My one and only grandfather passed away last weekend. Below, is the eulogy I gave at his funeral today. He was an incredible man....
In Memory of Bill "Cotton" Dunn a.k.a. Par-Par/Parpy; November 9th, 1937-October 7th, 2017
"We grandkids called him Par-Par. We should have called him Eagle. And this morning, I just wanted to hear Parpy’s voice. So, I pulled out my phone and listened to voicemails he’d left for me. He was the kind of man that when he thought of you, he’d give you a call. He wanted you to know when he was thinking of you.
He was funny and kind and generous. I will always remember his voice, his jokes, his love for Diet Coke and ice cream, the way he’d tell me that the raisins in my oatmeal were bugs. But most of all, I remember how much he loved his family and how much he cherished life. I was his first-born grandchild, his only granddaughter, and the first baby he got to see born. He never forgot that day, and he never let me forget it either. He may have been built like a Viking but he adored babies. He would go out of his way just to say ‘hi’ and ask to hold any newborn he set his eyes on. With children, he was as gentle as a dove.
As a little girl, there was nothing I loved more than visiting Parpy in Dallas. We were two peas in a pod. Not only did I have his white hair and blue eyes, but also his athleticism and strong will. He was stubborn as an ox. I think that’s why we got along so well.
I was an early riser much to the chagrin of my poor parents, but in Dallas, I had a morning companion. As a golf pro, Parpy was accustomed to waking up early. He would get up around five and before anyone else had woken up, the two of us would have gotten dressed, gotten donuts (we shared a love for apple fritters), hit a bucket of balls, and driven all over the neighborhood in the golf cart.
I went everywhere he went and quite literally wanted nothing more than to fill his shoes someday. It was my favorite thing to slip my feet into his size 16 golf shoes and waddle around. He inspired me. He was a talented and hard-working man and it was my goal to make him proud. He was my hero.
Parpy had such a fabulous sense of humor. I was the only granddaughter and was often forced into many games of Power Rangers, Pokemon, and Nerf Gun wars with my cousins, but Parpy was my ally. When I would get sick of “boy” games, I’d go find him. One time, I pulled out face paint and painted Parpy to look like an Indian chief. He was a good sport. Parpy had a knack for always finding a great parking spot, so in our family we called a great parking spot a “Cotton Spot.” He taught me to say yes ma’m and no ma’m and how to behave at a country club. He taught me that there was a proper way to ask to be excused from the table. If you finished your meal and said “I’m done” he’d look at you with a straight face and a twinkle in his eye and say, “No, I’m Dunn.” He was right. I was a Hodson.
When I was eleven years old, I got to go on a trip to Israel with Annie and Parpy. I’d sit next to Parpy on the bus as we drove between different sites and I think it was about that time that he started telling me, “Hayley Bop, don’t forget, I saw you first.” He had been there the day I was born, and it was his way of telling me, I love you more than you could ever know.
On that trip, we were offered the chance to get baptized in the Jordan River where Jesus had been baptized. I hadn’t been baptized yet and I’m not sure Parpy ever had been either, and so side by side, in the catfish infested water of the Jordan River, we were baptized together. He had been there when I was born, and I got to be there when he was re-born. Every year, he’d call me on the anniversary of our baptism to wish me happy birthday.
When Parpy cared about something or someone, there was no holding back. He had come from nothing, had not one advantage in life, but if all the people in this room aren't a testament to how far he’d come I don’t know what is. Over the past week, his home has been filled with food and friends that have come to celebrate his wonderful life. He was someone people loved and respected. He never wanted anyone else to suffer, and yet, he himself suffered so much. He was a fighter with an unparalleled will to live and love. For twenty years, he’d been battling congestive heart failure, and even towards the end, he wanted more than anything to live life to the fullest.
I wish I could hear him say “I saw you first” one last time. I wish I could hold his giant hands one last time. But, he had given everything he had to give and today we celebrate his legacy. At last, he’s no longer in pain. He gets to live in freedom and fullness now. If he could say something here today he’d want us all to know that he might be Dunn, but he’s just barely getting started.
Parpy, you saw me first. Thank you for being the best grandfather a girl could have."
by Hayley Hodson