Jerry Eneau Modrell was born April 27, 1928 and left this life on December 25, 1999. He lived in Pharr, Texas at the time and I drove over 900 miles to be with him when his Doctor said it was time to come down as he was deteriorating quickly.
There was a funeral in Texas, but the only person I knew there was my stepmother. It was very impersonal for me and I was in shock and don’t remember much. She had him cremated, which is not what I wanted, however, it worked out for the best as his ashes are now with me and I don’t have to go over 900 miles to “visit” him or lay flowers. He is right here with me at all times, which has provided me with comfort over the years.
I decided to hold a Memorial Service for my dad on April 27, 2000, which would have been his 72nd birthday. I wanted something a little more personal that would provide me a chance to say some good things about the man who raised me. I had been struggling in a bad way since his passing. At that service (which was very small and informal), I decided to speak about my dad. The following words were spoken at the service:
“When my dad laughed, his whole face would light up. When he was mad, the whole world could see it. His face would curl up and that finger would start pointing.
My dad was also my mom during my growing up years. I think he did a great job. He was the #1 man in my life.
His favorite story to tell was one dealing with his childhood. He wanted one of those red pull wagons real bad. Grandma and Grandpa Modrell couldn’t afford a red one, but they did buy him a blue wagon for Christmas. He was really disappointed but promised himself that someday, he would have a little red wagon. He kept that promise and in 1971 he bought a brand new Ford Stationwagon. Red. He told everyone that he finally got his little red wagon. To expand on the story, in July of last year I started driving him around to look for a car. We went everywhere, but nothing was just right. The big truck he had was getting to be too much to handle for him and too hard to get in and out of. One day I called him from work to make plans for dinner. He told me he bought a new car today. I asked what he got. For about the next 20 minutes, all he could say was, “I bought a little red wagon”. “A Stationwagon?” I asked. “Nope, I bought a little red wagon”. “A Navigator?” I asked. (That is what he really wanted). “Nope, I bought a little red wagon”. I guessed everything, or so I thought. Finally he said, “Does a Sedan Deville mean anything to you?” I said, “You bought a Cadillac?” He said, “I got my little red wagon”. It was a beautiful car and he was so very proud of it. When he passed away, he was still the proud owner of a “little red wagon”.
My dad loved to read. He read every day. When I was growing up in the early to mid 70’s, we got a new set of encyclopedias. I remember my dad reading them. He read the whole set from A Page 1 to the last page in Z. He read all the time. He loved learning and he learned by reading.
My dad loved to travel and we went on vacations often as I was growing up. When he retired, he went on the road for good. He would always say, “In 1986, I got married, retired, threw up my hands and ran away from home”.
My dad knew everything. He could also fix anything. Okay, there were two (2) exceptions. He let me borrow his 35mm camera the summer before I started photography at Vo-Tech, just to get used to it. It had to have been the first one out on the market. It was ancient. One day it just quit working in the middle of a roll of film. He said he’d fix it. He took it apart. He had the little parts neatly arranged on paper towels lining the top of this desk. The problem? With 10 billion parts, he couldn’t get it back together. The other exception was a lawn mower that also had to have been the first motorized one on the market. One spring it rained like crazy and the grass grew and grew and grew. I tried to cut it before he came back for the summer. I blew the engine, but only half way. When he “fixed” it, it completely blew.
My dad loved life. He also loved his family, antique vehicles, the trucks he owned, and the Colorado Mountains. He also loved sweets. His favorites were tootsie rolls, Oreo cookies, 3 Musketeers bars, Hershey Kisses, pinwheel cookies, hostess cupcakes, and banana cream pie.
My dad was diagnosed with cancer in July 1998. He had several surgeries, but they couldn’t get it all. He went through radiation and we were hopeful. He thought he could beat this thing. He fought the good fight for a year and a half. He never complained of pain, he would just say he was uncomfortable. In the end, the cancer won.
My dad was everything to me and I miss him terribly. Happy Birthday Dad, I Love You.”