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Eulogy for Leonard Morgenstern Z”L by Jamie Morgenstern

June 22, 2014

My father, Leonard Morgenstern Z”L died in late May. Here is the text of a eulogy by my brother, Jamie, delivered at Dad’s memorial service at Temple Isaiah of Lafayette on June 2, 2014.

Here is a link to my father’s obituary.

My father was not a touchy-feely kind of guy. When I would give him a hug or say “I love you”, he got that deer in the headlights look. That was just not his style. I remember discussing Judaism with him when I was in college. He said,”It’s not important what you believe.”  “What’s important is how you live your life.”

He said “I love you” through his actions, how he showed that he valued us, told us how proud he was of us, complimented us on our achievements, showed up for all our school and life functions, gave us the support we needed to reach our goals. He didn’t say “I love you,” he lived I love you.

As a high school senior, I asked him one day to help me with my advanced math homework which he proceeded to do. At the time, I didn’t realize how remarkable this was. I just thought, well, dads just do that, they know how to help you with your homework, don’t they?

He was easily able to show me what I needed to solve a complicated math problem. Then he want beyond that. He then told me how this particular question reminded him of another interesting math problem, which he proceeded to demonstrate. He then said: “This reminds me of some related math puzzles in a book I have.” He took the book down from the shelf, quickly leafed through to the relevant pages and handed it to me.

I learned my lesson that day: If you ask my father a question, you will receive your answer,  you will then receive a lesson: an expansion on the answer with another related problem or anecdote or a story or an insight, and then he’ll hand you a book to read on the subject.

When I was in high school ready to go off to college, I got my first checking account. I asked my father to show me how to write checks and balance my account. He said: Let me pay the bills now and you can watch how I do it. I proceeded to watch him write check after check to one charity or nonprofit action group after another. My lesson in finance became through his example a lesson in Tzedakah (that is charity) and social action.

He was always thinking about things-his mind was constantly working.  He would suddenly exclaim, “Oh!” pull out the little notebook from his breast pocket and write something down. The solution to a computer programming problem, or a plot point in his writing, some idea had just popped into his head and he needed to get it down. Definitely, his head was in the clouds and I would like to think his feet were the ground, but perhaps on a another planet with different gravity than on earth. He constantly worked on trying to get organized. He tried one organizational scheme after another. The problem was that he got so intrigued by setting up the most elegant organization system, he spent his time and energy on the program rather than on getting anything done.

Dad hated the story of The Little Engine That Could, you know, the “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” story. He hated it. He said: “Sometimes you really can’t do it no matter how hard you try. You just can’t do it.” He told me the lesson he valued instead was, “Don’t let what cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

During his last years of life as his vision began fading, his memory got a little sketchy and strength markedly deteriorated, it became increasingly difficult for him do the things he enjoyed. He just couldn’t do them. He said,”Everything wears out including you and me”  He stayed optimistic and kept his sense of humor. He loved jokes, especially puns. Here’s some he said reentry to me:

After something unexpected happened, he said: “I’m dumbfounded. I was looking for something dumb and I found it!”

After discussing the  strong personalities of some of the fellow residents at his assisted living, I commented, “You live in a place with lots of characters.” His reply was, “Yes, and they are getting more characteristic every day!”

Finally, he loved this line of Danny Thomas: “It takes a million dollars to be a millionaire, but a poor man can be poor without a cent.”

I’m going to miss you and your corny jokes, Dad.

 

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