My father passed away today at 10:50 AM. He was a man who taught me to respect the rights, opinions and property of others, and that hate should be reserved for the evils of mankind, not the people. He welcomed everyone at his table and shared what he had. He was an explorer who embraced curiosity and decried blind obedience (except when he was trying to eat a meal with six children under the age of 11). He loved all women, but committed his life to just two.
A man born in a home for unwed mothers, abused by malevolent step father, whisked away by an uncle to Canada at the age of 3 only to be blown back to Minnesota on the brink of adulthood by the dust storms of the late 30s. A man who fought the Military Industrial Complex at every turn and helped six students gain conscientious objector status during the Vietnam war, but who was a World War II veteran himself, and who loved and embraced his two sons and one of his four daughters when they chose to serve their country.
He was a college professor who was often mistaken for an itinerant share-cropper as he crossed the campus and traveled the world in overalls, suit coats with ripped-out lining, and ball caps without logos. A man who when informed that his cap was just stolen from the pew while he knelt at Christmas Midnight Mass in Mexico City, only shrugged and said, "They must have needed it more than I."
A white man who taught African American Studies and Black History for 30 years and who lived long enough to see a Black man elected President of the United States of America. He was a poet and a writer who instilled a love for reading and writing in his children and grandchildren. He was a man who walked in others shoes until he couldn't walk any more, who stood up for the oppressed and mentally ill until he couldn't stand up any more, who treated each person with dignity and respect, even when he felt age and disease had robbed him of his.
James LeRoy Lafky, rest in peace.