Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eulogy for Dad - July 16, 2011

Aloha ke akua - go with God.

We are here to celebrate the life and times of Billye Allen Bacon.
He was born September 21, 1929 and in his 81st year, died peacefully in his sleep during the wee hours of July 13, 2011.
Born in Ways Station Georgia, Billye was the second son of six children. His family moved to Jacksonville, Florida in his youth and there he stayed, harvesting crops in the summer months, until he joined the Merchant Marines at the tender age of fourteen.

What tales he told of those years – eating locust stew in the Egyptian desert, cutting his teeth and apron strings in the lands across the Atlantic. Swabbing the decks with negroes proved to be a pivotal point for the young man steeped in the traditions and deep prejudices of the deep south. Breaking the color barrier allowed an exotic, Chinese girl to enter his life, his heart, to make a home, and raise a family.
Billye and Jane were married on March 10th, 1950. Their first child Gina was born in 1954; Lori and Mace followed at 20-month intervals. The early years of child rearing were busy with three little ones and numerous deployments by the US Navy.

Billye rose through the ranks in computer technologies. Computers, in the late 50’s, were housed in a single trailer. By the mid-60’s, the computers of the Central Pacific Fleet Command occupied a 3-story building just blocks from Pearl Harbor’s Makalapa Gate.
The buildings innards were cooled for computers fed on punch cards with tapes that spooled like old movie film, from one large reel to another. At Christmas he brought home 30-foot banners that wrapped the walls of our classrooms with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer.
“Computers,” he said, “Go into computers, it’s the wave of the future.” We did not heed his words though our contemporaries who shared his vision are household words: the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

He retired from the Navy and bypassed an opportunity with IBM in its infancy. He balked at their dress code: suits, ties, he was done with uniforms. He resumed his Navy position as a civil servant to become a double-dipper and thusly insured his financial security with two federal pensions. He worked the swing shift for many, many years, missing his daughter’s earn the state track championship and his son’s swimming meets.

I remember learning to swim before I entered grade school and yelling through my snorkel as I watched him pluck longooster, a soft-shelled lobster, from beneath a rock shelf. He took us on day-hikes and imbued us with his love for the natural world. I remember opening my first checking and savings accounts and presenting him with my first Dole pineapple paycheck, to have him teach me its appropriation – 10% to savings, 10% to tithe, and living on its remainder. He taught practical life-skills that I use to this day.
Eventually all his children earned college degrees, which was a great source of pride for him. Grandchildren ensued and he crawled on the floor with them. Papa gave piggyback rides and spent time in their world - so close to the ground.
He retired a second and final time to our family home at the base of the Koolau mountains… where life assumed a slower pace. He became a ranger in Ho’omaluhia state park, giving docent tours of flora and fauna and guided moonlight walks.

Eyes on the future, Mom & Dad sold the family home and relocated to the edge of Chinatown: along the bus-line, closer to church and family. It is here where his last years were spent perched high over Honolulu, its ocean, harbors, and mountains a constant source of stimulation and beauty.
His last dog was named BB, “BB for Billye Bacon,” he said with a grin and pulsing eyebrows. He was often seen beneath his faded green ball-cap, walking BB until she too was gone.

Alzhemier’s disease stole his mind and who-he-was faded long before his body tired and heart failed. Billye is gone now, survived by his wife of 61 years Jane, two surviving children Gina & Lori, grandchildren: Lael, Nicholas, and Collin, and great grandchild Davin.
By any measure his life was well spent. He was a man who honored his word, a stolid and solid provider, with a kind and generous heart, beneath a crusty sailor’s cap.

Malama pono Dad, take care. Job well done. Aloha ke akua - go with God. And to the living I charge: grieve not for he is earthbound no more.