Eulogy delivered at St. Martha’s Church Philadelphia December 27, 2013.
A good 30 years or so ago there was a Saturday Night Live skit involving a church organist who failed to show for a funeral. “Don’t worry said the priest I have a really good replacement, she plays at Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers games.”
Sure enough she starts playing and she was good but it was only a matter of moments before the solemn liturgical strain morphed into dent-dent-dent-deh (imitating the organ notes overheard at arenas leading up to the crowd yelling CHARGE.)
My father loved that skit, I remember him at the time laughing and saying “that’s what I want!”
He wanted a celebration, so on behalf of my family I thank you for coming here to celebrate with us.
My Dad was an accountant, a numbers guy, so here are the numbers:
85: years of life
59: years of marriage
40: years with Philadelphia Electric
25: years as financial secretary for the Holmesburg Knights of Columbus
24: years of retirement and saying to waitresses “take your time, I have the rest of the year off.”
10: beautiful grandchildren
5: even more beautiful children
2: artificial hips
1: partner for life and
1: heck of a life.
Francis Kosich was born on April 12, 1928, the youngest of John & Rose Kosich’s eight children and the first to be born in a hospital.
He had five older brothers (John, Eddie, Joe, Albert who died at a few years of age and Larry) and two older sisters Aunt Marge and Aunt Sis, sisters he would go to his grave insisting were adopted.
They all passed before him which eliminated one dilemma for my father, he always said if he went before Aunt Marge he couldn’t be buried on a Thursday because of her standing hair dressers appointment.
Together they were raised in a small rowhome on Sepviva Street in St. Ann’s.
Ah St. Ann’s, there were many things that defined my father St. Ann’s was definitely one of them as was his choice of high schools; Roman Catholic, the first Catholic high school in America he would proudly tell people reminding them that their Catholic high school was merely an annex of Roman.
He was allowed to finish high school then went off to serve in the Navy and after several years came back to Philadelphia, started work at Philadelphia Electric and met the girl of his dreams.
She was a foreigner – Irish; from another part of the world – Olney. To this day I still don’t know how the two of you met, I just know the one fact that my father always happily shared… “I met her in a tap room.”
(this is the video made for my parents 40th Anniversary in 1994)
On September 25, 1954 Francis Kosich and Teresa O’Neill were married in St. Helena’s Church and settled in St. Bernard’s in Mayfair on Marple Street where over the next eleven years they would welcome five children into the world.
After the fifth came along it was time for the family to venture north to the vast wilderness that was the Far Northeast, settling just beyond the back field here on Byrne Road long before this place (St. Martha’s) was ever built.
They were one of the founding families of this parish. In fact the tabernacle that used to sit on the Blessed Mother’s side – or the Chalfont side as we called it here – they donated and inside they had inscribed the names of their parents our grandparents.
It was in this church my father would serve for decades as an usher, it was in this church he would watch his three boys serve as altar boys and it was in this church he would walk his two daughters down this very aisle to this altar. So it is only fitting that we gather here to bid him farewell.
There are many common threads that weaved their way through the fabric of my father’s life none more prominent than the Knights of Columbus. The friends my parents made at the Holmesburg Council were friends for life and in many ways part of our extended family. The Rietzens, the Greens, the Quinns, Martins, McElroys to name a few.
They’re all gone now. Somehow I got to believe there is one heck of a reunion going on up there right now with a lot of Manhattans flowing.
Ah the Manhattan, another common thread through my father’s life… “Grandpop’s medicine” he would call it. You can’t tell because of the pall, the liturgical cloth, but the coffin my father is being buried in is Manhattan in color.
Humor was another thread, we inherited a lot of things from our father, unfortunately for the rest of you his sense of humor was one of them. It’s somewhat fitting Dad and Cozy Morley would die within a few months of each other.
My father would be the first to tell us though, “parents are hard to raise.”
There was a learning curve, the father I knew and the one my older siblings knew were in many ways different.
Encouragement from Dad often came in quiet forms and so it was when I chose to pursue a career in a field where few people who graduate from college are able to find jobs, he didn’t stand in my way but left me to find my way and helped me along the way.
Like when I got my internship out at Channel 6, three nights a week I would take two buses and the el, an hour and 45 minutes one way to get out to City Line Avenue but when I was done each night at 11 it was his car in the parking lot waiting to pick me up even though he himself had to get up for work at 4:30 a.m.
He impacted all of us in little ways.
Terrie: Tessie Fitzy, mother of Ry-guy – pumpernickle, you inherited Dad’s sense of numbers and you like he followed a different and sometimes difficult path to higher education achieving success at a level he so greatly respected.
So much so that you were the only one this keeper of books would trust with his.
Franny: the Colonel, the son whose height ranged from 6’4″ to 7’2″ depending on who Dad was talking to.
I want to read something you wrote in a newsletter when you were a commander in Korea.
“I’m reminded of something my father said to me right before I came into the Army ‘just remember nobody owes you a living’ he said and he was right. Success and credibility are earned and if you don’t like your lot in life do something to improve it.”
Then you went on to write how you have drawn upon those words so often in life.
Joe: the middle child, the one who pushed buttons we didn’t know Dad had and yet you were the only one Dad ever trusted with one of his cars.
I believe he saw in you the unbridled potential that you harnessed and realized well beyond his high expectations.
Mary: “Kiss the day goodbye” (sung), so great to see you. Dad always said his funeral procession would have to swing by the house because Mary wouldn’t be ready.
You inherited the personal side of Dad. The side of the man who could sit and talk with anyone, anywhere, whether he knew them or not.
He had the ability to make strangers feel welcome. That’s you.
Dad loved all his children and grandchildren but he only carried one picture in his wallet, it was of his Pride and Joy… no literally it was Pride and Joy. Pride furniture wax and Joy dishwashing liquid.
It was his way of getting a cheap laugh but it was also his way of saying i’m proud of all my kids and grandkids and there’s no sense in showing you one picture if I can’t show you them all.
I’d like to close with a conversation I had with my Dad in September of 1985. It was the day my grandmother O’Neill passed away, my Mom had just received the call and my father and I were standing on the back deck overlooking the fields of Ryan.
Dad turned to me and he said “John, I want you to know one thing, if the good Lord takes me today he cheated me out of nothing.”
That was 28 years ago. It’s a conversation I have taken great solace in this past week and we all can going forward.
His body is gone but he lives on through his children and grandchildren and all of you.
He lives on every time we tell a bad joke or an occasional good one.
He lives on every time I drink a Manhattan.
He lives on every time we as parents and eventually grandparents pull out this, the Snoopy tickler or maybe one day tell them call me Pop.
He lives on every time we simply wave to a friend or take just a second to say hello to a stranger.
He knew that. He was tired, he was ready to go but he could leave safe with the knowledge that he will never truly be gone and through all of us he never will.