Monday, May 16, 2011

In Loving Memory: Dr. John J. Rutherford III

As most of you probably know, John's father passed away very suddenly a week and a half ago.  We flew out to California immediately and the past ten days have been a whirlwind.  I plan on doing a separate blog post about our week, but first I wanted to do a special tribute to my father-in-law, one of the kindest, gentlest men I've had the honor of knowing.

I only knew John's father, Hap, (short for "Happy") for ten years, but in that time I like to think we became close.  We shared a mutual love of reading and, as I learned last week, writing (Hap was working on a book about his experiences as a veterinarian, which I hope to type up very soon).  Hap didn't say much, but he always gave me a giant bear-hug when he saw me, and his few words always included "I love you."
I've often thought that you can truly judge a man's character by how he treats animals.  The Rutherford men, including John and his brother Michael, love animals beyond words (to the point where I have often thought they prefer animals to people much of the time). Where Hap was generally quiet and reserved around people, he came alive in the presence of animals.  The mangiest, most unfortunate-looking creatures on earth were as loved by Hap as his own pets.  Hap would get down on his knees and look into an animal's eyes, petting them gently while he examined them, and in that glance and touch were more compassion and love than most people are lucky enough to receive.  As a veterinarian, Hap cared for our dog, Mattie, as well as Sarah's dog, Minky, and was always willing to pass on his knowledge or give an opinion.  When Mattie died (a whole saga in and of itself), Hap went above and beyond to try to find out what had happened to her.  He truly cared for animals more than anyone I've ever met.
Hap was also the proudest father I've ever known.  While John and Michael were growing up, Hap (and Patti - let's not forget the world's proudest mother!) supported every crazy scheme or whim his sons had.  When John decided he wanted to race bikes, Hap drove cross-country to countless events, many in the middle of nowhere.  John has so many wonderful memories of those races and the crazy situations he and Hap got into.  And Michael, who has dabbled in more than his share of extreme sports (from wake boarding to dirt-bike racing to extreme trampolining), always had his father's unwavering support.  I admit I doubted many of Michael's ambitious endeavors.  Hap never did.  The weekend before he passed away, Hap took Michael to Monterey and stayed in a hostel with him so Michael could get SCUBA certified. 
When John was writing his eulogy, he asked me if it was unique to have a father who was not only loving and supportive, but who also expressed that love regularly.  Yes, I told him.  It was unique.  During his eulogy, John told the story of a time he and his father were on their way to a ranch call, and Hap turned to John and told him no little boy had ever been more loved by his father.  Those words stayed with John his entire life, and the security and support John felt from his dad growing up gave him the self-confidence to pursue anything he put his mind to.  I truly believe that no man has ever loved their son more than John loves Jack, and I know I have Hap to thank for that.

Jack and Grandpa Hap, Thanksgiving 2010
Hap was also a wonderful grandfather, and his sisters insist Jack looks just like Hap did when he was little.  After watching Jack with Dasher, Capone, and Mewsley (the Rutherford animals) last week, I like to think he has more than looks in common with his grandpa.
On our last day in Half Moon Bay, John and I were driving back to his parents' house, talking about his dad and how much he'll be missed, when I noticed a rainbow shining through a break in the clouds.  Hap's favorite book was The Wizard of Oz, and I like to think that rainbow had a little something to do with him. 
Hap, I will miss you so much.  But I know you are with Mattie and Katie, Audi and Jingle, and all the other animals you loved and who loved you over the years, taking care of them now just as you always have.  I love you. 


Sarah said...

Minky and I will miss you, Hap. We're thinking of you.

ExpatEliz said...

A beautiful post for a beautiful spirit.

Anonymous said...

Id like to read Uncle Haps book when your done typing it up!

Great post <3