Friday, October 5, 2012

Eulogy - "Extra Innings"

Dad's memorial service was on Sept 9th, 2012. Something like 100 people showed up. Bev Taht, Dick Ely, Roy Gillian, Dick Kabot, and several other people spoke. Several people asked me to put up what I said, so, here it is.

Hi. I'm Mike Taht, Ron's oldest son. Actually, I go by "Dave", now.

I see that a goodly percentage of those here knew him as "Mike", and the rest knew him as "Ron".

I just knew him as "Dad".

When I was in my twenties, Dad had a nearly fatal accident. I thought I'd have to be writing this eulogy then. I got writers block. Bad. I'm very lucky in that I got to put off writing this stuff down for a really long time.

Growing up, my dad wasn't real big on my infatuation with computers, and kept encouraging me, gruffly, to "go outside!"

Typing? "Secretaries did that.". He had three of them and didn't need any more.

I spent all this time growing up, in both his library, and Ocean City's down on 6th street, with my nose in a book, and wasn't really connected to anything he thought was in the real world... as an example:

Dad taught me to drive, in the Ocean City community center parking lot.

And I was so bad, that he wrote:


on the windshield on the side of the car he was quivering on. But he got through it, and so did I. He handled me, later, driving completely through the garage door, quite calmly, as best as I remember...

Oh, a note on the community center: in High School, when I was swimming in it, every day, I didn't know how hard he'd worked to get it built. And it's really great seeing it now, as it combines two of my favorite places in Ocean City - the pool, and the library.

Dad's chief form of relaxation was to go fishing - no radio, no books, just the open air and ocean. Being a bookworm and music freak myself I had trouble dealing with this. This was before the walkman, so I couldn't entertain myself, musically. You kids with your ipods, you're lucky! I'd look up from wandering around the Ringworld, or from an enormous battle with insectoid aliens vs green women... to see endless ocean and sky, just the same as it was the hour prior, and the hour prior to that, and the hour prior to that.

But he took endless delight in just sitting out in the sun, fishing pole in hand. Whether he caught anything or not didn't matter. He named boat after boat "the Tranquilizer" 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 I think he got up to...

I do remember two fishing trips vividly. One day we were fairly far offshore and an enormous cloud of birds were working, above a huge school of bluefish. We made pass after pass through the birds. All 4 (6?) fishing lines would hit - ALL of them! Every time! and Steve and I had the time of our lives scrambling all over the boat to get to them, and dad had to gaff in fish after fish after fish. And then we'd turn around and do it again! But somehow we missed the birds on one run and ended up going home, even though the boat was no-where near full.

He told me years later, upon me recounting this story, that he just got tired of all the excitement, and steered away.

Another time, we were way, way out in the Atlantic, and a huge storm brewed up, and we had to make a dash for home. In the storm and the rain and the heavy seas we got a little lost, and we ended up trying to get back to Ocean City, through Corson's inlet. At low tide. (I see several of you shuddering at the thought of this. This was like, before GPSes and Corsons wasn't quite as impassible as it is today, but it was close)

I was sitting in the back, facing the engine. And I remember him, in a fishing hat, swivelling his head, back and forth, judging the wave behind and the wave ahead, roaring the boat forward and back, surfing between the troughs, waves crashing over the stern, the bow almost, but not quite porpoising, for an endless couple hours.

He seemed very calm, and in his element.

I was so terrified that I broke the handle off of the seat I was sitting in.

I lost my taste for fishing after that. And gained one for surfing. And I now also enjoy getting out in the endless ocean and sky, far away from everything, life, books, and music, just like he did.

Growing up, seeing Dad make the paper as the county prosecutor was really cool, and it seemed like what he did then was awesome, and I thought maybe I too would one day lead the exciting life of a lawyer, tossing murderers in jail, and stuff like that...

Later on he became a judge, which makes a teenager's life kind of interesting.

One time, I was in the Triton bar, (I'd gone bald early and looked far older than I was) and this big guy with a whole bunch of tattoos came up to me and said:

"You look like Ron Taht's son."

I admitted I was and he said:

"He put me in jail for 3 months!"

And me, I started looking around for the exit. But then the guy said:

"He was fair."

And he bought me a beer.

Dad was fair. No matter what Dad really thought - he'd listen to, and or argue the other side - it was impossible to tell what he really thought most of the time! In fact, Dad taught me critical thinking: Growing up, no matter what I thought on any issue, he was critical of it.

That's a cheap joke. Yea, a lot of his attitude was fueled by a perpetual state of annoyance at the human condition, but a better way to put that is: What a great love of debate and rational thinking he had! He taught me to check my facts, and hone my arguments, and always be open to other opinions.


Oh... I remember growing up in Ocean City: Night in Venice, and the pool parties, and shooting pool in the garage, and a million other things....

But then I went to college, and I came back to find he'd quit smoking and taken up cooking, and was like, thoroughly engaged in stuff I'd never imagined him doing.

"Who are you and what have you done with my dad?"

I was pretty bemused for a very long time about that.


Dad coached my little league baseball team. Mike Schmitt was my hero, besides Dad and I sharing the same first name, I played third base too! I'd stand in front of the TV emulating his batting stance - hold on, let's see if I can still do that - swinging when Schmitty swung - but in the real world I never hit anything bigger than a double. So I blended in a little Pete Rose in my "style". Dad and I spent a couple endless summers doing baseball.

He always had a Phillies game on the TV - but he'd turn off the audio to the TV and turn the radio to Rickie Ashburn and Harry Kalas, calling the game. This was always better than the TV feed - hearing that version of reality sparked my imagination. Later on I got into things like: "the shadow knows", and Prairie Home Companion, PBS, and spoken word and comedy records -

One time somewhere in the 70s we went up to see the Phillies play. It was blowout - by the 6th inning "the bums" were down by like 10 to 1.

So we left.

So we started driving home, and in the eighth inning, the Phils had a huge rally, Mike Schmitt homered twice, and in the 9th, they tied it up. The game went into extra innings - 10th, 11th, 12th - back and forth 12-11, 12-13, 14-13, Schmitt hit another home run, Tug McGraw did some outrageous pitching - the game just kept going on and on.

And Dad and I were yelling and screaming in the car - at every twist of the plot - me: "oh, man, we should go back", dad saying "oh no, it will be over soon" - the 13th,14th, 15th innings went by - as did Cherry Hill and Absecon - Kallas and Ashburn oscillating between astonishment, outrage, and excitement - at every twist and turn.

The game continued all the way home and then some. We ended up sitting outside the house, listening to it until Mike Schmitt homered again in the 19th inning, at like 2 AM, to win it.

It was the most fun I'd ever had in a car, until I passed puberty.

Now... The weirdest thing about this memory is that it isn't true - this game never took place!

I went looking for it, on the internet, and the game that I remember, where Schmitty hit 4 home runs, happened at Wrigleys field, and it only went for 10 innings, not 19. If that really was the game, it would explain why it took so long to get home... But I remember this game and trip and the radio and the experience with Dad so vividly that I can only conclude that it took place in some alternate universe that only he and I shared.

We moved to Tuckahoe, I hit college, and I moved to California. And I took all those useless typing skills and turned them into a career helping build the internet. And I wasn't much of a part of dad's life for a very long time. Every time we did get together though, he always had one, gruff, question:

"How's work?"

And I'd have to explain why I wasn't working, or what I was doing, if I was, and in either case he usually didn't get it. "Another startup? Why don't you work for IBM"? You've been fixing the internet and gave the technology away for free? Again?" But he'd help out, every time I got in trouble.

What I did was pretty weird to him, really, until he retired, and computers became a part of his life, and then he started getting it. In the last year, though, as his health began to fail, he started writing stuff down, pounding away at the keyboard with two fingers, with what he really thought.

And I ended up editing his stuff - and I had a chance to help him out for change. And while he was (finally!) writing from conviction... I found myself instinctively arguing the other side - whatever it might be! Just because, that's what he'd taught me to do.

He'd finish up a piece and email it to me, and expect me to turn it around over night. By the time the 15th piece rolled around I found myself wishing for the good old days where a writer had to print out what he'd written, lick a stamp, mail off the darn thing and then wait weeks or months for a reply.

I didn't realize that he was in a hurry.

I taught him everything I knew about writing, a couple of my best tricks, in a couple months... And that was wonderful, to bring things around full circle to share a bit of my world, and...

While I think he had an awful lot left to say... I'm really, really, really glad his game went into extra innings.


  1. Thank you for posting this blog. Your eulogy was absolutely beautiful. It brought me to tears as I remembered my fathers memorial services in aurora il. He was only 57 years old, too young to die. He was a tremendous father like yours sounded, and I miss him dearly.

  2. What a very touching eulogy. I am inspired by this but I don't think I can do a funeral letter like this when someone I love dies.

  3. I was there to hear this in person and you did a terrific job in relating the wonderful sides of Ron's life. For those of us who were relative "new comers" to the Ron Taht circle of friends, it brought a true picture of the man into perspective. I am glad you published your eulogy as it remains a testament to a really good husband, father, and friend.