• Eulogy for Elmer

    • Posted on Mar 16, 2008

    3-16-08

    My dad Elmer lived five years shy of twice as long as my mother. Beany, as everyone called her, died when I was twenty.  Dad was fifty, and he lived forty-five years longer, until early morning last Monday.

    In that forty-five years he remarried, changed jobs, retired, traveled, and most of all became a role model as a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, and friend. To everyone who knew him in one or another of these roles, he served almost as an ideal. Or at least that’s how it seems to me now, looking back on  six and a half decades as his son.

    Until my mother died he and I weren’t all that close.  He tended to be the reinforcer of her threats, as well as the distant, busy working man that so many fathers become to their younger children.  He lectured me on my sometimes unruly temper, and usually didn’t miss a chance to remind me about my general klutziness. 

    After Beany’s death we began to spend more time together.  He transformed into quite a different man, especially after he married Jane, our family’s longtime friend and his second love.  He became just plain fun, generous with his time, completely non-judgmental, and breathtakingly good-natured and optimistic.

    Over the years when he began to get down, he would mutter out loud,  ‘I’ve got to get my mind right” and sooner rather than later, he found a brighter side. He developed a mental habit of seeing goodness and humor everywhere. That’s a prescription every doctor would support, and probably one of the reasons he lived so long.

    He didn’t pursue happiness; he found it, in his friends, his cards, his jokes and joshing, which were almost constant, and his kindnesses to everyone.  As his neighbor Les Huth told me, he was the class act in our family. 

    Though he could never replace my mother, he made a world-class father.

    Ten days ago I woke him from one of his many naps, and I asked if he had been dreaming.  No, he said, but he had been thinking.  “What about?” I asked, wondering if he had caught a glimpse of an approaching light.  “I’m thinking what a great family I have,” he said. 

    And I was thinking about what a great father I had. We had grown into a mutual appreciation society, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

    Now, one of the many passions he bequeathed:  His love of music, and he and my mom encouraged me to sing and play almost before I could walk.  From my dad’s example, I learned to sing harmonies almost as effortlessly as he did.

    Angeleita and I sang this simple old folk song, not for him, but WITH him, last Saturday afternoon, a day and a half before he died.

    I’d like to ask my long-suffering family to join me in singing it today—from the back page of the program.  ("Down in the Valley")

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    • Death
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • Epitaph for Elmer Cawelti

    • Posted on Mar 01, 2008

    03/01/08

    My dad Elmer lived five years shy of twice as long as my mother. Beany, as everyone called her, died when I was twenty, and my dad was fifty, and he lived forty-five years longer, until early morning last Monday.

    In that forty-five years he remarried, changed jobs, retired, traveled, and most of all became a role model as a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, and friend. To everyone who knew him in one or another of these roles, he served almost as an ideal. Or at least that’s how it seems to me now, having known him for six and half decades. 

    Until my mother died he and I weren’t all that close.  He tended to be the reinforcer of her threats, as well as the distant, busy working man that so many fathers become to their younger children.  He lectured me on my sometimes unruly temper, and usually didn’t miss a chance to berate me about my general klutziness. 

    After Beany’s death, though, we began to spend more time together.  He transformed into quite a different man, especially after he married Jane, our family’s longtime friend and his second love.  He became, well, just plain fun, generous with his time, completely non-judgmental, and breathtakingly good-natured and optimistic.

    When he began to get down, he would mutter out loud,  ‘I’ve got to get my mind right” and sooner rather than later, he found a brighter side. He actually developed a mental habit of seeing goodness and humor everywhere. That’s a prescription every doctor would support, and probably one of the reasons he lived so long.

    He didn’t pursue happiness; he found it, in his friends, his cards, his jokes and joshing, which were almost constant, and his kindnesses to everyone.  As his neighbor Les Huth told me, he was the class act in our family. 

    Though I felt sorry for myself when my mom died, realizing that she would never see my children, my years and years of friendship with Dad has almost made up for it. Though he could never replace a mother, he made a world-class father.

     When I came into his room last weekend, I woke him from one of his many naps, and I asked if he had been dreaming.  He hadn’t been dreaming, he said, but thinking.  “What about?” I asked, wondering if he had caught a glimpse of an approaching light.  “I’m thinking about what a great family I have,” he said. 

    We had become a mutual appreciation society, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

    Now, one of the many passions he bequeathed to me was a love of music, and he and my mom encouraged me to sing and play almost before I could walk.  From my dad’s example, I learned to love music, and to sing harmonies almost as effortlessly as he did.

             Angeleita and I sang this simple old folk song, not for him, but WITH him, last Saturday afternoon, 36 hours before he died.

    DOWN IN THE VALLEY 

    Down in the Valley, the valley so low.
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.
    Hear the wind blow love, oh hear the wind blow,
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

    Dad sang those old folk tunes, and whistled so well,
    His harmonies echoed, gave hearers a thrill. 
    The best words were spoken, by a neighbor so wise,
    He knew Elmer’s presence made everyone high.

    He said it and meant it, and now it’s a fact.
    No doubt about it, you’re dad’s a class act.
    Down in the valley, the valley so low
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow. 

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    Posted in
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Death
    • Personalities
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.

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