Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dad: some notes

Dad's memorial service was today. They asked me to do the bio—but then… well:
I was asked to do the biography, but since that's printed in your bulletins, I'll elaborate [on it], and start the remembrances early.

Dad was born August 6, 1923 in Fairview, Oregon. He never knew his mother; she died before his 2nd birthday. As a single father overwhelmed with a farm to run, Grandpa Kyung Soo sent little Arthur away to the "Waverly Baby Home." There, Art unfortunately learned something of racism and the dark side of human nature.

One day, a strange man came to retrieve Art from the institution. Art was so afraid of this stranger that on the train ride home, he couldn't bring himself to ask for the bathroom. You can imagine what happened next. Grandpa asked Art why he didn't say anything; when he heard about Art's fear, he spoke kindly to him.

Art moved to Honolulu in 1941 to live with sister Louvie and her husband Kenneth, now both deceased. He wrote home that he got seasick on the boat ride, and that Kenneth seemed to be "a good egg." Then December 7th came.

Dad worked for the Army as an electronics instructor, first as a draftee and later as a civilian. He had an interesting and varied career before the FAA. He was the engineer at the UH radio station near Date and Kapiolani. He sold insurance, which is how he met our mom. They would have celebrated their 60th anniversary next month.

Dad had quite the sense of humor. One day, back when Mom was, ah, "great with child" (me I think), she had lunch with Dad downtown. They were heading their separate ways -- she was on an escalator -- and he called out, "Don't tell your husband."

The FAA would send Dad to school on the mainland, sometimes for months. Mom would record audio letters to him, and include voices of us kids on them. These were small reels of 1/4" magnetic tape.

On one of these stays on the mainland, Dad had an idea. "Hey fellas," he told his classmates, "Let's move our chairs forward 2 inches." They did this every day for a week or two. One morning, the instructor turned around to walk to the blackboard and bumped into it instead. He told me this story just a couple of months ago, in July.

Dad didn't preach a lot, but he impressed upon me the idea that there are other perspectives than mine. "That's a funny-looking caterpillar," I remarked once. I might have been four or five. "You probably look pretty funny to him too, Son," he replied. Indeed.

Way back, when all of us kids were still living at home, Dad habitually went to the blood bank. He'd call out, "going to give blood" before driving off. I don't know how many gallons he gave. I learned from him that giving blood is something that a man does. Part of why I give blood today is that I wanted to be like him. Still do, in fact.

Dad lived a generous and loving life. My wife often recalls meeting him before our wedding. At first sight, Dad said to her, "Here's the girl that's making my son so happy!"

Back when he was only in his 80s, he taught computer skills at HCC. It wasn't for the money. He was always fixing something for somebody.

He also volunteered a lot at this church. In fact he was about 10 feet above the concrete floor of the Parish Hall here, when the ladder slid out from under him; that's how he broke his back.

After that, I heard him praying more. In one of those prayers he was thankful for that experience because it brought him closer to God. When we say Dad never stopped learning, we don't just mean technology.

Oh, and he didn't stop volunteering at the church after that incident either. I learned that a man doesn't stop giving and helping just because of some inconvenience.

Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer of 2014, and that was when I finally realized that he might die some day. He had surgeries, and courses of various medicines. He's had a few health crises, and we all knew the end was coming soon. When I last visited, he was very interested in what happens after this life.

The past couple of weeks have been quite frightening, but he'd been improving until Monday; none of us expected we'd be gathered here quite so soon.

But how can we complain? We've all had our lives touched by this wonderful man; I had the distinct pleasure of having him for my dad, of learning from his example and seeing him enjoy his long life.

I can hardly believe he's gone, and sometimes I can barely hold myself together. But then I remember that one of his fondest wishes was that we survive him. So even in our grief, we can rejoice with him that his wish was granted.

That's basically what I said. I wish you could have known him.

Update: And now you can, a little

through some short videos made by his super-talented granddaughter Jana (my niece):
  • Arthur W. Park Memorial Video
    Through this video, I hoped to allow Grandpa to "speak" at his own Memorial Service. Although tears were shed, there was so much laughter, just the way Grandpa would want it. Hope you all enjoy this! (w/clips from the many commercials/films he's starred in!)
  • "Arthur" (Championships Winner: Showdown in Chinatown 2015)
    Published on Nov 9, 2014
    We had less than 3 weeks to make this film, starring 91-year old korean-American senior, Arthur Park, and shot in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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