My Eulogy: Growing Up with Dr. David Beatty as My Father
Watch: My Eulogy at Dad’s Funeral in Sackville, New Brunswick
The following is a transcript from my eulogy at my father’s funeral. Watch my eulogy above or scroll down to watch the full length funeral video.
Well there’s a lot of people in the ‘audience’ here today and I’m sure Dad would love to be up here entertaining you all.
My father grew up in the dirty 30s in a small country town in Michigan named Williamston. He planned to be a farmer but fate led him to academics, and later, here to Sackville, New Brunswick.
Dad and Uncle Tom in the 1930s.
Growing up with David Beatty as my father… When I was little, he entertained me reading stories and acting out the voices. I loved it and he’d make me laugh. We’d sit in his study and as he smoked a pipe and read me the classics like Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and White Fang, also Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island, even Tarzan. Amazing stories! I would play with my toys or draw but I had to pay attention because he’d quiz me every few minutes about what was happening and I didn’t want to let him down.
My sister Margaret and I with Dad and Chuck the dog.
My sister Margaret and I with Dad on Christmas morning.
He loved to tease and torment us. If we had bare feet, he would chase my sister and I around the house yelling “fresh piggies” trying to stomp on our toes. We seriously thought he’d gone berserk and was going to squash our feet, but of course he never did.
Left: Margaret. Right: Swimming with Dad.
He tried to overcome my fear of swimming by dragging me out, kicking and screaming into the Northumberland Strait to toss me out over my head. This did not work one bit. It only made my fear of the water worse. I think finally, I overcame it by taking swimming lessons at the Mount A pool, or in therapy, I’m not sure.
Speaking of the Northumberland Strait… this is unthinkable now, but for fun he would dangle me upside down by my ankles over the railing of the ferry on the way to Prince Edward island. I’m not sure where exactly Mom was when this happened but I am sure glad he never dropped me!
Every Saturday in Baie Verte, when I was a kid, he’d take a load of garbage over to the town dump in Aulac. I’d be at home, minding my own business, watching Saturday morning cartoons or something, and he would suddenly appear in the doorway, “This is it, boy. Today’s the day, I’m going to get rid of you… leave you at the dump”. I believed him. We drove in his truck and I trembled all the way while he reminded me this was our last day together. We arrived at the dump and he’d throw all the garbage bags and stuff into the vast pit. I’d just stand there waiting for my fate, but then he’d show some mercy and decide to keep me for another week. What a relief! I’m pretty sure I developed some abandonment issues from this for a while.
I love telling these stories you know and it was all good fun.
Mom and Dad were both teachers, so they had every summer off. We’d pack everything up and go live at our Murray Corner farm house for the summer. We have this 100 acre farm property, I’m sure many of you have been there. It goes right from the beach to vast fields, a woodlot, a river, two big barns and an old farmhouse.
Dad in the kitchen of the farmhouse in the 1960s.
It was the perfect place to grow up. We had horses, cows, pigs, dogs, puppies, barn cats, kittens, tons of kittens, they’d just show up randomly like magic, just kittens all the time like some kind of childhood dream.
With Margaret on the Fence (Baie Verte).
Dad with Margaret on the horse.
A horse and carriage ride.
In late summer, Dad would hire a team of guys from Port Elgin to come and help him harvest the hay. They’d show up with big tractors and trucks, they were all sweaty, greasy and unshaven, hard working men. Real farmers, like something out of Mice and Men, and they had big hay wagons. My sister and I would ride on these hay wagons all day while they baled the hay, then they’d fill our giant barn full of these square bales.
Harvesting the hay at the farm in 1975.
Like life-size legos, my sister and I would play in the barn for days building forts, my friend Jeff Roach would come over and we’d climb to the top of the barn in the rafters and leap like 20-30 feet into the soft piles of hay below. I can’t believe how much fun that was… or that we never got hurt!
Dad had his own antique tractor too and I would spend all day on it with him. Also his legendary Chevy truck he had since 1984. So much fun.. We used to stand on the back bumper of that thing as he drove down the highway, or sit in the back. No seat belt laws back then. I remember tumbling off a couple times, but again, never got hurt.
He loved to farm, God, he sure did. He’d be in the garden all day and he was famous in town for having crops that would appear before anybody else. He made me do it too, weeding and digging up potatoes out of the dirt with my bare hands. I think every kid should go through this, it teaches you how to work hard. Although, I swore I would move to the city when I grew up so i would never have to do it again.
After farming all day, Dad would go on a long, long bike ride, then after that, a long run, then a long swim. He was so active. he ran 10km a day.
He also loved camping, fishing, canoeing and hiking. He would bring my brother, sister and I, and also my cousin Liam along. What a blast, eating canned sardines, making popcorn in a pot over the camp stove.
Camping with Dad.
Hiking in Newfoundland with Dad, Mom and Margaret. August 1994.
I should mention that we gave a small portion of Dad’s ashes to my cousin Liam, and while we are here, right now, Liam is in New Zealand, hiking up a mountain to spread those ashes in Dad’s honour. (Watch this in the video).
Dad fishing with Zeno in 1974.
Anyway, Dad would also go camping with the dog. He loved all of his dogs! There was Zeno, Chuck, Bess, and later, Goldie. They’d cruise around with him everywhere in his old blue pickup truck.
Dad and his old pickup truck in Sackville, NB.
He also had cats. One cat in particular, Cinder. He originally found her behind the stove when he bought our Baie Verte house in the 60s. That cat lived to be like 25 years old and even moved to Sackville with us in 1990.
He had crazy sayings he would chant out to these animals like “Ohh BESS!!” or “old Bad Bess the GOOD!” or “You’re a Laaaazy old KeetKite” for Cinder the old cat. And that cat was miserable, by the way. If you ever tried to pet her she’d shriek and claw or bite you, but he loved her. As I mentioned, she grew so old, by the end she was like a boney, furry spine with only like 2 or 3 sharp teeth left.
My sister Margaret with me as a baby and Dad holding Cinder looking miserable as ever in the kitchen of our Baie Verte house.
I remember as a kid in Baie Verte, trying to take advantage of having a historian for a father to get my history homework done faster – rather than having to research or read stuff, I thought I could just ask my Dad and he could quickly provide the answers I needed so I could get back to watching TV or goofing off. But this quickly backfired on me. I went and asked him about the Louis Riel Rebellion, or whatever topic I was assigned to, expecting a quick answer, but then he would get all excited and take me to his personal library and he’d pull out like 3 or 4 thick books and go on for hours teaching me in great depth about the subject. I wish I could tell you how much I loved this, but at the time I was pulling my hair out just wanting him to be done. I had no idea how lucky I was.
When I was a little older though, it was such a treat to watch historical documentaries or war movies with him. He would point out people or things that were given only a brief reference in the movie, and provide a whole backstory to them, then everything that was happening would make so much more sense. I would pause the video and let him explain these things and it would add such a deeper dimension to the movie. You’d learn a lot.
My father was a terrible business man. He grew all these farm crops, way too many for us to eat, then he’d drive around just dropping them off to people around the community.. old ladies, everyone for free.
His old antique tractor, it must have been worth a lot. When he no longer used it, he just gave it away to the neighbors. Same with his truck, rather than selling it, just gave it away. He even let a local guy farm our land for free, he still does it… He was just generous. He didn’t really care about the money. Even when his colleagues at the university, other profs, went on strike demanding higher wages, he did not. I asked him about this and he said, “they pay me enough”. I think he just loved his job so much, maybe he was afraid they’d take it away.
Over the years, so many of his students have reached out to me, and told me how much he has influenced them and their lives, and what an inspiration he has been to them. It truly lifts me up to hear these stories. Especially now that we’ve lost him. You are truly keeping his spirit alive. Thank you.
It has been difficult for me, living so far away. I want to thank my Mom, my sister and her kids who visited and took care of Dad over the past few years. I know the people at the hospital and the Drew took exceptional care of him as well. I also want to extend my gratitude to Dad’s closest friend, Jack Drover who so faithfully visited him and spent time with him in his last days.
It was hard to watch Dad decline. He always ate healthy food and exercised like crazy, but none of that helped him fight off this brain disease. Still, he never got to the point where he didn’t know who I was. They say his brain was extra resilient because as a historian he spent a lifetime memorizing facts, figures, names and dates, and this actually strengthened the connections within his brain, slowing the effects of the disease.
My childhood best friend, Jeff Roach, I mentioned him earlier; he recently passed away tragically and unexpectedly, and I came home for his service.
While I was home, I had the chance to visit Dad, a chance I wouldn’t have had otherwise. My wife Fatima was only a few weeks pregnant at this point and normally you don’t tell people about it but here I had an opportunity to tell Dad about the pregnancy in person. When I told him, a huge smile appeared on his face, but I told him not to tell anyone yet, and he agreed.
My last visit with Dad at the Drew. March 2015.
I didn’t have the opportunity to see Dad again until Father’s Day, just recently and I arranged it with Mom and them to Facetime with Dad from Vancouver. By this time they all knew about the pregnancy and we asked Dad if he could tell us what special thing was happening with Fatima and I. He said, “well they’re having a baby!” And we all celebrated because this meant he still knew it and remembered it all this time.
Our last Facetime with Dad. Father’s Day 2015.
That was the last time I spoke to Dad, and unfortunately he will miss the birth of our baby, but the fact that he remembered it means everything to me.
He lived a good life, and I am so happy you have all come to celebrate it with us today.
Thank you so much.
Watch: Dr. David Beatty’s Funeral ~ Full Length
Funeral video recorded by Jones Funeral Home.
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Jack Drover’s Tribute
Below is the transcript from Jack Drover’s eulogy at Dad’s funeral also featured in the full length video above.
Tribute to David Beatty, August 15, 2015
I came to Sackville and Mount Allison in 1974 as the soccer and hockey coach. Early on in my career I met two very special people. Co-incidentally they were both named David – David MacAulay and David Beatty.
I quickly learned that Dave Beatty was a gentleman, a respected professor, and a sports fan.
When I attended Alumni events and did school visitations, so many of those attending asked about Dave Beatty and asked me to extend greetings to him – and to say a special thank you for his sincere interest and guidance. Dave often told me that he taught some good and not so good students, and my guess is that both are represented here today. He took great pride in hearing from his former students following completion of their degree. My wife Jane was the coordinator of the Meighen Centre at Mount A. Her office was across from a classroom where Dave lectured in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Jane told her secretary not to schedule appointments during his lectures, and she would go across the hall to listen, learn, and enjoy.
Dave’s obvious passion outside of the classroom was football, especially Mountie football. But his love of sport and of those playing extended far beyond the sport of football. I even had the pleasure of coaching his son Damon in age group soccer, and trying to teach Dave a little about the true game of football. I think it fell on deaf ears.
On Mountie Football game day, Dave would pop by my office, chat for a minute, go down the hall and shake hands with the coaches, pop into the dressing room, wish the players well, and then he and his dog would head to his special seat at the end of the stands near the 40 yard line. I had a clear view from my office. You can see his seat later from Tweedie as you look across the rebuilt field towards the bleachers.
In all honesty when I first learned that Dave was a resident of the Drew I knew that the right thing to do was to visit him, that it would not be easy, and if I did visit, what would I say, and I wondered what would we talk about.
Well Dave must have quickly observed that I was a little nervous, uncomfortable, but with his skill he took charge and I left looking forward to my next visit. These visits increased to three to four times a week when I was in town – always to include Saturday mornings as I wanted to make sure that his TV or radio were on the correct channel/ station, and then to brief him on our Mounties and our opponents.
I wanted to make sure that that my visits and our chats were varied, so I thought about strategies that would insure that we would talk about things from A to Z, and I actually used that quite often – working through the alphabet. We talked pretty well about everything, ranging from him raising and butchering animals in his youth, to him wanting to be a vet, to exploring and fishing in Michigan, to a Detroit Tiger vs New York Yankees game in New York, to his camping trip in Newfoundland, to running with the Wooders’ on the beaches in PEI, to discussing those who did honors papers under his supervision, to world history – and discussing the first and second world wars and the many local people who had families serve in them.
I was one of those not so good students mentioned earlier. I thought of a way to improve my GPA. I would ask Dave to give me assignments from time to time- a form of adult learning. He agreed. My first assignment was to find the burial sites of all former Prime Ministers. I did this, and on my next visit he gave me an oral exam. When it was finished, I asked him what my grade was on the assignment. He responded A+. I asked him to give me more assignments so that I could get my GPA up to at least 2.0. We laughed about this often. Then he told me that he once visited Lester Pearson’s burial site in Wakefield, PQ, tried to climb the fence to get to it, had his pants catch in the fence, fell to the ground, and ripped his pants to pieces. He was curious about the two former Prime Ministers buried in Halifax, and his next assignment was for me to get him more information. I did and told him that the two were Sir Charles Tupper and John Thompson. Sir Charles Tupper had a storied career. John Thompson’s was somewhat obscure. He gave me another A +, and he told me that I was right on – but did point out that John Thompson was young, inexperienced, but that he had nice hair though.
We even figured out the date of the Yankee – Tiger game he attended and found the starting line-ups on the game. Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Harvey Keunn , and Al Kaline were just some of the Hall of Famers in the game day lineup. I got an A++ that day.
We chatted about his grandchildren. He was excited that Oliver was playing basketball and he also told me that he was an excellent mackerel fisherman. Oliver, I was in Chester two weeks ago fishing and only caught five, so I will be asking you for lessons. His granddaughter Catherine played a Annie in the presentation of the stage play Annie in Riverview last year. This year she was a pink lady in the TRHS presentation of Grease. One day when I visited she was singing Dave some songs from Grease. When she was finished, and was still present, I sang “ Take Me Out to the Ball Game “ to Dave. When I got to “ and it is One , Two , Three Strikes and you’re out – he raised his right arm and sang along with me. A very special and memorable moment! One of the more recognizable songs / lyrics from Grease was sung by Sandra Dee. “ Tell me more, Tell me more, do not go out that door “. I think I often heard Dave singing this as I was leaving.
We talked about his travels, particularly international as well as his gardening, another passion of his. He told me of his visit to the London Museum and I shared our visit to the Normandy Coast, Vimy Ridge, and Beaumont Hamel with him. Our youngest son was a tour guide at both, so I had an inside track on this information.
Another A +.
I am a novice at gardening. One day Mary Jean came to visit when I was there, and she asked me what I was growing. I responded herbs, with an H. She corrected me saying erbs, without the H. David and I looked at each other, with a special smile. So at my next visit he asked me how my erbs were progressing – and I told him I am growing “ H ‘s”. and I would soon have Herbs and Honions for Mary Jean – in my best Newfoundland twang.
Sometimes when I went to visit him he was “ resting his eyes”, I would sit on the edge of his bed, tap him lightly on his right knee, quietly say a few words, and before I knew it his eyes would slowly open, he would have a smile on his face, say hi Jack, we would chat. When I would leave I would put my left hand on his shoulder, and say to him – “ see you again soon “ and his response was always –“ thank you for coming, say hi to Jane, and you have made my day. “
Canada Day this year marked the 99th anniversary of the Battle at Beaumont Hamel. Our six years old granddaughter was selected to place a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa representing the young people of Canada. I told Dave how proud we all were, and I saw tears of pride in his eyes. He asked me to bring the picture to show him. It arrived on the Monday following his death.
Dave was a very special person, and I am one of many who have had the privilege to have my life influenced by Dr. David Beatty.