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June 17th, 2012

  • Born March 3, 1923 to Geneva (nee Hardy) and Leo Thomas Mink.
  • His own father died in 1926.
  • A straight A student in parochial school, with dreams of becoming a lawyer, he dropped out of school at 14 to go to work to support his mother (whose second husband had just died, leaving her, my father, and his half sister Donna). When he could, he worked as a jockey's apprentice, hoping to follow his father into the silks.
  • Starting in 1941 he tried to enlist in the Army Air Force and in the Navy, but his mother refused to sign the enlistment papers (she was sure, given his size, he'd end up an aerial gunner, which had a high mortality rate). She really didn't want him to serve, but especially didn't want him to end up in the Infantry.
  • In 1943 he was drafted--into the Infantry.
  • Where he was a Marksman, and scout. He was supposed to be on Omaha beach on June 6, but his unit got different orders just before they left. Probably why I'm here today.
  • He was injured by shrapnel in his knee while in Belgium. He got a Purple Heart, and his dreams of a life on horseback died.
  • He left the service in 1948 with that Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star.
  • He got a job in Ilion, NY shortly after separation (a hardship for a southern boy, but it was where the job was).
  • He found a local bar, owned by a guy named Peter Perritano and his wife, Ann. He became a regular. Pete's sister-in-law Lydia was also a frequent attendee. Lydia and Tom became friends.
  • One day Lydia's daughter came to the bar with her. Betty Jane. She thought Tommy "had a cute butt."
  • Two years later, on Labor Day weekend, Tommy and Betty eloped and were married by a JP in Old Forge, NY. Their honeymoon was a fishing trip.
  • The only big disagreement was about children. Betty wanted them, Tom didn't.
  • Seven years later, Betty won the argument when Rosemary was born.
  • For nearly two years Tom endured the creature in his house. Then, as Betty put it, "One day you looked at him, and said something, and I saw his face change--you became a tiny person, and it was all over. He has adored you ever since."
My daddy was a gentle, poetic man tortured by nightmares of being behind enemy lines. or surrounded by explosions. He had a deep, terrifying temper that he fought to control, usually with success. His dreams were stolen by the exigencies of a Depression era youth and the injuries of war. He became a quiet alcoholic, and we lived paycheck to paycheck, in a home with only cold running water (in the 60s and 70s), where snow came in and stayed on my pillow overnight. His only son was never healthy, and died at 11. He was a deeply conservative man, who, in the era of the Kennedys and Johnson, supported Goldwater and Wallace. He ranted against the "academic eggheads" in the 60's, yet no man was ever prouder of his grad school daughter than my Daddy was of me.

I broke his heart, as all children do, yet I made sure he always knew how much I loved him. The hole that his death left in my life, 2 weeks after I turned 30,  is indescribable. Our politics differed, but our way to figuring out the world was the same. I didn't have to explain why I thought the way I did, why I behaved the way I did, because Daddy knew--I was like him. I loved my mother profoundly, but we were often a mystery to each other. Daddy I understood, and he understood me. Others have come close to understanding, especially Morguhn, but no one "got me" the way Daddy did.

I miss him every day.
Happy Father's Day, Daddy.