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TRIBUTE TO MY DAD

For those of you who never met my Dad, or who knew him only in the last few years when Alzheimer’s had a vice grip on his life, I wanted to share a little something of David F. McConaughy.

    • leewoodruff&dad2He was married to my mother, Terry, for 58 years and was a father for just shy of 55.
    • He was the last generation of an industrial era, working his way up one company ladder for his entire career.  He graduated from the Philadelphia Institute of Textiles in 1954 with a degree in textile engineering and retired from Albany International, as a Corporate VP, running several divisions.
    • One of three boys, he sired three daughters without ever letting us believe there were limits to what we could do.  If he yearned for a son, we never felt it.
    • One of his sayings was, “if you are going to do something, do it right.” He loved the term “elbow grease.”
    • He was a sweet tooth, with a fondness for Frosted Flakes, vanilla ice cream and tollhouse cookies. He also loved raw onions and goose liver, much to our horror.
    • He was the consummate relationship builder, compromise-finder and connector, with a warm, ready smile and a genuine interest in people. He taught us to “look everyone in the eye and give them a firm handshake.”
    • DavidMcConaughy-leewoodruff3An engineer and tinkerer by nature, he held a number of patents. He hand-made wooden marionettes and refinished furniture, created intricate drawings and had beautiful hand-writing.  In his earlier years, he could often be found under a naked bulb in his basement workshop, no doubt seeking respite from the four women in the house.
    • Neither a reader nor an intellectual, he was a do-er and a people person.  Boats, cars, anything that had a motor, he loved to be in motion.  He once took apart a Model-T and put it back together.  Old photos confirm he had a penchant for plaid swim trunks.
    • He came from a non-material generation, one that witnessed both economic feast and famine. Growing up in a household where money was tight and hand-me-downs were essential, he learned to appreciate finer things.  When he found a pair of shoes he liked, he bought two.  Just in case.
    • When the boy I liked turned me down for the Sadie Hawkins dance, he restored my confidence by writing out a “true prediction” that we both signed and tucked in his top dresser drawer.  “I hereby swear that some day I’ll be beating the boys back from our door with a stick,” it read.
    • He had a thing for carved birds, told animated ghost stories, collected antiques and found pleasure in polishing brass items.  An avid gardener, he cultivated pots of red geraniums and purple lobelia.  He made liberal use of Miracle Gro and weed killer, despite our Earth Day lectures.
    • I vividly recall his determination one summer, as he changed out of his suit and climbed elaborately rigged ladders and scaffolding to sand our entire house down to raw wood before repainting it. If you wanted a job done right…
    • DavidMcConaughy-leewoodruff2Like everyone’s Dad in the 70’s, he got a little cheesy with wide striped ties, longish side burns and some polyester attire.  He loved music; anything by Sinatra, Andy William’s “Moon River,” Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick.  He knew the way to San Jose and he dug the Wichita Lineman.  Throughout his entire life, almost to the end, he could be found whistling a tune.
    • His favorite place in the world was out on the lake in his wooden Lyman boat.
    • When his nine grandchildren were younger, there was always someone on a lap, in his arms, in the boat or being tickled by his “dinosaur hand.” In the summer he liked to take everyone out for ice cream.
    • I never heard him swear beyond the rare word “damn,” and that was reserved for the unexpected injury or great inconvenience.  Every night before dinner he read the evening edition of the Albany Times Union and drank Beefeater’s gin on the rocks with three olives.
    • A child of the depression and a thrifty Scottsman, he made us pony up each month for our monthly long distance calls, calculated down to the penny.
    • leewoodruff&dad1He would tell you that his greatest accomplishment was providing a place, at Silver Bay on Lake George, where all of his family could congregate each summer and grow old together.  We are all keenly aware of how precious that gift is.
    • He was generous with his time and his charitable donations, serving on various boards. He was a trustee of Silver Bay Association for 35 years and was instrumental in raising money to save a five-mile stretch of land across the lake to donate back to the Adirondack Park’s “Forever Wild.”
    • When I told him I was marrying Bob and moving to China, he enthusiastically gave us his blessing (despite the fact Bob forgot to ask for my hand).  When we announced that Bob was leaving his law firm to try his hand as a starving journalist, he told him to follow his passion.  If I had been braced for concerns, I got only support, love and encouragement from my father at every pivotal juncture of my life.

If a family is like a ship, Mom was the rudder and the ballast.  My father was the mast and prow.  He loved his wife.  He loved his girls and our children.  He was gracious, never cruel; always a gentleman.  He taught us to treat the waitress with as much deference as the CEO.   Although we lost the essence of him in the slow erasure from a horrible disease, now that he is no longer in it, the world suddenly feels smaller and the sky appears less blue.

DavidMcConaughy-leewoodruff

 

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27 Comments

  1. Betty Haisten

    March 30, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Lovely tribute. My condolences to you and your family.

  2. Glenda

    March 30, 2015 at 10:43 am

    So sorry for your loss!

  3. Cara

    March 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Thank you so much for sharing insight into what made him so wonderful. I am so sorry for your loss but can so feel the love.

  4. Neerja

    March 30, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Beautiful tribute Lee. What a gentelman your father was. Sorry for the loss. Never met him but realize he was lucky to have a loving daughter like yourself. May he rest in peace.

  5. Ligeia

    March 30, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Oh Lee, I’m a so so sorry to hear that you lost your dad. What a beautiful tribute this is.

  6. James boone

    March 30, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    lee, thank You for sharing your memories about your dad. He was truly a lovely man.

  7. Gautam

    March 30, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    BEAUTIFULLY written. Sorry for your loss.

  8. Joanne Budd

    March 30, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    i am so sorry for your loss, Lee! A father, at any age, is a terrible relationship to loose. I lost my father at 19, but i know i was see him in my heaven. Lake George is our vacation place in August, too.

  9. jim Roth "JR"

    March 30, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    you know how I feel about your father [and mother too]. He was honest and trustworthy. I enjoyed his company very much….but now…his daughters were an all together different thing— haha Love and miss all of you, and sorry for your loss.

  10. Judy

    March 30, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Beautiful piece, Lee.

  11. Tina

    March 31, 2015 at 6:37 am

    AWESOME tribute to a devoted father! You have been truly blessed!

  12. Angie Ficco

    March 31, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Sorry for your loss Lee…it seems he played an integral role of who you are Today…which is the best gift of all from him.

  13. Candace allan

    March 31, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Your words have done your dad proud. I love the red Geraniums.

  14. Barbara (jamie) selling

    March 31, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    such wonderful memories….so beautifully written….such poignant descriptions of a live well lived and well loved. made me miss my parents even more, so very sorry for your loss.

  15. DONALD LEWIS

    March 31, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Wonderfull tribute. Sorry for your loss.

  16. Leslie Strickler

    March 31, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    Lee,..What a lovely tribute to your Dad.
    Thank you for sharing a glimpse of
    David McConaughy with your readers..
    You are a lucky gal.

  17. vanetta Hunter

    April 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    He was a wonderful gentleman and friend. Never to be forgotten,

  18. Rena McDaniel

    April 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

    What a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a very amazing man. Alzheimer’s is such a horrible disease. it steals what we love most about someone and takes it away forever. I am my mother’s 24/7 caregiver and I just found your blog today. I can’t wait to go back and read more of it. You are a beautiful writer! Thank you for sharing your story.

  19. Nancy smith

    April 3, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    What a lovely piece on your father. I, too, lost a parent to Alzheimer, my Sweet mother. Your writing is so wonderful and so real…thank you for sharing your life with us,. You and your family are an inspiration!

  20. Nancy smith

    April 3, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Sorry for the typos! …oops!

  21. Ligeia

    April 8, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Lee – You have your Dad’s million dollar smile. i never met him, but thank you for making him come alive again. what a wonderful man. my heart goes out to you. xo

  22. Rose

    April 12, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Lee

    So sorry for your loss. Fathers are so special. Sending you much love and peace for you and the family.

    Rose

  23. Marybeth

    April 25, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    I lost my godfather to Alzheimer. I was his p.o.a. health proxy the last 4 years of his life, orchestrating life & health for him, his wife (Bunny). He gave unconditional respect to everyone and unconditional love to me. he felt more like a father to me than my own dad. i met your dad once and like jane schoenfelds dad he stood out as someone you could enjoy, respect, and feel safe with. beautiful tribute Lee.

  24. Susan Noble

    May 1, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute to your Dad Lee.

  25. Carol Smith witherell

    October 4, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Dear Lee, I’m so sorry to have overlooked this mailing about your father’s death. I loved your tribute to him. What a remarkable man, so loving and affirming. You are indeed fortunate to have this legacy. My Mom, Elaine Smith, was very fond of him and your mother. With love and admiration for your devotion to your family and life work, Carol Smith Witherell

  26. Paul Richter

    December 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I EXTEND my sincere CONDOLENCES to you Lee and your family. Thank you so much for sharing your Dad with us. He sounds like THE type of MAN i would have really ENJOYED meeting. He and i are from the SAME generations. May the many fond memories that you have of your Dad help to easy the pain of his passing. Keep well.. God bless you.

  27. Theresa M. Shirey

    January 29, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    My sincere condolences Lee on the loss of your father. My mom died as a result of Alzheimer’s. prior to her symptoms, my mom was a loving, sweet woman. Alzheimer’s turned this beautiful woman into a person no one recognized.

    My parents met Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1942, got engaged valentine’s day, February 14th, 1943 and were married Mary 22nd, 1943. they loved each other so much and were together until their deaths in 2000.

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