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Honoring Dad on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth

July 31, 2013

Honoring Dad on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth:

July 11, 1913-July 11, 2013

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Since July of 2012, I had hoped and planned to honor the 100th anniversary of my dad’s birth in a special way. Although my sister, Mary, and I tried to make July 11 the most special for my father, we actually spent the entire week in our home state of Indiana and thought of our most extraordinary dad each day that we traveled through our home area and gathered with family and friends.

In a small house in Klondyke, Indiana, Mrs. Elizabeth (Liza) Massa gave birth to her second son on July 11, 1913. Even though this baby was named after his father, my dad, at age 65, discovered that my grandfather had registered his second son’s name not as “James,” but as “Giacomo” (Italian for “James”). Since my dad had always used “James F. Massa” as his legal name, he went to the courthouse in approximately 1978 to change his name to what we all (including his mother) thought his name was—“James F. Massa.”

In this summer of the 100th anniversary of my dad’s birth, another baby was born to our family: my father’s great-granddaughter Lanie Ann Fanyo arrived on Flag Day, June 14, and completed the arc which spans 100 years with beautiful symmetry. My nephew Eric and his wife Marissa are the proud and lucky parents of precious Lanie (who is such a good and sweet baby). How abundantly happy and proud dad would be of little Lanie and Eric (who seems to be following in the sparkling fatherhood footsteps of his grandpa)!

With thoughts of the new, young family we had just visited a couple of weeks earlier fresh in our minds, my sister and I were ready to step back in time to remember and honor our dad. As I had hoped, July 11 was a spectacular summer day in
west-central Indiana. With two silk flower bouquets and one bouquet of fresh flowers, my sister, Zoe (my Leader Dog), and I visited the graves of our parents at Roselawn Cemetery. Then, Mary, my guide dog, and I took the scenic route through the “Covered Bridge Country” of Parke County to Turkey Run State Park, where my family had spent many happy times over several decades.

In earlier years, our extended family met at Turkey Run State Park for picnics and for hikes on the various trails. Walking across the suspension bridge, high above Sugar Creek, and taking Trail Number Three (classified as “rugged”) were highlights of those early family gatherings. As we all grew older, picnics were replaced with dining in the rustic and quaint Turkey Run Inn; then, my dad and I walked along Sugar Creek to Sunset Point and/or the Narrows Bridge. Frequently, my parents and I met Uncle Johnny (one of my dad’s three brothers) and Aunt Louise at the Turkey Run Inn. What good times we had at this lovely state park! Since we no longer own our family home and since my extended family celebrated so many special occasions at Turkey Run State Park, I thought this wooded spot would be the best place to celebrate the 100th anniversary of my dad’s birth.

Once more, my sister and I met relatives at the Turkey Run Inn. As Mary and I dined with favorite cousins, I proposed a toast: “To the best dad for my sister and me and to a great uncle for all of you!” I was too overwhelmed with emotions to make a longer speech.

After a fantastic buffet and fun conversations, the cousins, my sister, Zoe, and I “hiked” to Sunset Point and took photos with Sugar Creek and memories in the background.

Later, my sister, Zoe, and I drove through our hometown of Blanford and by the house where my parents lived for most of the almost 55 years of their married lives. Too quickly, we drove by a lifetime of loving memories. I can still picture that front porch with my dad, sitting on the swing and waving at each passing car or truck. I can picture him on his riding lawn mower with one of his grandsons on his lap. I see him working in his beautiful and bountiful gardens or washing one of his favorite red Fords. I see him kneeling on the lawn, between the places where the sweet peas and irises grew, to plant the blue spruce tree that we so enjoyed from a two-foot start to heights above the adjacent flagpole. I picture him in a suit as he held his baby niece (Gina), dressed in red velvet for the holidays. I readily recall his reclining in his Lazy Boy chair, with one of our dogs—Chelsea—on his lap. With music of the Big Band era playing in my mind, I picture my debonair dad, dancing with my mother, dressed in royal blue.

I hear his melodious voice singing the Irish Lullaby to a baby of the family. I hear his voice offering encouragement to my sister or others, as well as to me. I hear his infectious laughter when he watched Candid Camera or All in the Family. I hear his smile and positive attitude. I hear his voice from the thousands of phone calls we shared. When he called me from his workplace, I hear his saying, to another worker,
“Ten-four…” I hear his tears when he drove to Ohio to tell me that our 17-year-old Chihuahua/Toy Manchester, Prince, had died. I hear him, making polenta and then dumping it onto the cloth-covered board in the center of our family table. I hear his clear and distinct voice, reading to me the newspaper, letters, pamphlets from Leader Dog School, and so many other print materials. I hear his voice; I hear him and miss him still and always.

Most of all, I picture my dad—being there for his parents, his siblings, his wife, my sister, so many others, and especially me. I gratefully remember my dad’s being there and everywhere for me. He was the most precious gift to me; but the only gift I can give for him on the 100th anniversary of his birth is to whisper and write: “Thank you for being the Best Dad! All that I have been, all that I am, and all that I will ever be is because of you.”

Post-Script: To cap off the evening of July 11, after our tour of our hometown of Blanford, Mary, Zoe, and I went to the Dairy Queen—just as Dad and I had done so often on summer evenings. In yet another tribute to our kind and loving dad, my sister and I ate DQ ice cream along the Banks of the Wabash, near Clinton’s Quattro Stagioni Fountain. What a remarkable and memorable day!

For my dad’s recipes for polenta and bagnetto, please refer to my blog post of April 6, 2013.

July 31, 2013


From → Uncategorized

  1. You went to Dairy Queen and you didn’t invite me? I am a sucker for their blizzards for sure.

    Lovely post. A true tribute to a wonderful set of memories from wonderful times in your life.


    Deon Lyons Author of Sully Street Now Available in Paperback @ The Children’s Book Cellar, Downtown Waterville Also Available in Paperback and Digital at the Following Link:

    email Personal Website Personal Blog Facebook Page:

    “The happiest of people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.” Unknown Author


  2. Paula permalink

    Alice, once again you so easily engage me in vicariously but deeply experiencing your world, past and present, feelings and thoughts, as if I were there, with you, as if I, somehow, knew your beloved father (what a wonderful Man/Father/Uncle/Husand/Son he was, and certainly remains, in all of your hearts!). Thanks again. Keep writing. Your passion shows.

  3. I am so thankful to have been able to spend quality time this summer with you, Mary, Eric, Marissa, and baby Lanie. It was also very special for TIm and me to have honored Uncle Jimmy at one of his favorite places. Heartfelt hugs for creating more family memories! XO . . . Carole

  4. I have no words to add to your beautiful tribute, Alice, except to say that we are truly blessed to be the daughters of such an extraordinary man!
    Love, Mary

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