The Measure of a Man

In the past six months, Greg and I have had the sad fate of having to attend three funerals for men who made an impact on our lives.

Dale Litzsinger — June 28, 1933 – June 16, 2016

George Wiltsey — October 13, 1934 – December 7, 2016

Clark White — May 6, 1938 – January 8, 2017

Dale Litzsinger was Greg’s mom’s boyfriend. They had lived together for more than 15 years. In fact, Dale was a stepdad to Greg. His daughter, Dia, has become a sister to us both. Dale lived a fascinating life. He was a body builder on Southern California’s Muscle Beach before it was cool. He joined the Navy and served with honor until he retired. He collected rocks. He knew the Latin name of every tree he saw – no kidding – every single one. He could explain why the rocks that formed the Santa Monica mountains and the canyons of the Los Angeles area were the colors they were and the shapes they were and more. He had a big heart. His funeral was full of people who shared stories from his past and expressions of love and laughter. He was a big man.

If Dale was a big man, George Wiltsey was a giant. I had only met him twice and I will forever regret that. George was Greg’s surrogate father. His funeral was so full there were people crowding into the doorway at the chapel at Forest Lawn. There wasn’t a single soul who knew him who didn’t tell of his zest for life, his easy laughter and his ability to turn any gathering into a party. Every member of his family was there. Tears were held back because everyone knew George would’ve been telling a joke or hamming it up to brighten the mood. The bittersweetness of the gathering was easy to see. He was truly a giant.

Clark White was the fourth husband of Greg’s stepmom. His dad was husband #2. Everyone you ask will tell you Greg’s dad was the love of her life. If that’s true then Clark was her partner in old age. An avid golfer and bird-watcher, he was quick with a joke and always ready with a glass of wine or a cocktail. His death was unexpected, a blow to the family. His funeral included his daughter, his son, his granddaughter and a cousin with his family. Greg and I went to support his stepmom and stepsister. He was sweet to Marilyn. When she was no longer able to get up and move around, he bought her a puppy to keep her company. When she was put into a nursing home, he spent several hours a day with her – every day. At his funeral, the pastor shared a story about a conversation he had with Clark about birds, and chose a scripture passage specifically for its mention of the raven.

How do you calculate the measure of a man? Is it the love he had for others? Is it the laughter by which he is remembered?

Wherever we go in life, we touch others…whether it’s a cashier in a grocery store, an airline flight attendant, a stranger we share stories with over a drink, or anyone with whom we speak.  Perhaps the measure of a man has nothing to do with the size of the crowd at his funeral, or the number of people on his Christmas card list. Perhaps the measure of a man is in the impact he has made to one person or hundreds.

There is a saying that a person dies twice: once when his mortal life ends and again the last time someone speaks his name. Let me, once more, say their names so they will forever be in our memories:

Dale Litzsinger

George Wiltsey

Clark White

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