I wrote this to be read at my father's "life celebration" service held today, January 29, 2011, in Harrisonburg. I wasn't able to attend, having been back east for his last days and the private funeral. I'm including a photo taken about five years ago, of Dad, my son Reilly, husband Paul, son Trigg. They'd been watching the Blue Angels fly over San Francisco.
You’ve heard a lot about my father today. Most of which is true and all of which I’m sure he enjoyed hearing. But it’s my job as his daughter to tell you a few things that didn’t get mentioned.
Before he was “Coach Cummins” he was little Brownie Cummins. The baby of the family.
He had no memory of his father, who took off when Dad was four. But his mother Pearl was strong and resilient.
She showered him with tough love while his sister Blanch spoiled him rotten.
To make him stay down for his nap, they would station the vacuum cleaner outside his room. He was scared to death of the vacuum cleaner.
Blanch said he had the prettiest legs she’d ever seen on a boy.
As a youngster, he liked to go hunting before school. All by himself before the sun peeked over the ridgetop.
He was a champion marble player and his winnings are buried at the base of fence posts all over Wise County. Jars and jars full of colored glass, according to Dad’s brother Howard.
Brother Jack sliced Dad with a scythe as they played “jungle” one day and for the rest of his life Dad carried a long and serious scar across the palm of his hand.
Skinny, tall and blond. With a sweet, shy smile. That was Brownie the teenager.
He met my mom in high school. But on what she thought was their first date he walked a different girl home.
The army sent him to San Francisco where he had so much fun he might have been stationed at a country club. But he didn’t try the crab while he was there.
Back in Virginia he learned to love crab. By the bushel. He also liked biscuits, Snickers bars, peanut butter fudge, peanuts, deviled ham, Vienna sausage, donuts, Martin’s barbecue waffle potato chips, and Scotch on the rocks.
He refused to watch scary movies. He’d been traumatized by the original version of “The Blob.”
After retirement, he grew roses and arranged them in vases for my mother.
He left her love notes on post-its, along with shopping lists and reminders to drive carefully.
He thought she was the most beautiful woman on Earth, and frequently quoted a friend of theirs who called her “The Best Looking Broad in Harrisonburg.”
He was a morning person. He’s the one who made breakfast at our house. Dad would sing “There she is, Miss America” as Mom dragged herself to the breakfast table. She was not a morning person.
When I hugged him he smelled of Old Spice and cigars.
I loved watching him use a pocket knife.
He was a Democrat.
He was an expert solitaire player.
He was my husband’s favorite fly-fishing buddy.
He liked to nap in front of the TV, preferably with a football game on.
He was a devoted husband.
He was a steadfast father .
He was a doting Grandfather .
And his whole life long he was truly a kid at heart.
He was the sweetest Brownie ever.
I miss him terribly.