Sometimes you can’t make it to a memorial service in person. Sometimes, the memorial service comes to you. This was the case for the event celebrating Phil Jaynes, who died on July 30 at the age of 89 in the Golden Home nursing home in Sacramento, California.
His wife Amy is a resident at Golden Home, and had been there for more than a year. It just made more sense to bring family and friends there than to try to do a service elsewhere. Lisa, one of Phil’s four daughters, gave me a DVD of the event as an option for one of the 30 Funerals in 30 Days, so the event came to me as well.
Here’s the obituary that Lisa wrote about her dad:
Philip Somers Jaynes, Jr. (89) of Sacramento, CA died on July 31, 2012. Phil was born on May 10, 1923 in Chicago, IL to Katherine Barrett Jaynes and Philip Somers Jaynes, Sr. and was raised with his sister, Grace Herndon, in the Rogers Park Neighborhood in Chicago, IL.
Phil served as a Radar Operator for the Air Force in the Philippines during the World War II. He married Amy Walter Jaynes on 12/11/1948 whom he met while attending a World Federalist Association meeting at University of Chicago. He received his Masters Degree in International Affairs from Loyola University and retired after 35 years at Inland Steel as Safety Engineer.
Phil raised his four daughters in Highland, IN where he was a member of the Lion’s Club and the volunteered with the Army Corp of Engineers. Upon retirement he established Jaynes Consulting and traveled with People to People International to study safety practices in China, Brazil, Former USSR countries, and Thailand.
After selling their house in Highland, Phil and Amy moved to Valparaiso IN before settling in Sacramento CA to be near their grandchildren. He enjoyed storytelling, tennis, and sailing. He was a charter member and served on the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Sacramento.
He is survived by Amy Jaynes of Sacramento, wife; Edie Olaughlin (daughter) of Sequim, WA; Phyllis Amy (daughter) and Ray Berry of Sacramento, CA; Wendy (daughter) and Stuart Neves of Clarksburg, CA; Lisa (daughter) and Chris Johnson of Albuquerque, NM and seven grandchildren: Kelly and Megan O’Laughlin; Cameron, Adrienne, Christopher and Anthony Neves; and Jacob Johnson. He was predeceased by Grace (sister) and Steve Herndon of Norwood, CO. Memorial service was held at Golden Home in Sacramento, CA on August 4, 2012 with family and friends.
In his memory, Philip requests donations be made to: Citizens for Global Solutions, 420 Seventh Street Southeast, Washington D.C. 20003 http://globalsolutions.org or Unitarian Universalist Community Church, 2700 L St. Sacramento, CA 95816 www.u2c2.org
A group of 30 or so gathered in two common areas at the nursing home. The memorial service opened with an expression of thanks to the staff at Golden Home for the wonderful care they provided to Phil in his last days. He was only there for 10 days, but as daughter Edie said, “You treated him with love and respect, no matter how he reacted to you. I only hope that when my time comes I can get anyone close as good care as my parents have gotten.”
Messages from cousins and friends who could not be there in person were shared with the group. A poem was read that was meant to be from Dad (see the reading on the YouTube video).
Of course there is much more to say than what fits into an obituary. The stories told helped paint a more detailed portrait. He was a wonder worker with tools and could fix anything that didn’t work. In fact, he reveled in tackling hard-to-repair jobs like the disposal at the church after a potluck supper. Before he joined the Unitarians, playing tennis on Sundays was his church. And he was a talented story teller who mentored others in the craft. He was also, well, cheap. Perhaps frugal is a more polite word.
He wanted to change the world and stop war, hence his involvement with the World Federalist Association and the United Nations. He and wife Amy supported an informed and involved citizenry, and were both members of the League of Women Voters.
Daughter Wendy remembered as a little girl standing on the top of his steel toed shoes as she danced with him. They had lots of animals growing up, and her parents taught the kids about life and death through their animals.
Lisa remembered you had to wear those steel toed shoes cutting the grass to get a weekly allowance. “Better do exactly what you’re told if you want that cash at the end of the week” she said.
The family came from Chicago, and they lived through the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather George Barrett was at the center of the tale. Phil told it to his grandson Jacob, and this is how he told it at the service:
Back in 1871, Mrs. O’Leary was milking her cow. The cow kicked over a lantern, the hay caught fire in barn, and other buildings started burning. She went and rang the bell, and by the time the firefighters arrived the whole block was on fire. The fire cracks and spits and keeps shooting embers all over. The firefighters couldn’t put out, so they evacuate and hope it doesn’t cross the river. A guy thought his wagon could cross the river, but the wagon caught on fire and his horse bolted.
George Barrett the first saw the fire and said the family should get the furniture out of house. They took the good silver and placed it at bottom of a well. Then they put furniture down the well and then topped that with wet rugs. The well was located in Lincoln Park. George Barrett Junior was sent away to a family farm on the west side. Everyone got out, and the house burned down.
George was in the park by the well, under the wet rugs, listening to the hiss and pop of embers hitting the rugs. He fell asleep, lulled by the hissing sound. He awoke all blackened.
After the fire, George Barrett Junior and his mother came back and asked for dad. Some folks said he’d died. They walked around calling for him, then someone said “He’s in Lincoln Park.” He saw the rugs, all blackened. Junior thought he recognized them, although mom said they weren’t the right colors. They went and found George alive under the rugs. They’ve been telling that story in their family ever since. And they still use the good silver at special family events.
His wife Amy said, “We were very happily married for 63 years. Most of the time we had discussions and worked things out… At different times we had some disagreements, but were never disagreeable. It’s so nice to see everyone here.”
His friend Larry, a fellow story teller, said, “He was a mentor who meant so much to me. He shared his knowledge, wisdom, generosity, and was so gentle. We had a mutual admiration and spent a lot of hours together. I’m going to miss him a lot.”
A woman from the UU church said that his voice always had a lilt at the end of every sentence. He had a wonderment at everything. Everything was new, and he was curious.
Phil had asked that instead of sending flowers, make donations to causes important to him: Global Solutions, Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, League of Women Voters, United Nations, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the University of Chicago.
If you’d like to add your stories or memories, feel free to post in the comment box below. May Phil Jaynes entertain the angels with his stories.