This is the text from the eulogy I gave at my Dad’s funeral on July 25, 2011. Writing it was the easy part. I hope you enjoy hearing about my Dad as much as I enjoyed having him for so long.
We’re gathered today to honor the passing of my father, George Horst. I offered to do this eulogy because I knew it would be easy to think up nice things to say about him. He was truly one of a kind and I had the pleasure of knowing him as father,friend, mentor and business partner for many great years. I believe that he would want this to be a celebration of life rather than a day of sorrow. To that end, I think it’s only fitting that I tell the stories that best illustrate his happiness and love of life.
I gave this eulogy the title Semper Fidelis partly because he served in the Marines but mostly because these two words, meaning always faithful, are the best words I can think of to describe his character. He was full of faith in God, in America, in the Corps, in his marriage, church, family, friends, relatives and neighbors. His faithfulness gave his life a purpose and he made the most of every opportunity he was given.
He came into this world on May 20 1921, the son of Roy and Hazel Horst in Kansas City Mo. He had one older sister Marcia. In 1934 his family took their first summer vacation to Minnesota to escape the heat of the Dust Bowl summers in Kansas City. They ended up at a place called Portview Resort near Nisswa, Minnesota where he met Jean McClintick and her family who owned the place. Every summer after that George saw Jean at the lake and their friendship grew into a lifelong commitment.
He graduated from Paseo High School in 1938 and attended Park College for one year before taking a job at the Kansas City Star in 1939. His mother died in 1940 and a few months later his father remarried. His relationship with his stepmother was less than perfect and one day while riding the trolley to work he saw a sign for the Marine Corps. He stayed on the trolley all the way to the recruiting office downtown and signed up with a little help from the recruiter who added a few pounds to his weight so he could get to the 130 lb minimum. When I asked him why he joined the Marines he said if he was going to risk his life he wanted to be with other guys who would be there for him no matter how bad it got.
From there he was shipped out to basic training in California at Camp Pendleton and was trained as a bugler first then for the artillery. His first assignment after basic was to be the Admiral’s bugler on the flagship West Virginia at Pearl Harbor which had to be the easiest job any Marine could hope for. But it was not to be because the other bugler begged him to switch assignments and finally my Dad gave in by offering to race the other guy for the job. Dad was pretty confident in his speed but that day he lost and gave up his assignment. I guess God was looking out for him.
By the spring of ’42 he was in New Zealand training with the 3rdMarine division for the island hopping campaign that MacArthur was planning for the Solomon, Gilbert, Marianas and Philippine Islands. He saw action on Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Guam before he was hospitalized with a severe case of malaria on Guam in the fall of ‘44. The field hospital on the island was so small that only the officers were allowed to stay there, so my Dad just laid in his tent for 2 days with a fever of 105. The other Marines in his platoon did the only thing they could and carried buckets of cold water from the river to pour on him till his fever broke. He never forgot what those Marines did for him.
By not dying on Guam, he earned a trip to San Francisco and he was stateside for the rest of the war. They eventually shipped him to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland for a research project on the treatment of malaria. When he wasn’t in the hospital he played in the Marine Corps Band and did guard duty at Camp David or Shangrila as it was called in those days. His stories about Shangrila sounded like staying at a luxury resort with a pool and tennis courts and fishing. He just had one pet peeve. He had to walk President Roosevelt’s dog every day. I guess that was really cutting into his free time because one night after dinner he appropriated a pork chop and then proceeded to toss it over a steep but short cliff with the dog close behind. He knew the dog wouldn’t be able to get back up the hill and it was a couple more hours before the dog showed up at the front gate again. I don’t know how he explained the dog’s absence. By the fall of ’45, when the war was over, the doctors at Bethesda told him not to plan on living more than 5 years because the malaria would surely kill him shortly.
Dad always enjoyed beating the odds so he promptly took his discharge and left for home. On January 20 of 1946 he married my Mom in Brainerd. The temperature outside was 20 below zero so he must have been in kind of hurry to get on with his life. They drove my grandfather McClintick’s car (without a working heater) to Minneapolis for a honeymoon weekend and then moved home to Kansas City where he went to work for his uncle Elmer at KC Litho. That same spring my Mom entered a writing contest for newly wed veterans and they won a trip to New Orleans as part of the premier for the movie Sentimental Journey. Shortly after their trip, his uncle died of a heart attack. From then on my Dad was in business for himself, at least till he found a partner in Kermit Nesseth who had married Dad’s cousin Dorothy. This partnership lasted until 1954 when Dad started a prepress company and got out of the press side of the business. His partner in that business was Dick Palmer and they called it Horst & Palmer Litho. That one lasted till 1978 when he and I incorporated a business called Horst Graphics, Inc. For the next ten years we worked side by side. By 1991 I had bought everybody else out and Dad was semi-retired. Semi-retirement for him meant he came in after 8 am and left before 5 and took his summers off to go to Minnesota with Mom. He didn’t stop coming in every day till he was 75 and even though the business had completely changed, because of computers, he still found ways to make himself useful. Mostly, he liked to organize games and office pools for various sporting events like pro football and the Final Four. It was almost embarrassing how often he won and some of the employees offered to just fork over their money without bothering to make their picks. In the end, the more he won the more he spent on lunch for everybody so they all appreciated him in spite of his winnings.
In 1999 he had chemo treatments for prostate cancer and he was moving a little slower than usual so we bought him a used golf car to get around up at the lake. That kept him going till 2 years ago when he came down with lymphoma. The surgery was so difficult the doctors didn’t give him much chance of surviving it but as usual he kept going in spite of everything. Even when he was in pain, it was hard to tell because he never complained and pretty much refused any kind of medicine unless Mom forced it on him. He lived long enough to have his 65th wedding anniversary with Mom this January and his 90thbirthday in May surrounded by family and friends. He passed away on July 21 and left a legacy of commitment, honesty and goodwill toward others that will be missed by all.
Now let me tell you what a great Dad he was. I think he and my Mom made one of the greatest couples ever and their nearly 75 years together should be proof of their love and affection for each other. Whatever was lacking in his own childhood, with his family, he more than made up for it with ours. He loved everything about being a Dad and later a Grand Dad. My earliest memories are filled with the times we sat on his lap while he read the comic strips to us on Sunday mornings. Marilyn, Karen and I all latched on to him or the big chair and listened closely as he tried to read in the voice of the characters of each strip. He loved Lil Abner, Blondie, Dick Tracy, Mark Trail and he even read Brenda Starr for the girls. When we got older and too big for the chair he started getting up even earlier so he and Keith Worthington could go teach Sunday School at the Jackson Co. Juvenile Detention center. In the evenings, after work, he and Keith drove up to Lansing Prison to have Bible Study with the inmates. There was always something important he had to do for others. He volunteered at church in every capacity available and made that the focus for our whole family.
His sense of humor and playfulness always amazed me. I remember one time when I was about 10. I came in from playing and Mom had placed a table-cloth on the kitchen table for no apparent reason. I sat down and tried to eat but every time I went for the peas they just rolled off my plate. At first they all went along with the gag but eventually they couldn’t control themselves and starting laughing hysterically. Dad had placed a rubber ball under my plate with a tube so he could pump it up under the table. I felt pretty stupid but I just had to laugh.
By the time I was about 12 I had endured a steady stream of verbal abuse from my classmates for my first name, Guy. I finally asked my Mom why she gave me a name that was so easy to make fun of. She said, “Don’t complain. Your Dad wanted to name you Charles just so he could call you Charlie Horst.” I never complained again.
In the summer of ’69, our church group went on a canoe trip to Canada for a week. Dad and I shared a canoe and did our best to look like we knew what we were doing. At one point we had to portage about a ¼ of a mile to the next lake. I carried the packs and he struggled with the canoe for about 100 yards before we both collapsed along the side of the trail. About this time a group of experienced Canadians pulled up to the same spot and proceeded to demonstrate the Canadian version of portaging. As we lay there gasping for air the first in their group came up next to us and the one carrying the canoe, in a clearly female voice said, “Do you boys need any help?” Dad jumped up and muttered “Oh Hell No! and did his best impression of a former Marine. By the time we got to the other side, they were just a distant speck on the water.
Dad was always fun-loving but he also knew when to share his wisdom with us. When I tried to flunk out of college as a freshman he sat me down at Christmas break and explained why college was so important. He broke it all down for me with one simple sentence. “All I expect you to do is to learn how to learn because you will have to do that your whole life and college will teach you that.” After that my grades improved and I finally joined my sisters with a degree.
When I got out of school we talked at length about my next career move and he insisted that I had to go work somewhere else before I came to work for him. I took a job in New York City and then Houston and even though I hated being away from home, it was easily the greatest experience of my life. I was much better prepared when he and I went into business in 1978. His reputation for honesty was well-earned and every where I went I was greeted with a handshake and the recognition that if I was George’s son I must be honest too. Everybody asked me if it was tough following in his footsteps but honestly it never was, mainly because he never tried to tell me how to do it. He just watched me work and when he thought I needed his help he offered it. He knew I had to figure it out for myself and he never insisted on having his way. That must have been tough because I made plenty of mistakes those first 10 years. Luckily, he was spending a lot of time raising grandchildren in those same days so I think he was a little more willing to accept my mistakes.
His life was never any more joyful than when he was playing with his grandkids. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for any of them and he and Mom were always running to recitals, birthday parties and school events. I think he saw those kids as his payoff for all his years of hard work and commitment. Being a grandfather was his greatest achievement and he wasn’t about to miss any of it.
By the early 90’s he and Mom were spending every summer at the lake and they eagerly awaited the arrival of the next batch of kids, including all my cousin’s kids. Mom made donuts and Dad told jokes and the kids just ate it all up. When the kids weren’t there with them, they spent time with Mom’s siblings, did a lot of bird watching and worked hard to keep up with all 62 acres. I think the exercise and laid back life style at the lake kept them healthy far longer than many of their friends. They really became the lifeblood of Portview Resort and the surrogate grandparents of the fourth generation when Mom’s siblings all passed away. There was never an opportunity that they passed up. They always focused on finding ways to help make everything better.
That’s really the legacy my Dad should be remembered for; he really believed that the more you give the more you receive. He never got wealthy or famous but his good deeds, kindness, compassion and sense of humor touched more lives than most. The fact that so many people came today tells me that his life had a tremendous impact and he did it all with a smile and a sense of grace that is truly rare. I believe that God puts men like my Dad here on earth to show us all a better way to live and when you meet one of these special people your life is changed forever. Every one of us has the ability to do the things my Dad did. Every day we encounter people who are struggling and some times the simplest gesture of good will is enough to change that person’s life. When those Marines on Guam gave him the gift of life, he took it and ran with it until his last days on earth. I can’t tell you how much I miss him but I take great comfort in knowing he went straight to Heaven. I can even imagine what St. Peter said to him when he got there. “Welcome home George, we’ve been expecting you for a long time. Your place at the table has already been set, but now that you’re here, President Roosevelt would like a word with you.”
Thank you all for coming.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content