These are the words I shared at his memorial service.
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As I thought about what I wanted to share today, I thought about many of the things Dad loved:
Coffee, Necco Wafers, and ice cream. Polo shirts and puzzles. Sports, sports, and sports. Dad loved reading John Grisham books and traveling around the world. He couldn’t get enough blue cheese dressing on his salad or meat sauce on his spaghetti. He loved playing croquet at the park and Chinese checkers at the kitchen table. He was always up for a chicken dinner at Knotts or a hot dog at Angel stadium. Dad loved American history, family genealogy, and a good breakfast buffet. But most of all he loved his daughters, his grandchildren, and our faithful God.
Like all of us sitting here today, my dad wasn’t perfect. And I know he wouldn’t want me to tell you that he was. But as I’ve thought back on his life as I knew him, I am truly blessed by so many wonderful memories…so many meaningful moments when my dad was there for me when it mattered most.
When my mom woke up in the middle of the night to find our garage engulfed in a roaring fire, Dad was there to fight the blaze with a garden hose while Mom ushered Annie, Mary, and me (and my favorite stuffed monkey) to safety. He lost a slipper but helped save the house.
When I was a Girl Scout, Dad was there to take me to the Father Daughter Dance. He twirled me in my pink poodle skirt and let me have punch and cookies to my heart’s content.
When I stood for my trumpet solo at the East Whittier Pops Concert or at the free throw line on the basketball court…when I crossed the finish line after three miles at a cross country meet or after 400 meters around the track, Dad was there cheering me on.
He was there for our yearly trips to Big 5 to buy new basketball shoes. He helped me pick out my retro aqua track cleats. And when I earned my Varsity letter, he was there to take me to Sergeants in Uptown Whittier and let me spend as much time as I needed to decide what style of jacket to get and which patches should go where.
And Dad was always there to take us to Disneyland. I don’t know a parent who enjoyed the Magic Kingdom more. Together we zoomed through Space Mountain, zipped around the Matterhorn, and held on to our hats and glasses for the wildest ride in the wilderness. Disney parades and stage shows and churros. Dad was there for them all.
When I needed to tour the San Gabriel Mission for my fourth grade project, Dad was there. And later when it came time to tour college campuses he was there for that, too. Together we weighed the pros and cons of each university and I knew he’d support me in whatever decision I made.
When I spent a college summer in Kings Canyon National Park, Dad and Esther drove the windy mountain roads to come see me work and minister beneath the clear blue skies and massive sequoias.
Birthday dinners at Benihana, graduation brunch at The Ritz, Dad was there to celebrate each meaningful milestone.
And of course he was there on the three most important days of my life, too…he walked me down the aisle when I said “I do” to my amazing husband, Chris. And he held Noah and Elias on the days his grandsons were born.
And like all dads, he was there to teach me things. How to be as competitive as he was at Gin Rummy, Sequence, Pounce, and Risk…though Risk I never won. He taught me that you can never use too much Scotch tape when wrapping presents. Peanut butter and pancakes are a perfect combination. And you can fit any amount of luggage and souvenirs in the trunk of a compact car. “It’s solid geometry,” he’d say. “Solid geometry.”
And at the end of his life, whether he was trying to or not, he taught me more than I ever knew about God’s amazing grace. That there is no valley too dark or pit too deep for the redemptive love of God. Through Dad’s life, I saw the Lord answer what at times I thought were impossible prayers. Dad’s struggles and triumphs, life and death have strengthened my faith in immeasurable ways. And perhaps that is the greatest gift a father can give.
Ralph D. Pickett
October 21, 1951—January 27, 2011
I love you, Dad.