David Gantz of Blessed Memory
July 26, 2017
July 26, 2017
Eulogy for David Frederick Gantz
I am Elie Levy – David’s brother-in-law.
I’ve had 37 years worth of a beautiful, loving relationship to sum up David’s life and can conclude with absolute confidence David was mighty in spirit and soul. I’ve always known that how one dies reflects how one lives. The death terror anyone else would have succumbed to – from a cruel, unmerciful cancer -- was not what David did. In the last few weeks – David faced down this dreadful, invading alien ravaging his body – and we saw no inner death terror or trembling of imminent death. David may have suffered silently – outwardly though – he was brave and gracious to all.
David lived fully – and the most extraordinary virtue all of us saw in him was his ultimate and unyielding devotion to family. He yearned to take care of Kenneth, Deborah and loving Laurie. Sacrifice was the driving force of his life – self-denial for the love of his two sweet, beautiful children and Laurie. David always held the needs of others – especially his family in his beautiful heart. He filled his heart with wisdom and knowledge – until it overflowed and filled other people’s lives. Everyone here knows that being with David was fluid and natural – easy to talk to and he was eternally gracious, accepting and loving. He was so discerning, intuitive – knowing what you needed -- he listened genuinely enabling him to understand you accurately
David was directed to the practice of law. It suited him perfectly and being an attorney was his fitting and true work. It pulled for the traits essential to practicing law magnificently. Always ethical – above suspicion – and his clients saw he was worthy of being respected and trusted due to his actions. Easily – David was praiseworthy – filled with integrity and intellectual empathy, humility and civility.
I study Mussar -- the Jewish path of character development and spiritual growth leading to awareness and wisdom. I read the soul traits and asked which revealed David to the world the most. I decided the soul trait humility reflected David’s attitude and presence in the world. In Mussar- humility is defined as limiting oneself to the right space – physical and emotional space in the world. Humility is objectified here – and in relation to David – his presence occupied his rightful space in the world – not too much and not too little Just enough space. He didn’t jam other people into the corner by occupying too much space. His mighty presence and mind could have easily consumed the space of others – attending a prestigious law school – working for a prestigious law firm. David allowed others to occupy more space – to fill their heart with esteem. How – by not disclosing his achievements and success in life – and allowing others to enlarge their rightful space. This healed the world. In Orchot Tzaddikim – The Ways of the Righteous – we claim that a small deed done in humility is a thousand times more acceptable to G-d than a great deed done in pride. David was fulfilling Hashem’s plead for humanity to behave this way – and although David wasn’t aware – he was perfecting and making the world more holy through his humility. He allowed others to enlarge their space – this is kindness, compassion and love. Although arrogance has an insatiable appetite for enlarging one’s space – it can suffocate others. David never suffocated others – he seldom shared his many accomplishments. Oh – how he had Hashem smiling.
On the lighter side – I was known for tickling David’s deeply embedded wild hair. Ok – not tickle – poke. On several occasions – David decided he’d endured me long enough and surrendered – trusting me to walk him to the edge. On our family vacation to Hawaii – he got on stage with me and we danced to an audience, and he wore a baseball cap backwards. After years of me calling him Bro, dude and man – he started calling me bro. I speak Hebrew – so when I’d text or email him – I’d throw in a few Hebrew words. He’d respond with other Hebrew words and of course I’d respond with which English-Hebrew translation program are you using – because it’s wrong. Not really – he was right. While working on my dissertation – I needed subjects and David offered to complete personality assessments. He was worried because he later discovered I’d look at his results. David came to me saying “So now you’ve got a road map to my psyche.” I told him that for the last 37 years – I’ve been doing an archaeological dig in your mighty, thick brain containing billions of neurons and haven’t unearthed anything. The tissue is impenetrable and circuitry can’t be changed. I think I reached him --- and although still tamed – his wild side emerged occasionally.
David lived as a holy soul. His Heart naturally yearned to give – emotionally, physically and lovingly. David never sacrificed the ways of the heart for pure selfish reasons. He never chased self-serving opportunities. David gave abundantly -- and this pleased Hashem incredibly. He practiced Tzedakah – was charitable, honored justice, fairness and David was righteous. He never dishonored anyone – at work or in his personal and familial relations. David was grateful for the good in his holy life – and it was a sign of a heart made whole and pure by G-d. Gratitude enabled David to experience a heightened awareness of the beautiful gifts he possessed and he could purify and make holy the world by acting on his virtues. In the end – David’s heart felt what his powerful intellect understood. His heart only knew selflessness, compassion, generosity and treating others with respect and dignity. Remember – every time we perform an act of holy kindness, it honors David’s life. It is what David has left for us – a death defying, symbolic legacy of his sacred, heroic life. Heroic – yes – but in a silent, yet mighty presence constantly working to achieve moral outcomes for anyone fortunate enough to know this beautiful, righteous soul of a man.
Eulogy for Chris Reynolds April 9, 2011
I am Elie Levy – and I’ve been in this mighty man’s life for 42 years. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Chris and documenting his oral life history. You see—Chris was a vet. who attended my Veteran’s Legacy Project class—which has been meeting for 10 years. Since he Chris was in the Navy for over a year, he was a vet eligible to be interviewed, by me and having his story recorded on a dvd which is in the family. The interview covers his entire life, and closes before receiving his cancer diagnosis. I had to convince him to let me interview him, and we’ve got a great, two hour oral history. It captures a life traveling over tough terrain, a few, flat, easy stretches, difficult hills to climb and some rollers.
The route over the last 4 years was difficult. Chris developed a major depressive disorder—sought treatment—was medicated and sadly enough, experienced a fierce, unremitting depression. He fought through the symptoms and eventually got off medications after I referred him to a therapist friend and a psychiatrist willing to taper him off his meds. Chris now was awakened. He was motivated to search for work—and we met regularly at my favorite coffee shop to look for work on my laptop. I also convinced him to join me at my mental health facilities. I’d pick him up in the morning, get that cup of Joe at Starbucks, the Orange County Register (paper) and head to run group. I see mentally ill folks at residential care centers—folks with schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. I educated Chris about schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder—and I wasn’t surprised at how nicely he took to our patients. I watched him interact with our folks—and how he was therapeutic and well received by everyone. Chris empathized with our patients—he understood how their incurable, lifelong diagnosis took aspects of their life away, and he seriously wanted to help restore life by doing for them. He made music cd’s for a patient—bought items for them and this took care of Chris’s need to feel valued and useful. It was healing for both—and his giving was appreciated. Our patients miss him and send their love and comfort to your family Peggy.
In the car one day, he says to me that he wants to be a counselor at the VA. I told him it took me 12 years in college to earn a degree to be a Clinical Psychologist. He said he doesn’t need a degree—he’s done watching me run group and he’s looking for a counseling job. I said OK—and he applied for several jobs at the Long Beach VA— but no luck. So— we partnered and co-led group.
I was impressed with Chris’s capacity to empathize with our patients—he shared his hurt and they experienced him as genuine, accepting and as supportive. Chris was in his element here—identifying, empathizing, consoling and belonging. He purchased a shovel for a schizophrenic patient who gardened in our yard—and taught him some things. Chris bought other patients toiletries, clothes and was a loved partner in their recovery program. He began to show me up—and I told him to stop it. Chris discovered he could impact our patient’s lives—and how his caring ways made him an agent of change. My patients detected no pretense in this man—and with no rehearsal, he danced with our patients the dance of life. He choreographed extemporaneously—and it looked good.
Chris also came to my anchor program Founders House of Hope—where I’ve been for 15 years—a 90 bed residential care program for the mentally ill. He made a significant impact here too—and the patients warmly welcomed him into their life. By now—Chris was ready for an epiphany and it came to him as a calling—maybe a whisper while in a solemn mood. He found his fitting work—and it was counseling our misunderstood, stigmatized, underserved, mentally ill folks. He asked me questions about our patients, and I even tried to find money in our little budget to hire him as a counselor. Despite this disappointment, Chris continued being with me--- learning and giving to our patients. Chris valued his time with our patients and they miss him.
I want you to know that Chris valued longevity in relationships. We’re in the car, and he says “Are you aware we’ve known each other over 40 years?” I said—why do you keep reminding me of that? I’m being honest now—he’d say it a couple of times a week. And then he’s saying—remember the time I’d get to your house while you were wrapping Tefillin and praying—and your mom would make me breakfast while I waited. I said yeah—you came early to get breakfast. He loved to reminisce, and we remembered the significant experiences that created this powerful, emotional bond. In the last few years, he’d actually ask me why I tolerated him—why I didn’t give him up long ago. He apologized for being difficult— showing self-awareness and insight – and a desire to change. I told him I wasn’t dropping him until he got a job and started buying me a cup of Joe—and that he was a worthwhile fella needing assurance he mattered to people. Chris knew he mattered to me— and I mattered to him. Remember—his fragile self-concept was being challenged with no offers to work.
You know the man loved to fish, share his catch and barbeque for friends. I’m not sure you know I almost converted him to Judaism. We’d talk about Judaism—and I told him I co-teach a conversion course with my Rabbi. I also told him I got $1,000 for every person I recruited to the class—and that we needed more Jews in the world. Seriously—he was fascinated by Judaism and read abut the history of the Jews and their plight. You know Chris was a historian—and he knew lots. He had a great fund of knowledge about things—not just history. He impressed others—and we learned from Chris. Before I’d leave for Israel—he’d say—now don’t buy me anything on sale—you pay retail for my souvenirs. I told him I had two lists with names on them—one list for people I pay retail and one for people I pay the sale price. He wasn’t on either list. I explained to him he was a full price friend—and not to worry. So—he got him a t-shirt from Tel Aviv University which I paid retail for-- a Star of David, and a couple of other on sale items.
In the end—Chris emphatically said he didn’t want to burden family. He prepared himself to die—and bravely welcomed the angel of death to transport him to his palace. We know death is frightening—and the quality and quantity of this fear depends on who you are. Chris lived 54 meaningful years— and in the process- learned so much about himself. He invited me into his mind for an archaelogical dig—one that uncovered lots of artifacts needing explanation and interpretation. He was unbelievably brave—willing to explore, analyze and find truth. Chris painfully understood life is full of irreversible events with consequences that hurt, derail and have serious implications for what’s possible for you. But-- recovery and pursuing some of what you dream for is possible. Over the 42 years, especially over the last 4 years, our friendship intensified and our trust and sharing deepened. I trusted Chris with my feelings and secrets. He revealed to me his disappointments, regrets and ways he redeemed himself.
In the last few months, he reminded me I was a deeply loved brother— accepting , caring and appreciating him. He’d end our phone conversations with “I love you” and I asked “Do I need to also say I love you?” I told him I liked him— and wasn’t sure I loved him. I told him love was a powerful force—and it symbolized a deeply, loyal, abiding, trusting relationship. I told him I’d love him, and be his lifelong friend for only $25.00
Chris entered the world yelling—making noise and left this world with a muted voice It was a turbulent passage—with corrective experiences along the way. Chris taught us much—resilience, strength and not to fear the unwelcome intruders who disappoint and interrupt life. Chris’s life symbolizes a meaningful trace that won’t fade— that is perceptible and appreciated for it’s deep, luminous image. Our relationship changed me and enabled me to discover aspects of myself unrevealed until I met Chris. Chris showed me his courage to become lots more than good enough, despite early challenges others would have surrendered to. The 54 years were compressed into a shorter span, and naturally—with lots of activity. I’ll have to ask Peggy for the dvd of Chris’s oral history to burn a copy for me.—when I get to thinking about him.
Edwin "Skip" Gills
Edwin Parsons Gills It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Edwin P. Gills. Edwin was born in Vallejo, CA on May 10, 1926 and passed away peacefully in his home in Long Beach, CA on January 25, 2011. Edwin was in the Boy Scouts as a youth and continued to be involved with Scouts in his adult life. He made himself available to truck the troops to their camping trips and other activities. He encouraged them to earn their badges and being a mentor and a moral compass to many which developed lifetime friendships. As in Scouts he nurtured another family of friends with the people he met over the many years working Riverside and Orange County for the US Forest Service. Edwin loved traveling by train, ferryboats, buses and taking road trips (especially back roads) and did so as often as he could. Edwin is survived by his brother Floyd Morgan Gills (Annie); his niece, Nancy Gills-Hughes (Jerry); nephews, Richard and Barry Gills; and special family friend, Mollie Tobin. Edwin will be greatly missed by many people whose lives he gently touched. The Memorial Services will be held on Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 11 am at Church of our Fathers at Forest Lawn Cypress. Viewing will be on Friday, January 28, 2011 from 5-9 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations to Community Hospital of Long Beach Foundation
Elie, Chris and Skip
John J. Camilleri
John J. Camilleri lived in Bellflower, California with his wife Marion before passing away on June 22, 2009. They were married 60 years and had five children including Mariana, John, Catherine, Margaret and Frank. All the children live locally except for Catherine who resides in Pennsylvania. John was very proud of his children, teaching them the meaning of honor and respect. For many years John worked for North American Aviation in Downey before operating Spino's Italian Family Restaurant. Along with his wife Marion and their children, they ran their popular restaurant for 28 years. For seven years, the restaurant was located in Anaheim before relocating to Bellflower for 21 years. John and Marion sold the restaurant in 1987 and went to work part time for five and a half years at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, CA as food service workers. In 1993, John and Marion retired. John's interests included writing, woodworking and traveling
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