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Eulogy For My Father, Steve

5/8/1923 - 12/28/2004

    Friends, thank you for joining our family to celebrate and remember the life of my father, Steven Phillip John Dufish. 

    Steve was born in 1923 in a house in the city he loved, Los Angeles, California, the third child of Mary and Steven Senior. 

    A member of the greatest generation, Steve attended Fremont High School class of ‘42 in Los Angeles where he was a star athlete in track and field and football.  His last surviving sibling, Uncle Tony, tells me he held the city record for the 100- and 220-yard dashes, and the 440-yard relay as the anchor, a feat that stood until 10 years ago. 

    Like many in the early 1940’s, he joined the National Guard so that he could earn a little extra money.   Soon thereafter the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred and he left school at age 17 to become a sergeant in the United States Army.  Immediately he was shipped off to the South Pacific to face America’s enemies. 

    He and his small band of Army Rangers performed several Philippine beach landings and reconnaissance penetrations of enemy lines.  Along the way he earned two bronze stars, a purple heart and several combat ribbons, including the Ribbon for the Liberation of the Philippines. 

    Steve never spoke much about his war experiences.  Most of what we know is what we found when we sorted out his memorabilia chest. 

    Upon returning home from the service he pursued racing hot rods at local speedway dirt tracks with some success, but mostly for his passion in general for the automobile, especially Fords. 

    In 1952 he married my mother Alice the only way he knew how, in The Little Chapel of the West in his second favorite city in the whole world, Las Vegas, baby.  Unfortunately on that trip he lost all his money and he had to call his boss to wire him fifty bucks so they could get home. 

    In all they bore five children, the first two of whom died at birth.  His three surviving children, myself The Professor, and my two sisters Buzz Saw and Khrushchev (a.k.a. Mike, Tracey and Candy) gave him three grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Thayne, who was born mere weeks before Steve’s passing.  I might add that I have not contributed to any of these statistics. 

    Steve was also a loving stepfather to Alice’s first child, Andrea, eventually taking her three children, Richard, Mea and Tesa, into his home as his own grandchildren after her passing.  From here it’s all a blur.  I lost count of all those great-grandchildren. 

    Amidst all this chaos, his smile, laugh and humor never waned.  So as to not make the pecking order in our household difficult to comprehend, he classified you as either a big kid, a mini-kid or a micro-mini-kid and wanted to be referred to as Uncle Joe instead of grandpa if you were not part of his immediate three. 

    Managing a house full of kids never allowed him to have a hobby of his own.  Whatever any of us kids liked to do, that’s what he did; play ball, fly model airplanes, collect coins, lead the Webelos, hike in the woods, camp, ride dirt bikes, shoot guns, have dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, fish, frogs, lizards and snakes.  He would take us to the ball field, to the hobby shop, the coin shop, the pet shop and to the mountains, deserts, oceans and swamps. 

    Wherever you needed to go, he was always there to take you or pick you up.  In fact when his granddaughter Denay was going to pre-school, Grandpa was the only person she would allow to drive her there and back. 

    He was also a sort of Dad to all the kids in whichever neighborhood we lived.  Ours was always the house on the street where the neighbor kids hung out.  Some would see him drive home from work and stop by just to see, what’s up Steve?  He always took my buddies and me fishing once a week and ditto for the activities of my sisters and their friends.  I think I went fishing with someone else’s Dad maybe once. 

    He was never a great fisherman.  He seemed to mostly enjoy watching me thrill myself with a nice catch or two.  One time he hooked a barracuda from the harbor rocks while using a lightweight spin-cast trout outfit.  The fish somehow pulled him in and all you saw for a few seconds was a hand above the water trying to save his watch and his beer!  In fishing lingo we refer to this stunt as the ol’ Statue of Liberty play. 

  Things changed in his old age.  A few times when he was in his seventies he caught more than me and even hiked to a 10,000-foot lake in the Sierra, catching a golden trout before I cast a line. 

    After he left military service he vowed to never pitch a tent again.  He caved in on that one after he realized how much Mom and the kids enjoyed the camp life.  We ended up spending all our vacations on camping adventures throughout California and the Southwest, except when we visited Las Vegas.  He always earned enough at the craps table to afford us a nice motel room and souvenirs for all. 

    When our week was over and it was time to head home, he would always have us kids pick up all the bits of litter around our campsite – even that of other campers – a tradition we still practice today. 

    Come to think of it he did have one hobby of his own he enjoyed sharing with us; cards.  He taught us kids the finer points of poker, blackjack and gin rummy.  My friends, sisters and I would spend hours on Friday nights trying to beat him out of his pennies.  However, most of our efforts in this endeavor were rather futile. 

    I remember growing up I would run errands with my Dad and how everywhere we went everyone seemed to know him and greet him as if he were their best friend.  I asked him why everyone likes him so much, a question to which he replied, “Son, all you have to do is be honest.”  There was never a human trait he disdained more than dishonesty.  In my life I have found this one small tip to be the basis of my own success. 

    You would think a soldier who almost single-handedly took on the Japanese Army would fear nothing.  Well, there was one small life form that made him just about faint.  Snakes – especially those with rattles.  He confronted this fear one family outing when we had a rattler pop out of the bushes in front of us.  He saw how intrepid I was around snakes, studying it a bit before proceeding to blast it to smithereens with the .22 rifle he gave me when I was 10.  Can you believe he actually cooked and ate some of it after we came home?   

    As a soldier He fought hard for his country so that his children would never have to.  He toiled laboriously daily as a Teamster and married a great cook so that we would always have the finest of meals to nourish our growing bodies.  He fought like this to the very end, through several medical difficulties the past five years, so that he could witness as much as he could of his children’s burgeoning successes and accomplishments.  That was until his restless soul alas lost its battle with an aging body. 

    There will be no one who knew him who will not miss the presence upon this earth of this true American hero.  I myself will never match his contribution to this nation or to this family no matter how hard I try or have tried. 

   Thanks, and goodbye Dad (salute to flag-draped casket).