Yesterday the world lost yet another member of the ‘greatest generation.’ My Dad, Fred Raffel passed away peacefully after almost six years living with multiple myeloma. Dad was born in Chicago, but moved to Milwaukee where my Grandparents opened a furniture store in the height of the depression. That little store survived the depression and under the guidance of Dad and Uncle Marc, became a successful business that provided for two families – including providing help attending college for all of us.
Dad flew a P-51 Mustang during WWII with the 364th Fighter Group. He flew fighter support for bombers flying missions out of southern England and into Europe several days each week. On one of those missions Dad was forced to bail out of his plane and broke his back and a few ribs in the process. For this he earned a Purple Heart and a lifelong disability that never really seemed to slow him down. He still managed to run several miles each day well into his 70′s.
After the war Dad attended UW where he met Mom who had traveled from New York City to attend college. They fell in Love, married and moved to Milwaukee where they raised all five of us. To this day, we all live within 30 miles of the house we grew up in (well the 2nd house, for when a certain fifth child named Jim was born they needed a bigger house). Last night we all gathered in that house, and once again I felt so blessed to have such an amazing family. You can pick your friends and my three brothers and one sister are my best friends.
Last Saturday My wife Cheryl and I had a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary with Mom and Dad. After a few months of not doing so well his new treatments had increased his quality of life and we felt like we really had him back. It was a special joy to see him doing well and feeling well. His sense of humor was in full play. Perhaps he knew the end was near for I witnessed this same burst of energy with my Grandfather shortly before he passed away. As if to let us all know they are moving on to the next place willingly and will be fine.
There is a so much more I could write but getting this far has taken half a box of Kleenex. Tears that did not come for most of us last night but I am sure are coming for all of us today.If you feel the need to do something please simply donate a gift in memory of Fred Raffel here. Make sure to select the ‘other’ option and type in ‘Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer program.’ This is the one donation that would really mean something to Dad.
Update: This post has turned out to be great therapy for many of us. What follows are some thought and comments generated in the form or calls, text messages, emails, and face to face conversations.
My Daughter said to me that she was so glad we all had him for the last five and a half years. Just think of all the things he was able to be a part of. Grandchildren graduating from high school, college and starting lives of their own. Grandchildren completing very rigorous religious rituals and so much more.
My Cousin just calling to say how sorry he was. He lost his Father many years ago and shared with me how difficult it had been for him – thank you Ken.
My Aunt calling to say how sad she is, we are all sad Aunt Sandra but he is in a better place with his parents, his brother and my Uncle Jay this I know.
My friend Adam emailing after I tweeted to my on-line world that we had lost yet another member of the greatest generation – thank you.
I have only mentioned a few above but thank you to all of you so far I am sure there will be more, my family and I thank you for you warm thoughts.
This emotional well is deep and the box of Kleenex is now empty…more to come.
Update (11/17/2008): Today we will bury my Dad. Last night we all met with the Rabbi, and shared stories and memories of Dad. This will probably be my last update, for Dad would have wanted nothing more than for all of us to go on with out lives now enriched by the fond memories of him we all hold dear. As the Rabbi said last night, our responsibility is to never walk through a door again without Dad at our side.
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