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Dad could do a hand-stand_ even at age 50

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					                      My Dad’s Better Than Your Dad!

        This past week I sat down to write my memories of Dad, not intending it to be a eulogy, just
random thoughts I wanted to capture and preserve for my own sense of closure. When I was done, I
realized that this was a eulogy of sorts, so I went online and googled “How to write a Eulogy”. The
website said to recount some humorous incidents in the dearly departed life. So I started racking my brain
for funny things to recount and I realized why I have no sense of humor to this day….Dad wasn’t a funny
person and consequently I have this same Tom Landry, dry sense of humor….which is none! I could not
recall Dad ever telling a joke or even busting out laughing, except on one occasion when I was about 4
years old. Dad had warned me, not to do something or I would get a lickin’. Of course, being the Dennis
the Menace of the family I went and did it anyway and Dad got up, took his belt off and told me to come
over here and take your licks. Well, I didn’t move and so as he closed in on me, I started backing up and
running like hell around the house with Dad trying to catch me. It was like a scene out of the Little
Rascals with me jumping over furniture and running for my life. Finally, he gives up trying to catch me
and stops and starts laughing out loud, a deep belly-laugh….then I start laughing and he throws the belt
down, opens his arms and says come here.

          Dad loved gymnastics, soccer, basketball, the Air Force, the Republican Party, bass fishing and of
course, beer. He liked to wear suspenders and always had a handkerchief in his pocket. One of my
earliest memories is him driving across Texas in our red and white 57 Chevy station wagon, with the
windows down (no AC back then), elbow propped up resting on the car door and a Lone Star beer in his
hand….and being stopped by the Texas Highway Patrol. As Dad got out of the car to talk to the patrolmen,
I remember my older brothers bragging, “Wait till the policeman finds out Dad’s a Major in the Air Force,
he won’t get a ticket!…and he didn’t. Tom was the kind of Dad that kids brag about…you know “my
dad’s stronger than your dad…and my dad can walk on his hands…my Dad’s the best marble shooter
ever….and my Dad’s a war hero….” And for us, all those things were true. I told one of the guys at work
last week that my Dad probably accomplished more with his life than all of us seven children combined.
It’s all the more amazing when you look at where he came from.

        Tom grew up wearing knickers and sailor outfits in the Polish neighborhood of St. Louis. He
didn’t have his own bedroom, even when putting himself through college, but slept on a roll-away bed in
the small family living room. Growing up during the Great Depression, he helped his father make beer in
the cellar during Prohibition and worked his way through college to get a law degree. With his law degree
he was supposed to enter the military as an officer but through a mix-up in paperwork entered it as a
private. It took almost a year before that got straightened out and he went to flight school and became a
bombardier, flying 40 combat missions in the Pacific. He told me once how a storm blew his plane way
off course and he ended up laying the mines he was carrying in the wrong channel between some islands.
When he discovered they were in the wrong place and that an American battle-fleet was heading straight
for those mines, he radioed in his mistake so our ships wouldn’t be at risk. That’s the example he set for
me, owning up to your mistakes, accepting responsibility and learning from them.

       Throughout all his life, Dad was a deeply religious man. I suspect it was born during those 40
combat missions in WWII. He told me how he would open his wallet each night, remove a prayer card of
the Madonna and recite the prayer on it. He credits that power of prayer to his getting through the war
without a scratch on him.
        The Army Air-Corp brought Mom and Dad together in Lubbock, Texas and Mom chose well when
she decided Tom would be a good provider. Though he had a reputation for being tight with money, with
7 kids to feed and clothe and yes, put through college, I’m amazed that he was able to do it and not go into
the poorhouse himself.

         Dad was dedicated to serving meaningful institutions, the Air Force, Catholic Church, the Knights
of Columbus, the Boy Scouts, any sports team his children were on, the Texas Bar Association and of
course his baby, the Air Force Retired Judge Advocate Association which he founded and presided over
for ten years.

       Even though we had seven kids, somehow he made time to play catch with me after dinner, help
me build a crystal radio set for the school science fair, taught me how to tape a baseball, to lay down a
bunt and slide into second base. I don’t remember him ever missing one of my ball games. He had happy
feet…loved to dance and fancied himself quite a singer.

        Dad loved to fish. He even raised worms in our garage and basement. He’d take the table scraps
and potato peelings and we’d bury them in the worm dirt to feed them. Some of my strongest early
memories center on him taking us boys fishing. Getting up at three in the morning and driving from San
Antonio to Bayside, Texas, or renting a camping trailer and driving to New Mexico to fish for trout. He
also loved basketball and built a hoop wherever we moved to. He was the officer sponsor for the Air
Force Academy’s gymnastic team and would take me each week to the field house to get free coaching
from members of the Academy’s gymnastic team. In Germany, he was the officer sponsor for the base
basketball team, the Ramstein Rams. That love of competition, coupled with hard work and competence
led to a series of early promotions in the Air Force.

       Dad’s character was impeccable. I can’t remember him ever telling a lie, being dishonest in any
way or uttering a racial slur. I never heard him utter a cuss-word until after we were all grown and out of
the house and he was well into his 70’s. Albert Einstein once said that “Example isn’t just the best way to
influence people, it’s the only way.” Though we each traveled different paths, we all have lead full and
productive lives, lives molded by his example.

       Dad never spoke much about his own father, I gathered that it wasn’t a close relationship. There
wasn’t any scouting, or camping, or trips to Yellowstone Park. It was tougher times back then. I think
Dad’s travels during WWII opened his eyes that there was a much bigger world out there than just St.
Louis. I suspect he dedicated his life to giving his own children the kind of childhood, the kind of father,
he wished he had had. He became a Cub Master, and then a Scout master as us boys got older. He took us
camping, fishing, and skiing, to Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. When stationed in
Europe, he packed us up in the station wagon and went to Paris, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy and all
over Germany. We even went on a week long cruise from New York to Germany, compliments of the US
Air Force in the mid 60’s. He provided us a rich, full life by exposing us to so much of the world. Though
we moved a lot, that exposure made us more tolerant and understanding of world cultures and certainly
more well-rounded individuals. It was an education you can’t put a price on.

        He was quite a writer as well and penned some great letters each year summarizing the many
adventures of the Krauska family. He never learned to type properly, he was a hunt and pecker. And he
was a life-long nail-biter, though Thea did her best to break him of that nasty habit, another trait he passed
onto me, much to my wife’s dismay.
        Like most kids, I disappointed my Dad on more than one occasion; like when I ran away at age 15
when we lived in Germany; and when I told him I wasn’t going to college at age 17 but was going to be a
car mechanic; and when I quit teaching to spend a year at home raising my kids. He just could fathom the
idea of the head of the house-hold taking care of the kids. “Andy, you have to work….you just have have
to.” Work was a sort of a sacrament, to Dad; a sacred duty. I still work a 50-60 hour week, often six days
a week, no doubt from watching him come home each night and after dinner, spreading out his casework
and working diligently till late at night. My own son, the 3rd. Tom Krauska, seems to have inherited the
same work ethic as well.

        I think I reprieved myself in Dad’s eyes when I joined the Navy, though he would rather it been the
Air Force. We corresponded often during my Navy career and he seemed to relish the adventures I would
share with him chasing Russian submarines around the world and visiting foreign ports and countries. He
and Mom were particularly supportive during Desert Storm and along with Peggy and Anne and my two
children Tom and Sarah, were standing on the pier waving flags and banners when I returned home from
war. When he told me how proud he was of my service to our country, I felt like I’d made up for all the
other times I’d disappointed or at least gone against his will…and he had a strong will. You don’t go from
being the son of an Hungarian born, polish immigrant to a lawyer, aviator war-hero with 40 combat
missions, Colonel, JAG officer and have an award named after you by the Texas bar association without
having a strong will to succeed and more importantly….to serve.

        There’s a book out there with the subtitle: To Live, To Love, To Leave a Legacy and that sums up
Dad’s life. It’s hard to imagine a life lived more fully. He loved his kids, our Mother, who he grieved for
years after her death, until he met Thea who gave him a reason to keep on living and made the rest of his
life so meaningful and full. Thank you Thea for making Tom’s life so rich in his final years, you were his
angel and he loved you dearly.

        Tom’s legacy is more than his work, more than his beloved JAG association, though that was
certainly a major part of his life. Tom’s legacies are his children, his grandchildren and the hundreds of
friends he made along the way.

        God, Country, Family, the three values he lived his life by. His belief in God was unshakeable.
Like so many of his generation, he put his life on the line for this country, and above all, everything he did,
he did unselfishlessly for his family so that we could have the good life he had not had growing up, so that
we could see and experience the world first hand instead of just read about it in books, and so that he could
be the kind of father that kids brag about.


                                                      Andy