|Eulogy written and
delivered by Michael J. Tyger, Nephew, on May 5, 2011
|Frank Tyger did not necessarily think of
funerals the way many of us do. He attended many, and I think viewed them more as a
celebration of life than a mourning of death. There was one he attended which he
particularly enjoyed because it was a New Orleans style service with a live band playing
songs including "When the Saints Go Marchin In." He would often comment
after a funeral that he was happy to have been able to attend. He would have been humbled
and honored by the presence of all of you here today.
My Uncle Frank was probably my biggest supporter and fan, and I have him to thank for so many of the experiences and the values that have shaped my life and made me the person that I am today. My feeling is that he would want - and probably expect - me to say something today, and I would hate to let him down.
But how does one begin to summarize the life of someone like Frank Tyger? I was not sure that I would have the words. Then I realized that maybe I didnt need the words. Perhaps I should turn to Franks words. It is a bitter irony that his long battle with Parkinsons disease would ultimately rob so many of the words from a man that was a master of both the written and the spoken word. Yet we are fortunate to have a record of so many of his published quotes - words and ideas that spoke volumes even when he no longer could. Those words aid us today, and in the future, in paying tribute to a man who was such a special son, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin and friend.
If we were paying tribute to a carpenter we might symbolize that with a hammer; a mechanic perhaps a wrench. Frank was a man of ideas and ideals - and he expressed those through his cartoons, his quotes, his newspaper columns. His tools were simple, and I carry them today. The pen was mightier than the sword for Frank - and the black felt-tip was his weapon of choice. Armed with that pen and his trademark folded sheet of blank white paper, he was always prepared to record a thought, a quote, or a sketch that could ultimately become part of the work he loved.
Frank Tyger had a unique talent to sum up thoughts or feelings in a way that conveyed deep messages with simplicity and purpose. One of Franks favorite writers was Isaac Bashevis Singer, who said that "If Moses had been paid newspaper rates for the Ten Commandments, he might have written the Two Thousand Commandments." Fortunately, Frank was not paid by the word, and brevity was the hallmark to many of his best quotes.
Who is Frank Tyger? That question has been posed many times on the Internet over the past several years. My favorite response was when someone answered that Frank was a Dr. Seuss character. Just before his 80th birthday, Franks longtime friend Richard Bossler launched a website as a tribute to Frank and a way to let the world know that Frank was in New Jersey - not Who-ville. That website chronicles Franks humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York, his army years, his career with the Times newspaper, and his many contributions as an editorial cartoonist, writer, and master of the one-liner. The site is enhanced by personal comments from Franks family and friends. If you have not seen it yet, please visit the website (www.franktyger.info). The address can be found on the bookmarks which were handed out today, and the bookmarks also contain a sampling of some of Franks memorable quotes and cartoons.The website is strong on facts, as are the beautiful words that have been written about Frank over the years by his friends and talented writers such as Arnold Ropeik, Sharon Schlegel, and Irwin Stoolmacher. And yet, no individual tribute can truly do him justice because Frank was a person of great depth and varied roles and interests. We all probably have special memories that we cherish of him. While some may consider an appropriate eulogy to be solemn and sobering, many of my memories about Frank include humor. I dont think Frank would object to some laughter today. In fact, I believe that as the author of the quote "a sense of humor cushions the potholes on the road of life" he would encourage it and probably be laughing the loudest. Here are just a few memories that help shape an answer to the question, "Who is Frank Tyger?"
Frank Tyger is - A man of Empathy ...
Frank said, "If you cannot lift a load off anothers back, do not walk away. Try to lighten it."
Frank did that through extensive work with charitable organizations over the years. He helped the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, the Rescue Mission, the Mount Carmel Guild, and a number of food pantries. When he found out that the homeless in Trenton did not have anything to sleep on in shelters, he organized a Cot Campaign to ensure that everyone had something to sleep on at night.
For the Times newspaper Frank ran a Camp Fund to send children in need to summer camp, and a Christmas Appeal to help everyone have a happy holiday. As a child, I remember that Frank was so proud that a day never went by without at least one donation to report. It was only when I was older that I realized that the "Anonymous" who often donated on days when there were no other donors was the big guy with a hearty laugh and the initials F.T. Unlike other childhood illusions that, when broken, leave you disappointed, finally realizing the mystery of the incredible donation streak only made it all the more special.
When they were kids my Dad was injured in a sledding accident. The accident tore a large gash in his upper leg, and while the ambulance was called and they loaded Bob Tyger in, someone alerted Frank to the situation. He raced over to the scene and hopped into the ambulance. Wanting to reassure my Father, who was obviously both hurting and upset, Frank gave him an encouraging slap on the thigh and said "its going to be OK Bob, its going to be OK." While my Dad was happy to have the companionship and encouragement, he did have to tell Frank that the spot he was patting was the site of the injury. The scar from that injury always will be on my Dads leg, but the pain has long since been replaced by laughter from the memory of the horrified look on Franks face!
I remember as a kid a Saturday when Frank and I were going on an adventure - probably to the movies or bowling - or with Frank, both, when he said to me that first he had one stop to make. We visited an elderly gentleman in a high-rise apartment building in Trenton. Frank brought him some things, and stayed and talked with him for a few minutes. When we left I asked him who that was - expecting he would say it was a friend or a former co-worker. Instead, he told me it was just someone who was in need, and that he helps and checks in on the man from time to time. With that we were off on our adventure, and I was again impressed by Frank Tyger, who said that:
"There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear."
Frank said that "Enthusiasm extinguishes the gloom in a room."
Frank approached almost everything he did with a child-like excitement and a big smile on his face. For many of us, as we mature and get weighed down with other issues, the novelty of things wears off and we forget the joy of the moment - the thrill of the experience. Not Frank.
When we were very young Frank took my sister Sue and me to the State Fairgrounds in Trenton each year. One year we saw a new game, with lots of prizes to be won. It was like Bingo, but it was called Skillo. Sue and I were standing there with Frank, apprehensive about a new game we didnt fully understand. Before we would actually play we had some questions. The last of which was, what do you do if you fill up your row? Frank replied, "One yells Skillo!"
With that, the man calling the game announced, "Congratulations, we have a winner! This gentleman right here is our winner." Frank looked like a deer caught in the headlights and was saying "No, no, no, I was just explaining the game to my niece and nephew." The veteran Skillo players were not happy, but the game went on. Later, we played and actually did win a couple of prizes - but Frank remained silent as either Sue or I got to yell "Skillo."
Franks "Daffynition of Enthusiasm - Get-up-and-glow."
Frank took Sue and me to New York to explore and experience Manhattan. I distinctly remember when we got to 42nd Street. Frank stopped and introduced us to the place, calling it "one of most dangerous streets in the world. There are drug dealers, pick-pockets, prostitutes crime is all around us. Lets Go!" He then marched two reluctant suburban kids down to the theatre district.
On that same trip to New York, Frank took us to the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers observation deck. We were all excited to get to this vantage point where we could see the entire city. Sue ran over to one of the machines with the binoculars, and called back to Frank to see if she could have a quarter for the machine. I say called back because Frank was clinging to a railing at the interior of the observation platform. In his zeal to show us a great day, he had forgotten that heights were sometimes a problem for him. Still clutching the rail, he found a security guard and said, "Excuse me officer, what is the quickest way for one to get down from here?" The guard pointed it out and, hands never leaving the rail, Frank made his way around so we could hastily return to terra firma.
Frank was always enthusiastic about desserts. If you had two kinds of pie and asked him "apple pie or blueberry pie," he would invariably answer "both." He might also ask for "a sliver of each" and then come back for an additional sliver of one or both. He probably would not be the best person to ask about diet advice or calorie counting , but he did wisely remind us all to "Swallow your pride occasionally. Its non-fattening."
Franks enthusiasm and positive attitude are something that I hope we all will take with us and remember to practice. Even when he was ill and suffering from the effects of Parkinsons Disease, Frank was not a complainer. In fact, he battled to find his words but successfully addressed caregivers at staff meetings at Greenwood House to speak about some of the special requirements of someone with Parkinsons and how to best assist a Parkinsons patient. Franks struggles in those meetings to battle Parkinsons and still deliver an important and first-hand message was an effort to make things better for future residents and the staff alike. He accepted things that could not be changed and tried to find the positives in each day.Perhaps Frank was putting into practice the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer who said, "If you keep saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet."
Frank Tyger is - A man of Early Arrivals
"If a person gives you his time, he can give you no more precious gift."
I dont think anything happened in the family - birthdays, sports, plays, recitals, or graduations where Frank didnt make the time to attend, and get there early. He gave his time to everyone, but as my Aunt Barbara noted, when it came to family, "Frank was so wonderful to us." My daughter Alexis remembers Uncle Frank as "fun to be around and always cheerful." Alexis also remembers that Frank was the recipient of the first letter she ever sent in the U.S. Mail - and he promptly wrote her back!
Long before I was born, Frank arrived early at my parents wedding. He was very proud to be the Best Man that day, and took his responsibilities very seriously. Just before they were ready to start, the priest asked Frank if he had the rings. Frank said I have them right here, and touched his jacket breast-pocket, realizing at that moment that the rings remained in the safe in his room where he had carefully placed them the night before. Telling the priest, "Ill be right back," he charged from the church, commandeering a vehicle from my Aunt Barbaras brother Raymond, and raced home. Meanwhile, the bridesmaids attempted to stall my Mom, who was getting very upset at the delay and the lack of information. Frank soon arrived and the ceremony proceeded, with that being the only hitch in the hitch. Soon the bride and groom were driving off - in a car adorned with a custom "Just-Married" sign that Frank had drawn for the occasion.
When we were going to an event Frank would often say "Lets get there early - I anticipate throngs." He would advance-scout locations and directions to ensure that he missed nothing. He participated in things fully. When he sang, he sang with gusto. If the choices were small, medium or large - Frank always got you the large. If he took us to a ballgame we arrived early. We watched warm-ups. We got a program, a scorecard, maybe even autographs and of course - a souvenir. When Frank took you places he would insist that no one else could pay - his generous nature dictated that it would be "his treat."
Sometimes his zeal and early arrivals created a bit of surprise. I distinctly recall a dark and empty theatre - about an hour and a half before curtain time of a play in which I was performing that night. I was out on stage warming up, using my time to walk the boards and test my voice. It was the time that actors are given in the solitude of the unfilled seats to prepare - before the house manager opens the facility to ticketholders. I had chosen a monologue to help get into character, and I "performed" it to the barren chairs. As I finished, the silence was broken by applause coming from the back of the unlit house. I couldnt see who was clapping, but then a familiar voice said "Bravo, Mike - excellent performance." With that, I saw Frank, still applauding, walking down the center aisle. I was startled and said, "Frank, the show doesnt start for another hour and a half." He told me he knew that, but he expected a big crowd and wanted to be there early to ensure a good seat.
Frank Tyger is A man Extraordinary
Frank said that "A mans greatest enemies are his own apathy and stubbornness."
Frank was never apathetic - he brought a passion to everything he did. If he was stubborn, it was only in not accepting injustice or settling for the status quo. He did not give up because something might be difficult. He was often referred to as "Mr. Trenton Times" because he would be seen representing the newspaper at so many events. He knew no time clock, often passed up on vacation because he had too much to do, and hated to turn anyone down with a request for assistance.
He hosted events at the Times Community Room that brought out various races, religions, political parties and social causes. He marched in parades with every ethnic group. He traveled to the former Soviet Union in an era where visitors from the West were rare, and learned the Cyrillic alphabet and enough Russian so he could talk to the people, ride the subway, or stand with local residents waiting in a bread line.
Frank was seldom angered personally, but I did detect some organizational pride issues at a volleyball game I attended with him in the late 1980s. The USA Mens Team was playing against a foreign national opponent at Jadwin Gym in Princeton and the Times served as an event sponsor. Just before the post-game press conference, which included national and international press, Frank realized that no Times reporter remained there, so he attended to represent his newspaper. After several questions regarding the match and particular plays and shots which elicited one or two word responses through an interpreter, Frank identified himself as "Frank Tyger of The Times" and began to ask his question. The moderator interrupted and asked which Times - New York, London? Frank replied proudly the Times of Trenton, New Jersey. The press corps laughed dismissively at that credential, and I could see that Frank was not happy with that reaction. But he said nothing, just paused for a second and asked his question - which had to do not with the details of the sport, but rather the impressions of the foreign team regarding their trip to America. As Frank asked questions the interpreter would translate, and the foreign team, which had appeared tired and a bit bored to that point, perked up and began talking in a much more animated way. Various players would say things, and laughter and smiling began to fill the room. The moderator asked if the gentleman from the Times had any other questions, and Frank asked about the foods they had eaten, and some of the places they had visited and the sightseeing they had done. All the while, the press corps was frantically taking notes as the answers flowed with exuberance from the foreign teams players. Frank had succeeded again in bridging the language and cultural gap by approaching the situation not from the sports angle but rather from the human angle. The press corps all had plenty of interesting things for their stories the next day, and perhaps a subtle lesson in journalism and respect, courtesy of the gentleman who was always so proud to represent The Times.
He never complained about any assignments or any work - he enjoyed it. As Frank said, "When you like your work, every day is a holiday."
"The meek, it is said, shall inherit the earth
before or after taxes?" Frank posed that question years ago. I would like to
think that today Frank may be exchanging ideas and asking or answering questions with some
of the greatest minds of all time. Perhaps God wanted Frank in heaven now for some special
purpose. My guess is that Frank Tyger would approach that assignment with the same
Empathy, Exuberance and Extraordinary nature that he exhibited so often in life.
Id like to close with two of Frank Tygers lines that are not "famous" in terms of quotations, but just symbolic of the man and who he was. For the many people he loved and all those who loved him, these quotes may represent how we feel about him. The first I think speaks to Franks optimism and good nature and it was the last line of his weekly columns, "May today be the start of a wonderful week for you."
The other line, ever so simple, is what Frank often used to mark the passing of someone he knew and admired. I cannot think of any scenario where these words are more appropriate than to use them in reference to Frank Tyger. "He will be missed."