Happy 100th, Gramps

Eulogy by his daughter, my Aunt Kelly.

When you live for 92 years there are many things to talk about. I am here today to tell you things about my dad that you may not know, but also to share the lessons of life he taught me over the years.

Our names:

No one in my family went by their real name

Kelsey (my dad) was Burr

Catherine (my mom) was Kitty

Kelsine was Kelly, the only time I heard my real name was on first day of school and when my mother was mad

David Burr (my brother) was DeeBee, there was another Dave who lived across the street so he went by his first two initials

Arthur Scott (my brother) was Joe – go figure that one out

A Skipper:

Not a boat skipper

He loved to skip, because he was tall, he could go real high

Hold my hand and lift me off the ground

A Block Builder:

We moved to our 3 family house on Franklin Ave in 1946

We lived on the 3rd floor

I was 6 and DB was 3, low ceilings

The objective was to build to the ceiling

Of course we had to knock them down

Banging of the broom on the ceiling from tenants on 2nd floor

A Gymnast:

He was our base man, on the bottom

In our home there were fingermarks on the ceiling

He would lie on floor, put up his feet,

We would go through what ever we had to end up standing on his feet.

If you needed help balancing, fingertips on the ceiling

Once up there, had to get down, the sofa was our mat – down we’d go

A Joyrider:

How many of you have driven up Nolan Road?

There are 2 sets of railroad tracks

The upper track is half way up the hill

Loved to ride in car down the hill

We would come down the hill, dad would let off the brake

we would go flying over tracks, bounce off the back sea, no seat belts,

probably only going 10 miles and hour

but, if you had asked us, we would have said at least 50

A Campfire Addict:

If you ever went camping with dad, there was always a fire,

first thing in the morning and kept it going all day.

He decided to have one at home. Once decided, a man of action,

screw the building codes, just do it.

He built a cinder block base in our basement

he placed it under the chimney from the former coal furnace.

When anyone came to visit we roasted hot dogs, marshmallows, popcorn.

After a few years the campfire met its demise.

Too much creasote and there was a chimney fire.

Fortunately it was detected early and the fire company put it out before the house burned down

A Ski Instructor:

All the grandkids learned to ski with grandpa.

But his two start pupils were me and Gramma Rita.

She started in her 50’s and I was in my early 40’s.

Dad was a beautiful skier, he would just float down the hill.

His favorite place to ski was along the edges on unskied snow,

that meant going in a straight line.

He would just slide down at a nice easy pace. Amazing.

He would challenge us. As a skier, Rita was a speed demon

I was a scardy cat. I would stand at the top of many hills and panic about going down. But I knew dad would never take me on a trail I could not handle.

He would know when to be in front of me, to let me follow

or right behind me, ready to help if I fell.

 

A Creative Genius:

Dad graduated from high school at age 21. How did that happen? His mother separated from his father when dad was age 5.

He lived with his father and his sister lived with his mother.

Dad’s father was constantly moving.

During the years they lived together, dad was in 11 elementary schools.

His mom realized this was not working

he came to binghamton in 1925 to live with her.

She had an apartment on the corner of North St and Oak.

The elementary school was across the street.

Dad went to school on Monday as a 5th grader, by Friday he was moved

back to 3rd grade.

 

He went to high school in Syracuse, NYS Regents exams nailed him for another year. But he did graduate

 

In 1937 he came to binghamton and started working for American Optical.

 

During the war he had a job as foreman at Link Aviation.

After the war, Link moved the optical divsion to Syracuse

Dad was offered a supervisory position.

That was not his thing. He was a hands on worker. He did not go,

but he did buy a lot of Link equipment and started his own business – Gould Lens Service.

It was tough going, he worked 2nd jobs to support us.

His main business was repairing binoculars and cameras.

 

In 1959, he got his first big industrial contract with NASA, making lenses for the space program. Slowly the precision optical work came.

He did a lot of prototype work. He could underbid other companies

because he was a one man shop with no overhead.

He worked at home in the basement

 

One of his jobs for Link Aviation, had to coat lenses to simulate clouds for the Link trainers (the famous blue box)

 

Another job was for Raymond Corp in Green, NY. He created a lens system that would assist fork lift drivers to see where to stop when they were lifting goods for storage on high warehouse shelving.

 

he did work for IBM, Corning, and many other companies.

Here was a guy with a high school education, maybe one lousy course in physics, worked by himself, no engineers to consult.

The specs would come in, not only would he have to figure them out,

he would have to engineer his equipment to make it happen.

Trial and error. What a gift he had.

A Stay Home Dad:

As kids we were lucky, we not only had a stay home mom, but we had a stay home dad.

Every day when we would come home from school he was there. Our mother never had to say, “you just wait until your father gets home”. He wasn’t there just for us, he was there for any kid who wanted to talk with him. Over the years many boys in the neighborhood and friends of my brothers adopted him as their friend or surrogate father. To this day those young men still stopped by to say hi and check in to see how dad was doing

Our Employer:

When we needed money, we worked in the shop. We were allowed to try our hands at grinding and polishing lenses. It was not my cup of tea. From age 10 until boys came onto the scene, I was the shipping department. DB and Joe stepped right up to the plate and when dad retired they took over the business.

My Mentor and Teacher:

He taught me lots of things over the years

Honesty is the foundation of trust. With trust comes opportunity

He gave all three of us a very long leash. We had more independence than most of our friends. The grounds rules were set and if we stuck to them we got to do what we wanted, but we also did not want to disappoint dad.

Home was a place you could come, no matter what

There is no no! You can do anything you want to. Take the risk.

Just need to try. You may not be the best, but you can do more than you think you can.

There are no failures, just opportunites to learn anew.

When you play with children, get down to their level. Have direct eye contact. This means you are either on the floor or they are in your lap.

Live within your means. Set aside money for lean times. When you own your own business there are good months and bad and you have to be ready.

You can have a lot of fun with very little money.

The glass is always half full. He was the most positive person you will ever meet.

Accept every person for who they are – another human being who is doing the best they can.

 

If dad were present today, he would be absolutely overwhelmed by your presence. If you were to ask him to describe himself. He would say “I’m just an ordinary guy who gets up every morning and lives each day, striving to be a good husband, life partner, dad, grandpa, and friend.

My response would be – job well done.

 

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