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.”