Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 9, 1912

*It was a Tuesday.
*The U.S. Marines invaded Honduras.
*Rudolph Steiner Was in Munich, and gave a Lecture, "Esoteric Studies, Cosmic Ego and Human Ego".
*Colonel Theodore Roosevelt announced that he would run for president if asked.
*Sometime during that month, sixteen wooden lifeboats, along with four collapsible canvas-sided boats, were fitted on board the Titanic.
*At 4pm, at home, 2429 East 23rd St., in Oakland, Ca, my father was born. My grandmother was 27 years old, my grandfather was just two months shy of 30. On the birth certificate my Grandmother's maiden name was misspelled.

He was baptized on June 12th of that year at All Soul’s Episcopal Church (Chapel?) in Berkeley, California, with his mother's maiden name as his middle name, though this was dropped after his sister was born ten years later. Why exactly we don't know for sure, but a note by his father in the Family Bible says he dropped the middle name when he was 12 years old and "...has thereafter been known as John Lansdale Jr." He attended Virginia Military Institute, where he was a boxer (lightweight). After graduation he attended Law School, at which time he applied for a Rhodes scholarship, and was a finalist, but missed the last cut. He scored a 90 on the Ohio Bar exam in 1937, the highest score of the 404 who sat for the test. During World War II, when he was barely thirty, he was responsible for keeping the secret that ended the war. No pressure there...

It's the centennial of my father's birth. All that stuff I just told you about happened before I was born. Here's what I personally remember. The smell of his cheek when he would lean waay down to kiss me when he came home from work.

 I remember his cheek as being a little cold, from those snowy Cleveland winters, and a little scratchy, as it was the end of a work day. I remember sitting on his lap, while he read poetry to me... Specifically, Wynekn, Blynken, and Nod one night Sailed off in a wooden shoe...*

He liked to watch "Perry Mason" and "Harrigan & Harrigan" on Television, shows about lawyers, of course.

He loved to garden. He had a suburban "farm" and we ate fresh corn, tomatoes, squash, even potatoes from it all summer long. As a small child, I would go for "walks" with him through the garden in the early summer evenings after dinner and we would chat amiably about whatever it is a grown man and a small child chat about.

When he was in his late 40s, he built a small "wine cellar" in the basement. Okay, it was a closet under the stairs, but he was proud of it. He staged elaborate wine tastings at the dinner table. I remember hearing the phrase " a very good year".

He admired Winston Churchill for pursuing his love of painting, and himself began painting in oils in the mid 1960s. He took a mail order course, and he would ask teenaged me to critique is work. He was prolific enough that after his death, there were enough paintings for each of us five children to own several. I love that I have my father's painting of the Grand Traverse Bay that he did one summer when he and I drove up to visit Interlochen, Michigan, where I attended Music Camp.

He took thousands of slides. He photographed his life, his children, his travels with my mother. Sadly, few are of him, as he was the photographer.

I remember him asking "What did you learn at school today?", or saying, "today is the Vernal Equinox, be sure to tell your teacher"; "you live in the greatest country in the world. You can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want to do."

I also remember him saying, "a college education is important, your husband might die."

The man had a stone ear, but he loved music. He loved "The Mitch Miller Show" where we followed the bouncing ball. He loved Barber Shop quartets and bagpipe music.

He loved technology; he was the first on his block to have a color T.V. and a Stereo. He wrote love poems to my mother, and songs, composed to the tune of "The Old Mill Stream", or "The Banks of the Wabash" for a social organization of lawyers in Cleveland of which he was a member, that put on an annual topical play each year.  Towards the end of his life, he would travel from his home in Maryland, to Cleveland, just for these events.

He loved to drive fast. He loved cars. He had a Triumph TR-3, and then another one after a thief temporarily broke his heart by stealing the first. Riding in that car, top down, in the rain, he would say, "Don't worry, once we're moving along, you won't get wet". Sometimes he was right, but I also remember hunching down under a half zipped tonneau in a rainstorm. When driving, he wore a joyful red beret.

In his fifties, he started to run. I have written about this previously, but he is still my inspiration for healthy exercise to this day.

He was a man who loved his life. He loved his wife, his five daughters. He loved his work, the practice of law.

He approached every aspect of his life with serious Joy. Today he would have been a hundred years old, had he lived, and I still miss him every day.

*you can find the full text here:
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Location:Omaha, NE


  1. Lovely. Thanks for sharing this.


  2. Yes, I miss him too.

  3. I spent many wonderful days in his house. One of his daughters was my best friend. I watched the library grow from very few books to many and I was privileged to drive the TR-3. Many wonderful memories of a wonderful person.