Monday, October 25, 2010

Goin' Up To the Spirit In the Sky

As many of you already know, my father passed away last Sunday, October 17th.  Because of this, my Halloween blog will be pushed back until next month.  For this month, I'm going to post a short history of my dad's life written by my mom and a piece I wrote for his funeral.  I hope what they lack in literary prowess will be made up for by our genuine love for my father.

Larry John Winch
by Cathy Winch and Sons

Larry John Winch had a typical childhood in the 50’s and 60’s, mostly on South Main Street in Farmington.  He grew up with his oldest brother Dennis, sisters Diana, Brenda, Susan, and Lauren, friends Mike and Paul, and others
Larry’s dad had Tuberculosis and was in the Mount Vernon VA hospital for 6 years when Larry was a child, which was very hard on his mom and the kids.  He remembered the day his dad left the hospital, when Larry was about 9, as one of the happiest days of his life.  Despite warnings from his mom that his dad was still tired and weak, he ran and jumped on him as he came through the door. 
Larry loved camping with his family in the “big blue bus.”  They fished, went swimming, caught pigeons from the top of the feed mill, made a pet of a Great Horned Owl, and fashioned a bomb in a jar that resulted in a hospital visit.  His dad taught him to love fishing and his mom just loved him, no matter what trouble he got into.  She also made sure he went to church.  Larry was saved and baptized at Coffman Baptist Church when he was 7.  He said he didn’t understand everything at that age, but he rededicated his life when he was older.  He always remembered that experience.
After high school, Larry joined the Marine Corp with his friend Mike.  He had a lot of good memories about being stationed in San Diego, being on a Med Cruise and traveling to Spain, Greece, and France, but he also had a lot of difficult times.  He was just 18 and away from home in the late 60s, and was overjoyed to return to his life in Farmington. 
After returning home he began working at the Missouri State Hospital with his mom.  He also worked for a while at the lime kiln, where his dad worked, but soon returned to the State Hospital.  It was then that he met Cathy, who was working there for the summer while going to college.  He called her bird legs, stole her lunch, and teased her about going out with him until her last day of work, when she finally said yes. 
Larry and Cathy were very different, but also much the same.  Larry’s long blonde hair and big red mustache seemed unusual to the timid farm girl, but he won her over with his stories.  She loved to hear him recount his travels around the world while in the Marines because she had never experienced life outside of Missouri.  They hit it off immediately, and fell hard in love for each other.  After only 3 short months of dating they ran away and got married.  Everyone thought it would never last, but on November 21st, 2010, they would have been married 35 years. 
Larry took Cathy’s brother Danny “under his wing” as soon as they were married.  Danny was only 10 so Larry watched him grow up.  After he was old enough to hunt and fish, they were buddies.  They always had a fishing pole or gun in their hands and had many stories, some more believable than others.  Dan was one of Larry’s closest friends.
After leaving the State Hospital, Larry went back to college and started working for the St. Francois county Ambulance District.  He was on the very first crew when it started in 1978.  He loved the work and saved a lot of lives during his 3 years there.  Despite his passion for the job, its stress was too much, and he sought employment at the Department of Corrections instead, where he worked until retirement.
In 1978, Cathy and Larry had their first son, Corey.  Kyle, their second, was born in 1979, and then Andrew in 1986.  Larry referred to them as “My Three Sons” and was so proud of them all.  They went fishing, camping, and hunting, played Nintendo for hours, and went on vacations to Florida.  Larry also coached Corey and Kyle’s Merchant League Baseball teams for 6 years.  It was normal family life, but the best memories anyone could ask for.
The family moved from Dorlac Road to their new home on Hawn Park Road 19 years ago.  Larry loved building the house, but had a special place in his heart for the pond and the woods that surrounded them.  He had finally built the home of his dreams.
After he retired as a Sergeant from the Farmington Correctional Center in 2003, Larry fished, played golf with the boys, and adopted other hobbies, such as building model trains and bird houses, buying an old camper and camping with the boys during deer season, and playing with his grandchildren.  Larry loved being Papa to Kayleigh, Kamryn, Kollin, Reagan, and one on the way (Morgan).  He enjoyed giving them short trips on his motorcycle, watching cartoons with them, taking them out to the pond, and keeping them away from his candy.
He recently bought some chickens and ducks, which kept him busy.  He also spent much of 2009 helping Kyle and Schea rebuild their current house.  Kyle is grateful for this time he got to spend with his dad.  Their house is beautiful because of those memories. 
            Sundays were special for Larry because the boys and their families all came out for dinner.  He always asked, “Are the kids coming out?” and the answer was almost always yes.  These were some of the happiest times the Winch family would ever have.
             It took some adjusting after the boys moved out, got married, and started their own families, but for the first time in many years, Larry and Cathy had time to spend together.  Larry bought a 1999 Yamaha motorcycle this year and it was his new hobby.  He loved it.  He rode it almost every day and eventually convinced Cathy to ride with him.  She loved that time they were together.  They rode to Ste. Genevieve and to the Mississippi river, and stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream.  Cathy said more than once that it was almost a spiritual experience as Larry would point at the setting sun, she would nod to its beauty, and they would fly down the open highway.    

 My Dad
by Andrew Winch

     I thought for the longest time that I didn’t know my dad.  I don’t know who his favorite teacher was.  I don’t know what his first car was.  I’m really not even sure what his job in the military was.  In short, there are a lot of things I don’t know that I thought made up who my dad was. 
     Ironically, it wasn’t until he passed away that I realized I knew exactly who he was.  He was the guy that let me sit on his lap when I was five years old and steer his truck down our driveway.  He was the one that retied my fishing hook even though I’d broken it off six times already, and the one that secretly prayed for me every time I drove into town to meet my friends.
      Unlike what I don’t know about Dad, I believe the things I remember make up who he was.  Larry John Winch was a man of fierce love for his family, and he expected the same from those around him.  He was always quick to help out a family member in need, even if it meant tightening our belt for a while.  I’m speaking, of course, metaphorically.  With 4 growing boys, there was NEVER a lack of eating in the Winch household.
     So now we laugh at all the little things Dad did.  When he let us know EVERY TIME Apocalypse Now was on, he wasn’t doing it to annoy us, even though he knew none of us liked that movie.  He did it to include us.  I’m certain this is the same reason he and mom took me to the Department of Corrections picnic when I was 10 and got me fingerprinted. 
     When I was growing up, we fought a lot.  There were times when I couldn’t stand to be around him, back when I was always right.  Now, I thank God that Dad was around long enough to become one of my best friends.
     The last time I saw Dad we went fishing together.  He didn’t help me tie my hook, but he did help clean my fish.  I can’t wait until I get to hang out with Dad again.

I love you, Dad.