May 27th marks the one year anniversary of my Dad’s passing. Coincidentally, Dad served our country in World War II, so this time of year is especially significant to me. Edgar George Lizotte left an indelible impression on me. If it weren’t for him, I would not be as committed to lifelong learning as I am today.
I am sharing below my tribute to my Dear Old Dad. I hope this letter, which celebrates his life, inspires you to acknowledge a mentor in your life, and the many women and men who have proudly and fearlessly served our country.
Over the past year, my brother Mark and I heard many heartfelt stories from friends and family members. They weave a mosaic of how he lived his life on Earth. Here is just one example of how Dad affected others:
“One night, your Mom and Dad (who were dating) were getting ready to leave for a formal dance. Josie (our Mom) invited my cousin and me to come and see them before they left for the dance. It was the first time I met your Dad. He was in his Navy whites, and your Mom was in a gown with her hair up. They were a picture of good looks and sophistication. I was impressed. That is how I will always remember them. I never dreamed at that time that I would be his sister-in-law for so many years.” – Aunt Ann
Edgar Lizotte was born in Claire, New Brunswick Canada on December 12, 1923. As a child, he and his family made it through the Depression by moving from Canada to Fort Kent, Maine. They searched for a better life there. He learned at that early age how to be self-sufficient and resourceful. I remember that Dad could prepare a sumptuous meal from the simplest ingredients–an onion, a piece of leftover pot roast, and some potatoes.
Dad later joined the Navy and served two tours of duty (Pacific and Europe) during World War II. We never fully understood the magnitude of his experience. He chose not to share many military stories with us. We gathered this was much too painful for Dad. When faced with a choice between showing his vulnerability or stoicism, Dad chose stoicism. His personality was very accurately depicted in Tom Brokaw’s bestselling book, “The Greatest Generation.”
Dad and Mom were married soon after he finished active duty. Dad dedicated his years to making Mom happy and building a Depression-proof life. He played the role of protector, loving Father, and problem-solver. Dad could handle any crisis or problem in a systematic way.
When the War ended, Dad began his new life back in Connecticut. He attended Hillyer College (now the University of Hartford) using the GI Bill scholarship. At night, he “earned his keep” at the Gilbert Clock Shop. His natural talents for building and fixing things emerged.
In his career, Dad played the classic role of “organization man.” His mechanical engineering stints with Litton Industries, Simplex, and others reflected his gift for innovating. He endured a difficult period of unemployment when we moved back to Connecticut by building an intricate stone wall and vegetable garden. He didn’t stay idle for long!
Dad tried consulting once, and really didn’t enjoy it. He preferred working as a hands-on team leader and creating a high quality mechanical device. I can remember many nights that Dad woke up at 3 am and scribbled his latest invention on a piece of paper. Today, his push button lock inventions are registered with the US Patent and Trade Office.
By 1999, Mom and Dad migrated to Naples, Florida on a full time basis. They enjoyed a social life with old and new friends. Many friends from Connecticut spent their winters there. Life in Huntington Lakes Estates was safe and somewhat predictable. Mom organized their social calendar, taught water aerobics to her “tribe” and walked several miles each day. Dad drove Mom to the flea markets and malls and prepared most of the meals. He would sneak in a trip to the Elks Lodge for time with the guys.
Things turned solitary when Mom passed away suddenly in 2004. Dad focused on beating cancer—and was victorious. Sadly, Dad’s energy levels never returned.
He moved from Huntington Lakes to Merrill Gardens, an Independent Living facility in Naples. He downsized to a smaller apartment and spent time socializing with his neighbors. Everyone loved his sense of humor and endlessly cheerful outlook on life.
Dad’s attitude kept him alive much longer than his body did. Pneumonia, alcoholism, a lung tumor, and a fractured hip took their toll. He wanted peace, comfort, and a reunion with Mom. On May 27, 2008, he got his wish.
Our family gathered on May 29 at Wiggins Pass State Park to say our goodbyes. We watched his ashes swim out to sea. Dad always loved the freedom, power, and expansiveness of the ocean. I love it just as much as he did.
We will always be grateful to Dad for many things. These include his undying love for our family, his passion for problem-solving, his commitment to education, and his willingness to accept us for our unique gifts. Mark and I are honored to carry on his legacy.
Dad is now reunited with Mom at a heavenly dinner dance. He may even be decked out in his Navy whites!