The most important man in my life died Wednesday, December 18th.
Bill Lassiter was my Mom’s oldest brother.
And since I’ve only met my bio-dad twice, Uncle Bill has always been my honorary Father.
He was 90 years old and, even though I knew I wouldn’t have him much longer, it was unexpected.
I travelled from my home in California to Florida for the funeral and was asked to speak at the service.
My remarks tell a poignant story of a man who meant everything to a girl and I’m publishing them here to serve as a touchstone as I strive to be this type of influence in the lives of my nephews and nieces.
Here are my remarks in their entirety:
When my Mom, Bill’s younger sister Patricia, became pregnant with me out of wedlock in 1964, their parents were trying to figure out how to protect her and her reputation while she had a baby.
Back then it was common to send women away when they were pregnant and unwed so that the neighbors didn’t find out, I suppose.
My Uncle Bill immediately volunteered to help, telling my Grandfather, “Send her to me, Dad. I’ll take good care of them.”
So, off to Jacksonville, Florida we went.
My Uncle used to remind me OFTEN that I arrived during his business’s busiest time of the year writing to me once…
“Our relationship started while you were still in your Mother’s womb and was spent in Florida waiting for you to be born. In fact, you kept me up all night waiting for you to be born. The next day was the busiest day of the year at work and I was one tired puppy!”
My Grandfather flew down a few weeks after I was born to take my Mom and I back to Kansas City and explain to the neighbors how my Mom had eloped, moved to Florida, had a baby, got divorced, and moved back home… all in the span of six months.
Apparently, the neighbors weren’t great at math.
For years, Uncle Bill complained that he had to endure the entire pregnancy and didn’t even get the prize at the end!
Over the years, he became so much to me.
He was my CHEERLEADER who always celebrated my achievements big and small.
He was my THERAPIST always giving wise counsel about family and relationship matters.
He was my BUSINESS COACH encouraging me to follow his path as an entrepreneur and business owner telling me “Kid, no one will ever be willing or able to write you a check as big as the one you can write yourself.”
He was my PROTECTOR literally rescuing me in a Colorado snowstorm.
He was my TEACHER showing me how to make the perfect scotch and soda for him… when I was eight.
He was even my first UBER when he picked my cousin Scotty and me up in his huge, yellow Cadillac – that I named the Big Banana – after we got lost following a rainbow on our bikes trying to get to the pot of gold.
And, because of his unconditional love, he was the FATHER I never had.
My Uncle Bill was many things to me and I loved him more than I’ll ever be able to express.
And even though he didn’t get the prize, one of us definitely did.
In fact, looking out at all of you here now, I think we all got the prize.
On behalf of myself and my entire family, thank you for being here to celebrate my Uncle.