Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Life Well Lived

On July first 2010, John Urvan, my step-father passed away.  Married to my mom, April 29th 1984, he came into my life at a time when I was already grown and having children of my own.  My life intersected his on special occasions, family get-togethers and routine life events.  However, in the last year and a half as I helped him and my mom cope with the diagnosis and treatment of advanced prostate cancer, I came to know him much more personally.  I can truly say that he is someone who has left a lasting impression and a legacy to be remembered on my life.

Shaped by his forty-four years of service in the Marine Corp, he was man of structure and routine.  He was early (by hours!) for every appointment he ever had.  We used to joke about his need to make a 'dry run' before any new appointment so that he could measure the mileage, traffic conditions and length of time it would take to get there.  Even his leisure time activities, stamp collecting and crossword puzzles were evidence of his love of structure.  Prior to his death, he organized and labeled every document and phone number he thought we would need to take care of all the necessary details. 

He was self sufficient and independent to a fault.  He hated to ask for help of any kind.  When advised of the need for surgery for his prostrate cancer, he called to let me know the details.  I told him I would drive him to the hospital and take him home.  He was adamant that he would be able to drive himself  and only after his doctor advised him otherwise did he allow me to make arrangements.  He was most proud of his ability to undergo chemotherapy without any side effects of nausea or weakness.  When the cancer spread to his bones causing multiple falls at home, he refused to tell his doctor or agree to go to the hospital for evaluation.

He was generous.  Although he hated to accept help, he loved to give it.  He was handy around the house and made all kinds of repairs at my home.  He was always busy completing chores or a special project. He wanted to pay me every time I gave him a ride somewhere and he never forgot a birthday or special occasion.

He was an humble man of service to  his country.  In his forty-four years in the Marines, he fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  He was a recipient of the purple heart.  Yet he never had a big ego or really even talked about his military career.  He will be honored on July twenty-third with a military funeral which will include a bugler, an honor guard and a twenty-one gun salute.  I can almost hear him asking me what all the fuss is about.

He loved life and lived it with gusto, making the best of even the worst situations.  Every meal I ever fixed him was "outstanding!" and he ate it all with relish.  His favorite breakfast?  Black coffee and burnt toast!  I guess that doesn't say much for my cooking...

He was social with a great sense of humor.  He generally charmed any new acquaintances and my kids still remember some of his favorite expressions.  "What do you think I am, chopped liver?"  he'd ask and my children would crack up even though they had no idea what he was talking about.  He would sing bits of old timey songs to them.  My daughter's favorite?  "I was walking along, minding my business under an orange colored sky. When flash, bam, alakazam, wonderful you walked by..."  They'd ask him to sing it over and over.  One of our favorite quips from him was during my daughter's wedding last fall when he surveyed the festivities and confided to  my other daughter, "I didn't know white people could have so much fun."

He had a great love for my mom through thick and thin.  They certainly were opposites and they had their ups and downs but his devotion never wavered. He always called her "my beautiful bride" and that was how he referred to her as we sat in the examining room of the hospital for what turned out to be the last time.  One of the last conversations he had with my sister was not to worry about the future because he would "take care of momma."  He certainly did fulfill his promises.

All in all it was 84 years of a life well lived;  a life of honor and integrity, a life of humor and generosity, a life of service and love.  He left behind a legacy of memories for everyone who knew him.   He will be greatly missed.

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  1. Lynne,
    Thank you for sharing comments and pictures of you step-father. He certainly was one of many silent American heros - those that served their country with honor and then continued to give back to others in many ways. May his life example carry on and influence those that had the opportunity to know this great man.
    God grant you and your family peace at this time of passing.
    David Kapchinske

  2. Lynne,

    Thank you for the wonderful words about your stepfather and my uncle John Urvan. I am his niece and the daughter of his only sister Stella Urvan Noll who died 25+ years ago in August 1984 at the age of 60.

    As I looked at the pictures and read your tribute, so many wonderful memories came back to me about Uncle John and put a smile on my face even though I have tears in my eyes having just learned of his death from the internet.

    One of my favorite memories was one Christmas when my family surprised him with a new pair of jeans as he had never owned a pair before. He was like a young child so excited when he opened the box that he immediately put them on and danced around the living room of his apartment with the biggest grin on his face, he was so happy and thrilled that they fit and that he was now wearing the latest in fashion. He was now our COOL HIP Uncle!

    I am so happy to learn that he had a wonderful life and family these past 20 plus years in Georgia and to also learn that you and I have something in common--we both loved him so very much.

    Please extend my deepest sympathies to your mother and your family. You are all in my prayers and thoughts at this very difficult time.

    You, my brothers Paul & Bob Jr and I were all so blessed and lucky to have had John Urvan in our lives. He was my HERO not only for his service to our country, but because he was such a gentle and loving man and lived his life with integrity and honor. He was so loved by me and I will truly miss my uncle and "second dad".

    With sympathy,

    Pamela Noll (pjn11@aol.com)

  3. What an amazing thing the internet is! This comment was so uplifting and confirming. Thank you for commenting. I had no idea where John's nieces and nephews were!