Sunday, July 10, 2011


Several people who couldn't be at the service on Saturday for my dad have asked about the eulogy my sister and I wrote and gave. I've decided to post it on my blog in hopes that those who read it will be just as inspired by my dad as my sister and I have been. Love you, Dad.

(Paragraphs 1 & 3 - Katy; Paragraphs 2 & 4 - Keri)

One day last week, Keri and I went to sit with Dad for a while before we went for a walk. During those days, Dad didn’t do much of the talking. We did most of it, and Dad listened or drifted in and out of sleep. We talked to him about anything and everything, and told him again and again how much we loved him. As we were leaving the room that particular day, he woke up long enough to tell us to have fun on our walk, and then as he drifted to sleep, he said out of the blue, “You’ll figure it out.” We really had no idea where this advice came from, but when Dad gives advice, you stop and listen because it’s always worth hearing. On our walk, we found ourselves discussing our lives and the situation and believe it or not kept coming back to the phrase, “We’ll figure it out.” We knew that this short, powerful bit of advice would help us get through the days to come and would continue to influence us for the rest of our lives. So, that said, we each did our best to figure out some words that we hope will paint a picture of the amazing person our dad was.

Since the moment I can first remember, I have always been so immensely proud to be Ken Walkowiak’s daughter. From swim meets where Dad would high five and cheer for my friends to homecoming when he walked me across that football field and threw in a few of his signature dance moves to coming to every single one of my field hockey games – home and away – , my dad was always my biggest supporter. I loved that my dad was my soccer and basketball coach, and although he knew little about either sport and I wasn’t exactly the star athlete, he was happy because I was having fun and he was there to experience it. As many of my family members and friends can attest to, my dad was often the most fun adult in the room. He was known for making up silly games and songs, snapping his fingers in your face, quoting funny movies, and infamously winning every boardwalk game he played. The times Dad got angry were few and far between but always involved some sort of property damage like the time we slammed our bodies into the basement door not realizing it was dead bolted and ripped the door from it’s frame. Opposite of many teenagers these days, I actually wanted my friends to meet my dad. Always immaculately dressed, smelling good, and up-to-date with the current music, Dad could talk to anyone. He’d also hand out coupons for free Ken’s salad dressing and BBQ sauce to my friends, which made him even more awesome. He loved to make other people smile and could either be the life of the party or a man of few words – both of which were equally special depending on the occasion. As I moved into adulthood, Dad guided me with big decisions, told me never to settle, and wrapped his loving arms around Angus and Calvin. During his battle with cancer, the pride I had for my dad soared above anything I’d ever felt. I have learned so much from the man my father was, and I know that there’s something about the relationship between a father and his daughter that even time can’t change. I will always call my dad, Ken Walkowiak, my hero and inspiration and always be so proud to be his daughter.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has been to me an example of strength and unconditional love. When I close my eyes I see my dad - my strong, gentle, funny, loving dad. I can still feel his affectionate hugs and hear his phone voice that seemed to be special just for me, his little girl. As I think back to all of the times he comforted me in my most fearful moments I realize that I never should have been afraid because my dad’s love for me never failed. The first time I got on the Super Dooper Looper and burst into tears at the top telling my dad I wanted to go back, he laughed, put his arm around me and told me it was going to be ok. We hit the loop and my tears turned into laughter as I rode the rest of the way safe under his arm. When I was too afraid to go beyond ankle deep in the ocean, dad would get the flimsy blue raft we got for free at one of his food shows and tell me to hold on. I vividly remember fearing for my life as those deadly waves charged at us, but soon enough the waves stopped breaking and instead, they became rounded and smooth. I remember looking over at my dad seeing his smile and hearing his reassuring laughter, and I knew that with my dad I was always safe. His protective grasp never once left me as we floated there together and I felt such peace and pure happiness because together, we defeated fear. My dad has always been my rock. He’s been the one I look to for advice and comfort as well as his simple but profound words of love and guidance. He loved so purely and so selflessly, and because of that he made me the person I am today. He is still showing me who I want to strive to become, and has inspired Mike and me to love our children the way dad loved us. What he went through in the last six months during his battle with cancer is more than any one person should ever have to handle, yet he fought his incredible heart out every step of the way. When I first arrived in CT after spending the last two months at home helping my parents, Dad called me from the hospital and said, “I miss my little roommate!” I felt so honored and blessed to be able to return the feeling of comfort and safety to my dad during his greatest moments of fear. Although he was very scared, he faced every challenge with such bravery and grace. He demonstrated the most extraordinary strength, will, determination, and courageousness that I have ever witnessed before in my life. My dad is still teaching me every day what it means to love, to be love, and to live love.

Last summer around this time, our family spent a week together in Colorado. One morning, Dad, Mom, Katy and I took a walk together on a trail that runs by my house and provides a good view of the mountains. I remember thinking that it was the first time in a while that it was just the four of us together. Maybe that’s why it sticks out in our minds so much, but I think it’s also because Dad was so full of life that day. So positive and hopeful about the future. Toward the end of the walk, we passed by a large open field. Hundreds of geese were gathered in the field, and more were flying together overhead. Dad stopped at that moment, hands on his hips in his cute matching Adidas workout clothes, and stared at the sky in silence. As we all stopped in our tracks as well, Dad shook his head in awe saying, “It’s just amazing how they all fly together and know just where to go year after year.” We stood there for a while watching the geese land in groups and laughing at the stragglers being wrangled in by the leaders. None of us knew how they did it, but they stuck together and just seemed to know what to do. To some extent, all of our lives are going to be different without Kenny, our dad, here. But, above anything else, he would want us all to “be OK.” Sticking together, we’ll all do our best to move forward and keep his memory alive, and when we falter, we’ll just hold on to the belief that we’ll figure it out.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just speechless. You and Katy did an amazing job on this. Your dad would be so honored. xoxo