Edward F Kozub
A Tribute from your Children
You are a special person to a great many people. You probably did not even realize the kind of affect you have had on so many peoples lives over the years until something like what youve been through inspires well-wishers to come forward and share their innermost thoughts. You have been a dear husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, uncle, friend, employer, business associate, customer, vendor, client, neighbor, coach, team mate, confidant and parishioner to name a few. We know of countless friends and admirers from each of these connections that formed the web of your life whom have shared the profound impact you have had on them. You have been a bright beacon that stands for virtuous living, standing strong for what is really important in life... family, integrity and the recognition that it is Gods will to do good with the talents He has given us.
Dad, many of us gathered here in your memory could provide testimony regarding how special you were in their lives. They could provide countless examples of how your strong moral compass helped them navigate the stormy seas of lifes ups and downs. They each could describe how your unique blend of honesty, responsibility, and your genuine interest, compassion, fairness, and down-to-earth sense of humor made a difference in their lives. All of us will feel your loss in countless ways.
All of us gathered here today are coping with a very complicated set of feelings that marry the joy and pride of having known you with the pain that comes with the reality that you are gone for a short while. For those of us here this morning that are strong in faith, we have no doubt that this loss is only temporary. We know where you are right now. You are in Gods Heavenly Kingdom celebrating your wonderful, virtuous life along with our ancestors who have watched you over the years with great pride and happiness. You are now free from the pain and torment of the terrible disease that turned our lives upside down and inside out. You are in a place where peace, love and joy far surpass the best our world has to offer, and you deserve every last bit of it!
Dad, even though there are so many of your fans here this morning, this tribute is about how special you are to us, your children. By sharing a few details about how you helped to shape us, we will likely strike chords with all present today on how you helped influence them as well.
Dad, you are the best father we ever could have asked for. We thank God for giving you to us. Yet now, we all suffer an inexpressible feeling of loss and sadness. Our hope is that now that you are in a place where you can see and hear us clearly... where you possess all the wisdom of the ages, and you now understand Gods plan and your place in it... Perhaps, in time, you can help us to make sense of it all too.
But this day and this mass are for celebrating your life and your legacy. For it is your children that will live our remaining years with your memory and your example.
Today is the first day of the rest of our lives where we will each build a bonfire full of your memories to fill and warm the cold void in our hearts that represents your loss. Just as you loved to split and collect firewood in advance of winter, you have provided each of us with mountains of memories and fatherly wisdom from which we can draw to keep our bonfires blazing, getting us through the year-round emotional winter we are about to face without you.
We hope you dont mind if we take a few minutes to honor what makes you a very dear and special father. In life you never permitted yourself to be the center of attention. It is only in your death that we are permitted to share a small fraction of our strong feelings of gratitude we each hold dear in our hearts. It is only at this Holy celebration of your life and reunion with your Lord and Savior that we can attempt to convey how your values, virtues and spirit will live through us.
Dad, before you get too upset from your catbird seat in Heaven, let us acknowledge up-front that your wife has had as big an impact upon us as you have. She has been your partner and you hers in the success of raising five children who were equipped with every value, virtue, moral standard and advantage necessary to carry the torch of principled adulthood and parenting into the next Kozub generation. We can hear you now reminding us that without moms support and her own commitment toward, and skills in, parenting, many of the things for which we are now acknowledging you would not be possible. We all know that.
Dad, let us also be the first, in your honor, as you would at this time if you could do so yourself, to acknowledge your wifes heroic sacrifice on your behalf over these past three years. She gave up everything to rally to your cause. Her devotion to you in your time of need was so immense, that to describe it would be beyond belief for anyone who was not there to see what she undertook every day since the moment she learned of your illness. She became your 24-hour a day doctor, nurse, research director, cook, maid, spiritual advisor, coach, cheerleader, friend, confidant and even your whipping post! In good times and in bad she never lost her faith in God or her contagious optimism that there would be a way to beat the odds. This lifted you and all of us to a higher set of possibilities. Your children credit their mother (and of course God) for the extraordinary "extra time" you had with us on earth.
In the terrible struggle of your last six weeks she amazed even those of us who know and admire her faith, fortitude, intelligence and devotion to put forth what can only be called a super-human effort. She went into hyperdrive to ensure your every need be attended to. We cant tell you how many of the wonderful health care professionals at Bay State Medical Center have commented about what an extraordinary woman your wife is. They had never seen anything like it. She was an inspiration for them.
In her unadulterated love for you throughout your illness, your beautiful wife went way beyond Gods expectations in the vows of matrimony to become the definition of pure love. With unselfish compassion, mom brought a little bit of heaven down to earth.
Dad, we know you would want this said. While we cant begin to be able to express it as eloquently as you would, we hope we have adequately conveyed the feelings of deep gratitude for your wife that are in your heavenly heart.
Now Dad, please permit us to put the spotlight on you and you alone just this once.
Dad, you have always enjoyed a father-child relationship with each of us that was a true, pure friendship. You somehow found a way to raise us as both our friend while also remaining our leader. We are very thankful that you had this special talent. You have proven to us that one can lead with compassion in both parenting and in life.
Dad, throughout our lives you have demonstrated by your actions how to behave as a leader and a loving, providing, and nurturing father. You led the way for us. Your extraordinary work ethic, prudence, humility, generosity, and, most importantly your integrity, have always made it easy for us to know the right thing to do. Not that we always followed your example. But you were there to pick us up, help us understand our errors, and set us off on the right course. For those of us who have been blessed with children, one of the main reasons we are so comfortable and enjoy our role as parents so much is because you demonstrated the great joys and rewards that parenthood can bring. So, you see, we have a lot to be thankful for as we celebrate your life and, now, your reunion with God.
We also have quite a bit to reflect on. Wed like to share just a few specific thoughts on how Gods gift of your fatherhood has shaped our lives. Again, we feel strongly that these special qualities we are about to describe will resonate with many sitting here today in the similar way you may have touched them.Dad, you taught us well and we know the lessons will stay with us forever. Your guidance taught us about responsibility and can be broken into four basic values:
While there were many more elements to the legacy you leave on our lives, these are the ones your children would like to recognize on this special day.
Perhaps the greatest gift you provided to help us learn the basics of social behavior was your encouragement and support of our athleticism. You provided each of us with the encouragement and direction to step into one of the greatest experiences your children could enjoy... athletics. In fact, your appreciation for the importance of athletics was so strong, you requested donations be made in your memory in lieu of flowers to the Saint Catherines Athletics program whose beautiful athletic fields behind this church provide shelter for the children of this parish and the 16-Acres neighborhood.
You always taught us to compete hard, yet with fairness and intelligence. Because this special gift was so profound and meaningful, let us delve into it in more detail. Of those early years, John and I have such warm and proud memories of your introducing us to the game of ice hockey. You gave so unselfishly of your time (and scarce financial resources!!). We took it all for granted back then. It is only now, as we have children of our own, and the conflicting pressures of managing careers and households, that we come to understand the selflessness of your actions during the "hockey era". It did not stop at coaching. We cherish the fruits of your backbreaking project of clearing the Westwood Drive back yard of trees, stumps and roots, by hand no less, to level it for the hockey rink. The neighbors must have thought you were nuts! Think of the dozens of midnight "sprayings" you applied in below-zero temperatures... how many times you came through the back door covered head-to-toe with a half inch of ice. And, as a result, you provided something that was better than Disneyland for your first two children in our very own back yard.
You then nurtured the athletic skills in Lynn, your daughter. Due to your unending support she turned out to be more like you athletically than your first two sons. For it was Lynn, and only Lynn, who would become the 3-letter "person", living up to your own athletic accomplishments in high school and college. You encouraged her and taught her to play the games she liked with as much vigor as you had with your first two sons. You were her greatest coach, trainer and fan.
When David and Paul came around, their games were different. For them, basketball would become one of their athletic passions. It became yours too. And you were there to help them develop a competitive edge with fairness. John and I saw you find the same level of passion for their games that you had for ours. You did this despite the fact that you never played or showed an interest in hoops before David and Paul chose the game as their own. It is testimony to your unselfish conviction of providing the best fathering for your children.
All of us credit your support, encouragement, and guidance in our athletics for making us who we are today. As a result, we were well prepared for the realities of adult life with qualities like perseverance, teamwork, fairness, competitiveness, determination, and the responsibility to be humble winners and classy losers. Thank You.
Fiscal Responsibility & Entrepreneurial Values
You also provided us with a keen appreciation for prudence, fiscal responsibility, and the entrepreneurial spirit. One of the first responsibilities you taught at an early age was to appreciate the value of a dollar. You taught us the importance of earning our spending money. Even as the familys standard of living increased with the success of your business, handouts were never automatic. We were taught that money never grew on trees and that fiscal discipline was an important part of the gift of having disposable income. Most importantly, you taught us that part of the reason for fiscal responsibility was to ensure that there must be enough for others for charitable works. You showed your thoughtful generosity throughout your life in good times and in bad.
While your family was still young you had the courage to follow your convictions and dreams, to jump off the "professional" career path and to be your own man. That first step occurred in the mid-seventies when you joined Cathy Needlecraft. The stakes high with five young and hungry mouths to feed, you believed you could provide a better life and advantages for your family. A few years later you would raise the stakes again when in 1979 you founded Janlynn. Growing up in what became an entrepreneurial household during that era, gone were many of the trappings of middle-class life. In their place were less costly replacements. But what never left was your love for, and devotion to, your role as a father. While we had less during that period, it made no difference. We had a strong family and a home filled with five crazy kids, a devoted mother catering to their every need, and a whole lotta love. Your hard work and dedication planted seeds for an entrepreneurial bug that has already taken root in your two eldest sons. Over those years and into the decade of the 80s your children saw how honest, hard work, done with integrity and respect for others...can be rewarded. Thank you Dad, for those early fiscal responsibility and business-related lessons.
There were countless examples of personal responsibility that you demonstrated over the years of our childhood. Here are just a few examples that have to do with your commitment to family. When we were very young, I was no older than 12, you gave up a very rewarding pastime in order to spend more time with your family. Turning your back on a single digit golf handicap exemplified your family commitment. So did the respect you showed for your parents and your grandparents... always making time to keep them in your familys life. When your grandparents, Babka and Dziadek, passed away you were always eager to keep the traditions alive and to vocalize their values whenever you could. You would openly demonstrate their honor and respect by bringing us periodically to the cemetery to visit their gravesites.
You included your own parents, Stan and Mary, in nearly every possible aspect of your life. Obviously, Grandma and Grandpa successfully endowed you with the strong importance of family. For you, making the time for them during weekly Sunday visits in your home was just the beginning. You also included them in your business life. Of course you turned to them and they willingly supported you, both financially and physically, in the days of your Janlynn start-up. But as the business grew you always made sure there was a place for them in your company. You also made sure you provided the time to visit with them during your hectic day at work. Which, were sure, was not an easy thing to do. Regarding leisure activities, you often included your parents in your plans. Be it occasional rounds of recreational golf, day trip getaways, vacations, or even trans-New England road trips to see your children compete.
You also opened your home to your mother-in-law, Grandma Fitz on weekends. In doing this you allowed the family to experience all the blessings of a weekend live-in grandma. While Grandma Fitz was a lovely woman and is probably sitting right next to you as you both witness this tribute on "heavens best big screen TV", lets face it, its genetically impossible for a man to spend as much time with a mother-in-law as you did. As always, your respect for family made you selfless in your personal needs and wishes. Because of the gesture of respect for your wifes mother, matriarch of the Fitzgerald family, your children were graced with the gift of a wise and caring "third parent" who has left an indelible positive mark on our lives.
You also did a wonderful job of welcoming our spouses into the family: Trish, Donna, Jim and Tara. You treated them like your own children, giving them guidance, love and support. And we know that they all have a very special place in their hearts for you and will always think of you as their Father.
But most significant of all the responsibilities you demonstrated were one of temperance and integrity. You never allowed yourself to get out of control. Ever. Be it with alcohol, anger, or ambition, you were always in control of your life. Equally important, you always acted with high integrity. We can not think of any better gifts for a father to bestow on his children than this leadership by example. Our family always had balance. It was these things and the fact that you lived them, not the old "do as I say and not as I do" bit that allowed your children to navigate the stormy waters of their march through the tough road of adolescence and adulthood. Thank you.
The next stage of life you provided was our education. I love to tell the story of your gutsy move by pulling out of Cathy Needlecraft and starting Janlynn in the fall of my senior year in high school. You knew you had five kids to send through school. Within a couple of months of taking the plunge your first child would convince you to fund a post grad year, in essence meaning 5 years of college tuition. Not too long after that you and mom chose to provide additional opportunities for John and Lynn by sending them to private school at Wilbraham & Monson. Even with a fledgling business whose future seemed to dangle by a thread, you never ever denied us any educational advantages. Yet through it all we never remember any negative comments about how depressing it must have been to drive used clunker cars and forego fancy nights on the town as you wrote the never-ending tuition checks. Not only did your (and Moms) hard work provide us with gifts that will last a lifetime, you also did so, through significant sacrifice. Thank You.
Later in the 1980s your hard work and dedication paid off. Your familys "golden age" formally began in 1986 as you and mom finally found time and resources to do something major for yourselves for the first time since your wedding in 1961. In the Spring of that year you completed construction and moved into your dream home, and what would become the "hub" for Kozubs and Fitzgeralds most every holiday. As your business began to take route and flourish in the later half of the 80s, so did your ability to do what most successful entrepreneurs do...start lavishing themselves with the material benefits of their hard work. But not you. As your business bore fruit beyond your wildest dreams, your lifestyle did not change one iota. Despite the era of the roaring 80s and 90s with its conspicuous consumption, so humble and modest were you, you did not feel comfortable flaunting your success. Instead, you made unselfish investments in your family. But, importantly, you did not allow this increased standard of living to turn materialistic. Instead, the family was able to travel, spend more leisure time together, and build a treasure chest of fond memories. Thank you.
In recent years, probably the most unselfish thing you did, having the most positive impact on this family, was to buy the summer home on Cape Cod. Moving now in this chronological depiction of your impact on our lives into the 90s, the Cape house has helped us stay together during a period in our lives when most siblings drift apart as they focus on their own personal agendas of careers and raising their families. Cotuit has been a magnet. The summer leisure-time togetherness it provided has allowed us to bond in young adulthood and unite cousins in a way we never would have. We will especially miss you on those beautiful, lazy weekend days on Loop Beach or puttering around in the yard. It is here, especially here, that your memory will resonate and your legacy of unselfish love will perpetuate. Thank you.
Dad, we can not begin to say how sorry we are that such a terrible thing had to happen to such a fine man. Given the cards you have been dealt, and the determined manner in which you have accepted them, we are proud to say that we have never seen a more courageous, dignified and outright class act. Throughout this odyssey we continued to be amazed, proud and strengthened by the courage you exhibited to endure your day-to-day physical and mental battles. This battle and the last three years of your amazing life make up the last aspect of the legacy of responsibility you leave forged in our hearts... our spiritual responsibility.
Dad, youve always recognized the existence of God and the importance of following the teachings of our Roman Catholic religion. In the early years you played a secondary role to mom in our religious upbringing. But that didnt mean you didnt complement moms teachings by providing leadership by example. You helped make the obligation of attending Sunday mass every week automatic. You even sang! Sometimes embarrassingly loud! There were never any religious inconsistencies in our household. You also showed respect and honor for the sacraments. This was especially true of the sacrament of matrimony. Your respect and honor for your wife has been an example for all your sons on how to treat a spouse with dignity and honor.
The bottom line for most of us regarding our spirituality was, no surprise, consistent with the example you lead. That is, go to church every Sunday and be a good person. Until your illness we never realized there was more to it. You didnt either.
For, until the time of your illness, you were regarded by all as a good man...the highest worldly status one can place on a person. As weve just described, you taught your children well how to become good people. What many outside the family may not realize is that you also left this world a Holy man, the highest spiritual status one can place on a person. In achieving this status over the course of the last two and a half years you have spiritually inspired your children and others who knew you well more than you will ever imagine.
On or about the eve of your illness things changed spiritually for you. And as they did for you, they did also for many of us. Throughout this health-related odyssey you have shown us how the solid faith-related foundation you have always possessed could blossom into something that is so much more meaningful. We have seen first hand the difference, (to use another athletic metaphor we know youll like), between observing from the stands and playing in the game. These last three years have shown us the most important life-long lesson you will provide...the benefits are always more profound when one participates, rather than when one watches. We saw the inner peace this proactive approach to fervent participation provided you. Many of us also witnessed the comforting gifts that only could have come from Divine Providence. They gave us proof that God was aware of your pain.
In fighting for your life, and actually losing control of your former life, you have become as much, if not more, a model for us as when you were in control and everything was clicking. For watching you renew your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and the Blessed Mother as your Intercessor has provided us all a profound wake-up call. More important than the values we noted earlier that have been the cornerstones of our never-ending efforts to become good people like you, you helped us realize it is our spiritual health that really matters. You helped us realize that life is really about getting into the big Country Club you have now just entered. You impressed upon us, not necessarily in word but in action, that life is really just a tryout. You demonstrated that life is really about following Gods word in order to win acceptance into His Kingdom. You have provided us with volumes to comprehend and emulate.
In your final years, your renewed spirituality has become a source of strength, inspiration and hope for us. And your message to trust in Jesus, practice your faith with vigor and passion, and that God is indeed alive, is an important message your children, friends and admirers should take seriously. In a final message you put on tape for your family over two years ago you spoke of the importance that we:
We are convinced your spirituality was not what the cynics would term a deathbed conversion. Lord no! You showed us over these years, when you could have been angry with God that the Lords peace provided an inner solitude that no worldly solution can offer. You never openly complained. While this illness caused incomprehensible mental and physical torment, you trusted in Gods Divine Providence. And His Divine Providence gave you inner peace. Because of all of this we know God is real. He gave you to us, and in taking you away, He woke us up to the importance of His Word.
As we struggle to find meaning in your terrible loss, we are convinced this is a spiritual wake-up call for us. We know we can never be so arrogant as to think we can figure out Gods will. If you could stand before us with the wisdom of the ages in your heart, we know youd emphasize our spiritual responsibility as most important.
Dad, all those you have touched in so many ways know you were a good man. It is your Holiness however that will be your greatest gift. Our familys faith ensures us that you have now been delivered from your earthly torment. Our faith tells us that we have traded the privilege and joy of having you in our earthly lives, for the eternal gift of now having you as a card-carrying member of the Kingdom of Heaven, working hard on our behalf to ensure we join you.
Wed like to close this tribute to you Dad by borrowing your own words. These words also come from the tape you recorded in June of 1996 to be listened to after your death. It sums up who you were, what you stood for, and who you will always be. And we know you would want all of your friends here this morning to hear the wisdom of your final days that you shared with your beloved children:
Dad, we love you as much as our humanity allows. We will never, ever forget you. You now live in us. We anxiously await the glorious day when we can join you in a higher level of love like the kind you now experience in your Heavenly home.
One of the last things you said to Paul during those last horrible days was:
If anybody had the ability or took the time to count all the stars just before sunrise on the morning of November 4th, they would have found a new bright shining star in the pre-dawn sky.