Plaster with bronze patina, c. 1976
Frank and Shirley Hollin Collection
FRANK HOLLIN EULOGY
Draft of Ed Hollin remarks
Where does one begin in trying to capture the spirit of a personal hero? It's not easy. Sportswriter Roger Kahn, in eulogizing his friend Jackie Robinson, wrote, "I loved Jackie Robinson too much to deify him." I face the same challenge in trying to summarize my father's contributions to his world, which were, by his choice, his family and loved ones, and those he allowed in his circle of friends. Unfortunately, disease and a near fatal brain injury 10 years ago changed my father. He was aware of and frustrated by what that event did to him. Although not one to complain, he remarked to me more than once, with frustration at his inability to change it, "I know what an S.O.B. I've become". His tears at unpredictable times evidenced the physiological change which his brain injury brought about. But the important thing is for us, especially his grandchildren, to remember Frank Hollin for the whole of his life, and not the most recent past when he was often (but not always) so different than he had been for the first 67 of his 77 years. The old Frank would reappear when, despite what had appeared to be a crabby mood, or brief outbursts he could not control, he would say good night at the end of a not particularly remarkable family gathering, with a strong hug and a kiss, and a mention of how blessed he felt.
Frank Hollin never had the opportunity to have an adult relationship with his own father, Willie, who died when Frank and Alvin were only teenagers. But his loss caused my father to cherish the opportunity to have a relationship with his sons, especially as they grew to adulthood. And I can't help but believe that what was taken from him when he was a teenager moved him to pursue his passion for life - and the gifts of those things he loved: music, art, nature, gardening and people around him.
When he began experiencing the effects of heart disease in his early forties, it drove him into the swimming pool, where he miraculously developed, through discipline and a drive to experience the pleasures of old age, his cardiac reserve. He cherished the life cycle events which followed - anniversaries with my mother, which came to number 53, weddings of his sons, the birth of his grandchildren, and their b'nai mitzvah, graduations and accomplishments.
He was a model patient, absorbing his doctors' advice, and, with my mother's willing and under-appreciated help, achieving results beyond the expectations of anyone but him. And as if he hadn't proven enough courage through the boyhood death of his father, which was shortly followed by the death of one of heroes, his grandfather, his three years aboard a naval vessel during World War II, recovery from at least three heart attacks, and open heart surgery in 1974 (at a time when that procedure was just slightly removed from science fiction), in 1989 he faced a debilitating brain injury and life saving surgery. No one expected him to recover from that event to the point where he could attain the ability to live independently again. But we had underestimated the abilities and love of the Frank and Shirley team. When only a few years had passed, he was back in the swimming pool, and to everyone's amazement, relearning how to drive an automobile, and taking and passing his driver's examination in his 70's. Should we have expected less courage from the man, who, when barely more than a boy, and having lost his father, gave up his exemption from military service as a result of a civilian job judged essential to the war effort, and enlisted in the Navy in 1942?
Frank Hollin never graduated from college, but he had a love of learning and a gift of absorbing everything around him. He grew up in the confines of his family's world in South Philadelphia and Strawberry Mansion, but sailed the world in the Navy and experienced many of the world's cultures and developed a passion for geography. Indeed, one of the rules of life I learned from my father was that no matter how urgent the need, for any school project or otherwise, cutting a picture from an old, never-to-be discarded edition of National Geographic was akin to defacing a just discovered original Biblical scroll.
He never attended religious school, celebrated his own Bar Mitzvah or learned to read Hebrew, but would sit rapt during religious services, listening for hours to the chanting of prayers of those around him. Frank grew up and lived his entire life (save those three years aboard ship) in an urban environment, but he loved fishing, the outdoors, and gardening on a scale which caused his crop to practically overrun the tiny 18 foot wide plot of ground behind my parents "rowhouse" in Philadelphia. His friends all knew of his unique talent for building things with his hands, and he was a gifted photographer, whose dream to learn to paint and draw was deferred by his brain injury.
My father taught me so many things that fathers try to teach their children - how to ice skate, bait a fish hook, hit a baseball, hang a picture, use basic household tools - remember I promised not to deify him - he didn't succeed at
My father never realized it, but to me his greatest talent really was as a teacher.
From his example as the son of a mother who was blessed to grow old, and as the son in law who took his mother-in-law into his home for years and treated her
like his own mother, I used these lessons to guide me in my efforts to love and respect my parents and in-laws. For better or worse, I realized in the last two days how much I learned from my father about how to be a husband and a father. And these are the most important lessons a man can impart.
Although he appreciated fine things and the luxuries that material achievements could bring, he was blessed not to be smitten by the drive for material wealth that many feel has characterized those of us who have come of age since the 1970's. He was too busy, as my brother remarked, creating and building relationships with and among his loved ones, and unwittingly setting an example for others.
My father was could be a physically imposing man - I never worried about getting lost when I was with him in a crowd - I would just look at the tops of the heads of everyone and be able to pick him out. Yet his large and talented hands had a gentle touch evident in their handiwork, whether hand made toys for his nephews and grandchildren, delicate bounty from his garden, or beautiful photographs of his family or scenes from his travels with Shirley. And his hands had the same gentle touch when they grasped yours, or punctuated a hug.
I had the pleasure of speaking for the first time yesterday to one of my Dad's shipmates, a friend of 50 plus years I had never met, whose comment to me, was "There may be nicer fellows than Frank in the world, but there aren't many." That's as eloquent a tribute as one could wish for.
Thanks for the lessons Dad. We all love you.
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