A Tribute to James B. Arnette
Father, Brother, Friend
What a celebration last night? It was alive, full of energy, positive … just like Dad would have wanted.
Dad will always be dad to Ken and me. He will be Jim and Dad to Mom. Funny how 3 letters can mean so much?
My earliest memory was of playing in the ocean at Destin, Florida. I have no idea how old I was – maybe 3 or 4. We always left for the family vacation on Fathers Day. He always made sure we had an annual family vacation.
We were not a rich family as measured by money. But we never were wanting for anything. Dad was purposeful in taking care of his family. As I went through his papers this week I found hand –written receipts of paying for insurance polices when Ken and I were 5 years old – 13 cents a week!
Dad loved much in life but his favorites were: his military service, his family, his work, his country, his God.
Dad was devoted to our family. He personified the American dream: To make a life better for your children than for yourself. He insisted on paying for our college educations, something he never achieved. He was thoughtful in his teaching: science, politics and more.
His proudest moments were when Ken and Alan graduated from the University of Memphis and Ken went on to earn his PhD’s.
I can clearly remember standing in the front yard watching for satellites on cold nights. He would stand out there for what seemed like hours, binoculars in hand, waiting for the moving dot to appear. Passing the time he would point out constellations and tells us the history of their names. Then he would make the announcement and hand the binos to Ken and I – a satellite had been spotted!
Dad’s work at The Home was more than a job. It was a calling. I met several of the Kings daughters last night – thank you for supporting him all these years. I can remember walking the halls with him at a young age and seeing the residents reach out to him. He always stopped and spoke gently, kindly and with love to each one. He interacted with the staff the same way. He always had time. Yes he had to run a business, but it was the business of life.
Every Christmas, for a few years, he came face to face with Fame. Elvis that is. A little know fact is that Elvis was quite generous with his money. Each Christmas he would donate money to worthy causes. The Home was one of these. Elvis would arrive and hand a check to Dad near Christmas Eve.
Dad was a devoted Republican. Now I know you are not supposed to talk about politics but… As I went through his papers he had more letters from Elizabeth Dole than from the IRS! We loved to debate world affairs. I will never forget a prank call I did on him during the height of the Clinton problems:
“Mr. Arnette?” I said in a muffled voice. “Who’s calling?” he said in his normal gruff style. “I am calling on behalf of the reelect President Clinton campaign and I know I can count on your donation….” CLICK!! He hung up on me! It took me four more calls to get him to answer the phone and then we had a great laugh!
Dad loved remembering the War. I am not sure if it was the camaraderie with his fellow soldiers or the cause for which he fought – probably both. My wife Cathy and I were extremely fortunate to take Dad and Mom to Normandy in 1998. We walked Omaha Beach together and looked upon the German guns on the embankments. We visited the American cemetery where he found his platoon leader. In the museum, a young British man approach Dad. He paused and quietly asked “Were you here?” “Yes.” My father answered. The man extended his hand and simply said “thank you”. “You are welcome” replied my Dad. Enough said.
It is hard to talk about our Father and not our Mother – a more unselfish person does not exist. Mom was our rock. Dad had many health problems in his life but Mom was always there to hold things together. A strong and intelligent person in her own right, she chose family over all other things and for that we are grateful. Remember just snap your fingers and we will be there. God bless you Mom. Thank you.
So, how does a Son remember his Father?
With stories, in a blink, with love.