January 27, 1934 – September 3, 2004
I will never be able to truly explain the relationship I had with my father. He was always more than just my dad, and as I grew older he became as much a friend as he was a parent. This page is a tribute to him, to his memory, and to the life he lived. Anyone who ever met my dad is a better person because of that encounter.
The following is the eulogy I wrote for him at the time of his passing. It was my last gift to the man that gave me everything I have today.
We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of my father, John Robert Gonzalez. I like to think that we are not only here to grieve, but also to celebrate the life of a man many people knew simply as Johnny. From his brothers and sisters in Mexico and present here today, to Pascuale Cafiero, his dear friend and fellow Longshoreman in Brooklyn, to the members of Corpus Christi Parish, Johnny was always larger than life in his own way. And even though the sickness to which he eventually succumbed physically left him a shadow of his former self, nothing can ever reduce the man that was Johnny.
Johnny was by no means perfect, his many flaws a product of the old-school, blue-collar world in which he grew up. Yet despite his flaws, Johnny was loved by all who knew him. As a worker, Johnny redefined the concept of work ethic and was not happy unless he was doing something. He realized that corners were made for placing your drink and not for the cutting. As a friend, he was known for his selflessness. The first to offer a helping hand, Johnny was the last person to ever ask for assistance. As a military veteran, he served his country in order to support his family back in Mexico. As a loving husband, he would be the first to tell you that my mother was the best thing to ever happen to him. As a father he worked tirelessly to ensure we had a roof over our heads, food on our table and most importantly, an education for our future success. He taught us to trust implicitly, allowing us to jump from the second story of my grandmother’s apartment building. I knew full well he would always catch me, and like so many other situations in my life, he never let me fall.
Johnny was loved despite his flaws. His confidence in his ability to do a job was surpassed only by his own personal insecurity. What some people saw as a perfectionist was many times his overwhelming sense of self doubt. How could someone like him ever make a mark in this world? How could he ever leave a legacy for others to see? I believe it is clear to me that his legacy is visible in the faces of everyone here today. It is clear that Johnny’s legacy is found in the unadulterated love for his grandchildren. There is a saying that the Catholic dictionary defines justice as your children having children, and his legacy – my children Natalie and Daniel and my nephews Leo and Luis – will bear down this justice on my brother and me for many years to come. Johnny’s legacy is not in what he had in his bank account or in financial assets in some investment portfolio. It is not found in the cars he drove or the house in which he lived. Johnny’s legacy is in the outpouring of love you all have shown him, both in his passing and in his time on Earth. His legacy lives in all of us and in the wonderful memories we created and shared with him. His legacy did not end when his spirit left his body to ascend to Heaven. Rather, it is merely beginning and will forever shine in how we celebrate the life of the man we all knew as Johnny. The Book of Luke teaches us, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” And it fills my heart with joy to see everyone here to exalt my father.
Dad, I pray to God that you are with Him in Heaven, finally enjoying the peace and rest you so well deserve. I also pray that I can be the type of worker you were for the vast majority of your life, the type of friend you were to everyone you knew, and the type of provider you were for your family. I pray that I can be half the father to my children that you were to me. I hope I can be a hero to someone in the way you were always a hero to me. Thank you for always making me feel loved, and please know that we all love you, Johnny. Please know that I will always love you, Dad.
I love you, Dad!