January 31, 2008

TRIBUTE TO A SPECIAL MAN

JACOB GEPHART

March 15, 1925 – January 30,2008



Our phone conversations always began with, “Hey, Sweetheart” and ended with, “You know I love you, Pal.”

Even though Jake Gephart was my father-in-law, I can’t remember a time I didn’t call him “Dad.”

He taught me how to garden. He taught me how to work hard . . . and enjoy it. He taught me that family always comes first. And that kindness is simple but important. He taught me to laugh . . . often and with great gusto.

I remember dashing over to his house on cold days, and he’d welcome me and our small sons with hot chocolate and canned peaches. Then before I knew it, he’d be on the floor with our boys, building houses from playing cards or pitching pennies against the wall or playing grocery with cans from his shelves.

When Jake’s wife, Jane, passed away (the month before I met him), his four sons and his grandchildren became the focus of his life. I love my brothers-in-law, and realize their fun-loving personalities and closeness to each other come from the example set by Dad.

Gephart family parties were always warm and welcoming and fun. In the early years, they were spent splashing in the above ground pool in the back yard. Later, wiffle ball games took center stage. And when Dad got too old to safely round the bases, he was dubbed steady pitcher. And he jokingly dropped more balls than he threw.

I will always remember Dad’s gnarled hands that held mine with strength and warmth. And his bent pinky finger. His sons joked with him. Every time their beloved Philadelphia Eagles scored a touchdown, they’d hold up palms, bend their pinky fingers and say, “Dad, give us a high four and a half.”

There were football games to shout over. Family parties to celebrate at. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners out. He loved going out to eat. And have his Jamisons to drink. There were weddings to attend – his grandson and granddaughters most recently. And births to celebrate. Baby Matthew made him a GREAT grandfather.

Jake was all about celebrating life and family.

He loved dogs. I remember him going to Burger King to get his dog, Trixie, something special to eat. Trixie ate something special every evening, whether it was Burger King or something Jake cooked.

I remember the walks. While my husband worked, Dad would join me for walks around the neighborhood with our kids in a double stroller. Once, when a wheel from the stroller broke, he held the hand of our older son and pushed the broken stroller home for me while I carried the baby.

When I was sick – really sick – he made me the most delicious scrambled egg I’d ever eaten.

Our friends loved “Big Jake.” Standing only 5’ 2’’ (on a good day), he was still referred to as “Big Jake” by many, including my father, who stands 6”. I’m sure it had something to do with the size of his heart.

When my niece was young, “Big Jake” would have races with her in the back yard till she doubled over, laughing.

He told stories with great expression and despite being a quiet man, was the life of the party. Waitresses loved him. My family loved him. When my dad called over there recently to speak to the family, he broke down and cried.

It’s hard to see a good man go, even though he lived a wonderful life.

I remember when our boys were born, Jake took me aside and said, “I just hope I live long enough that they’ll remember me.” They not only remember him, they adore him. He was there for every theater production, school event, baseball and basketball game. He listened to them, even when he didn’t understand what the heck they were talking about. He bribed them to get good grades on their report cards and slipped them extra cash at every opportunity.

We could not have asked for a better grandfather for our boys. I could not have asked for a more devoted, loving, funny father-in-law. And I let him know every single day how much I loved and appreciated him.

I’m going to miss you, Dad, but you already know that.

“You know I love you, Pal.”

16 comments:

Jill N. said...

Donna,

We're so sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful tribute to a great man. It sounds as if he life was filled with family, friends and love.

Our thoughts are with you, Dan and the boys.

Love,
Jill and Kenny

hitthosekeys said...

Donna,

I just happened upon this sad news. So sorry for your loss!

Please know I'm thinking about you and your family.

--Lisa

Linda S M said...

Donna,

Big hugs to you and Dan and the boys.

Love,
Linda Marlow

The Suprans said...

Dear Donna, Dan, Andrew & Jake,

We are very sorry for the loss of your beloved Dad and Grandpa. It is so good that Dan was able to spend the last week with his dad. Our thoughts are with you.

Love,
Cathy & Seth

Anonymous said...

that is a great tribute to Jake and a great pic of him!! I was so glad to have known him for the past 20 years! "Big Jake" was a great man, and will surely be missed by all that knew him...

My thoughts are with you guys... your sis.

Sandra said...

Donna:

What a great man........I am so glad that my mom and I were able to enjoy those lunches with you and "Dad".......he really had such a big heart and leaves behind his legacy of memories and sons and, grandchildren and friends

Mary Hershey said...

Dear Donna,

Thinking of you and all your family-- thanks for sharing Pop with us. What a marvelous man!

Grace and peace,
Mary Hershey

Paul R. May said...

What a wonderful tribute, Donna. Thanks for sharing such a shining example of family love. Jake sounds like an amazing person. I think it's great that you're celebrating his life.

Love and hugs,

Paul

Anonymous said...

Dear Donna,
My heart goes out to you and Dan and the boys. What a beautiful tribute you wrote! He truly was one of the great gentlemen of all time. I felt privileged to know him. How lucky you all are to have had this special man in your lives. My sincere condolences and sympathies for your loss.
Love & prayers, Deborah

Obsessedwithlife said...

I'm sorry to hear this. I will keep your family in my prayers!

Susan Sandmore said...

Gosh, he sounds and looks like a wonderful person. I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad you had such a great father-in-law in your life!

Debby G said...

It sounds like a huge loss. I'm sorry.

Gep Dawg said...

Donna,

What are you doing to me, I'm about to cry again!

Seriously, thank you for the wonderful tribute to such a special guy. It may be hard for all who read your tribute to believe it, but Grandpop was everything you described him to be.

All of us grandchildren were fortunatel to know him so well and to love him. He will never...ever be replaced and he is already sorely missed.

He truly was the best...

Love,
Steve

Wild About Words said...

We can't thank everyone enough for their warm wishes and kindness during this difficult time.

The Gephart Family

JohnnyMack1983@aol.com said...

Danny, Donna, and family,

I'm sorry for your loss, your dad was a wonderful man. He made anyone who met him a better person, myself included. He was easy to like, he had a great charisma. He always had a smile for you and something nice to say. I only wish I could have said good-bye in person, but he will be in my prayers as will all of you.

As I raise my glass (of Jamison of course) to a great man who had a wonderful family and lived a good life, thank you for sharing your life with all of us, Slainte!

Johnny Mack

jozatthebeach said...

Donna, Dan and family,
Uncle Jake was one of my favorite people. Reading your tribute brought back wonderful memories for me of those crazy McGrother parties, the huge, juicy tomatoes from his garden, his sweet, caring nature and of course his sense of humor. He and Aunt Janie were very special to me and I feel blessed to be related to them and all of my Gephart cousins. Love and peace to all of you.
Cousin Joanne and family