

I had had some interaction with Saige and was slated for more. I looked forward to our meetings - she seemed very sincere about the people she worked with. After a recent honors event, we shared the joy of a successful scholarship nomination for a very deserving undergraduate student. Her memorial service revealed the many ways in which she cared profoundly about others. She lived a life of sacrifice and giving and modeled that for others. Her approach to life has become magnified many times over in her death. Her mother urged people to share, to give, to help others.

Saige had apparently told her sister and daughter that when she died, she wanted her favorite piece of music to be played: a reggae version of "Over the Rainbow." It was light, airy, whimsical, and provided just the right touch after a very emotional few hours. I found the version on the internet - it was by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole; go to this link and then click on "Over the Rainbow" to hear 30 seconds of this song, and think of Saige. And here's a fuller version: enjoy...

Rest in peace, Saige. You will not be forgotten. Every time we see a firefly, it will be a reminder of your too-brief life and the many ways in which you touched others.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:54 PM | In Memory / In Honor