My parents on their wedding day, October 27, 1938
My dad, Benjamin Edward Messerly, (1917-1989) died twenty-five years ago today from complications of diabetes. At the time it seemed unexpected, but in retrospect he had been hospitalized for the last couple of months of his life, so I suppose it wasn’t really that unexpected. He did get to die at home though.
He was born in north St. Louis, dropped out of technical school at age 15 during the depression to take a job with the Kroger company sweeping floors. He parlayed that into a job as a butcher which was his profession for almost 50 years. He was a fine baseball player and golfer. He played hardball at a pretty high amateur level and had a single handicap at golf despite only playing about once a week. He served in the Navy in WWII and came home to continue his family in the suburb of St. Louis where I grew up. He only had an eighth grade formal education but he read constantly and was well versed in the politics of the day. He also read a lot of history, and was especially fond of the American President Harry Truman. I suppose a Missourian without a lot of formal education who spoke his mind was a perfect fit for my dad.
Objectively, I suppose my father was better than some worse than others—although I’d bet he was better than most of them. He instilled in me a love of golf, and though a somewhat trivial gift, I still possess that love to this day. But more importantly I followed my dad around constantly while I was growing up; accompanying him to his work at the church almost every night. I thought he was so smart arguing theology and politics with the priests and his fellow parishioners. In fact I owe my philosophical nature in large part to him. Due to many hours of discussions with him as a young boy, I realized from an early age that difficult questions exist and easy answers to them elude us.
I can still remember him telling me I was inquisitive, in response to constant questioning at the dinner table when I was 9 or 10 years old. Not knowing what the word meant I naturally asked him! After he had explained its meaning to me I asked (remember I was inquisitive) if it was good to be inquisitive. He answered in the affirmative. I dedicated my master’s thesis to my dad “who approved of my inquisitiveness.”
He also was fond of saying that great people do what they think is right and then disregard what others think about them. For me this translated into seeking the truth and then acting on the truth discovered. And while he didn’t agree with most of my conclusions—I vehemently rejected his Catholicism—he accepted me nonetheless.
He was a good man, who taught me, who loved me, and who inspired me. Words are so ineffectual, but I thank him.
I loved you too dad.