Friday, November 20, 2009

Manney Felix: May 1, 1917-November 18, 2009

Thank you all for coming today. We're here today to honor the life and pay our last respects to you, Manney Felix of Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Livingston, Lauderhill and Ormond Beach. You were the youngest and last of a family of seven children who are now all gone. You grew up in a very poor family and were a responsible and decent person from the beginning (or at least that's what you've told us!). The siblings for the most part didn't talk much. But about 20 or more years ago you did start talking about your years growing up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan; about the characters in the neighborhood, your part-time jobs, your decision to enlist, your life and his experiences with your brothers and sisters and for those stories we will forever be grateful as they will be passed down to future Felix generations.

You were a quiet man who lived and died with dignity. You were a brave guy too. Eleanor told me that all through this that you've been through this past month you never once complained, even about things that must have been really uncomfortable. I never in my whole life once heard you boast about yourself. But you were very proud man. You were also proud of and loved your family: your sons, Gregg, Jay and me, your grandsons, Brian, Kevin and David, your daughters in law Claudette and Debbie and your grand-daughters in law, Bridget and Marissa (and soon Leigh). Chris, I know you meant a lot to him and that your relationship grew closer over the years and that he loved you. You were the daughter he had never had . (Eleanor's sons Tom and Greg couldn't be here today but send you their love and condolences)-They knew you always took good care of their Mom.

But there is truly one person who is most responsible for bringing so much happiness and joy into your life, and
who is directly responsible for you living this long and maintaining not only a quality of life but an active one, your wife, Eleanor. She has been your true valentine and your best friend. You guys celebrated your sixth wedding anniversary just this past Saturday. I know you feel very lucky to have found her Dad. Your life would not have been as bright, or full, or long, or fun or full of love without her. Eleanor has also been charitable as she would let you win at Rummy 500 once in a while, just to make you feel good. Those card games that the two of you played religiously, every day in between having your morning grapefruit and your lunch, which you had at high noon are legendary and none of us will ever be able to play Rummy again without thinking of you. No matter how much kidding around about being a "Pain in the ass" there was, we all knew that that was your way of saying, "I love you." Eleanor has said that the years she spent with you, 27 of them, were the best years of her life (although your work as her sales 'assistant' at the flea markets left something to be desired). You were always up for going there with her as you didn't want to be apart from her. You were always a generous man. You never wanted to say 'no' to anything that Eleanor wanted-so she had to be a little careful, as she knew you would have given her the moon and stars if she had asked you to. And, while Eleanor bought all kinds of movies, you really only enjoyed watching the war movies. Jay and I remember growing up and watching "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "God is My Co-Pilot" with you on Million Dollar Movie.

You didn't play a musical instrument except for that little diddy on the piano that you dubbed the "Felix National Anthem." But you loved music and always were either tapping a beat or bopping along with the radio or singing some silly thing about "A Little Place for Hair"-Be bop a do. Also, you also never stood down from anyone. I remember one time in a club in New Brunswick when we were there to listen to Bri's band. We were bellied up at the bar and some jerk started pushing his way in. You took him on and scared the shit out of him. Another time when we were on that RV trip in Arizona and the guy pulled up next to us to yell about us blocking the road and you leaned over Jay and said a few choice words to this guy out the window. He drove away.

There was virtually no talk about emotional or sentimental things in our family. But you were a very sentimental just didn't show it outside. Later in life, you were the only one of your siblings to reconnect with your own brothers and sisters and go visit them -- quietly, on you own, just doing what you felt good about doing and what you felt in your heart was right. The idea of doing what your heart tells you is right is something we will carry forward with us too Dad. In your quiet and unassuming way you were always there, both when you knew we needed you or when you wanted to make sure we were all right.

You were a a hard worker who worked full-time until you were 79 1/2 (Did I get that right Dad?). You're also an example for us that working and keeping active helps you live longer. For more than 55 years you were a professional real estate property manager whose last position was as the General Manager of Olympus in Hallendale Beach, FL. Recently, a man who you had mentored in the field of property management some 55 years ago told me, "Your father came to work every day dressed immaculately and without a hair out of place. He treated everyone with consideration and with respect, no matter what position they were in. I never once heard him raise his voice but he was able to convey what he expected people to do-and they listened." This too epitomizes who were. Your professionalism and diplomacy were major contributors to your ability to remain as the general manager of of Olympus for 14 years-12 years longer than the average 'life' of a condo general manager. You knew the right things to do and were adept at making other people look good. The job at Olympus was also significant because that is where you and Eleanor met.

You always took special care of Gregg -- for too many years to count traveling twice a year to NJ to take Gregg to Atlantic City for weekends of slot machines, shows and the
most popular Felix family pastime ---eating. (Gregg, Daddy loved you and he will always be there for you. He will always be your father. You should know that when you talk to him he will be there to hear you.) And Dad, as Eleanor and Jay and I have told you, we'll always be there for Gregg like you were.

Nadine and Cousin Jeffrey always treated you like you were their own fathers, visiting you and Eleanor and making a point of keeping the Felix Family Connection alive and I know you always liked spending time with them (even though Jeffrey used to pump you for information about the Felix family). Thanks. You guys gave him and Eleanor two of life's most precious commodities-your time and your love.

Dad, you lived a good and full and long life. 92 years and 202 days to be exact. Photos and movies of our early years show that we were a happy family and there was a lot of laughter and good times. There was always laughter when we got together. Like all our lives, yours was not without ups and downs, setbacks, disappointments, starting overs and some mistakes along the way. But you never gave up, on yourself or on all of us. You rebuilt your life when you moved to Florida, literally starting from scratch, although in that move you magically became a much younger man. But, you never looked your real age and that is also part of your legacy-your youthful look and energy. You always loved to drive. We remember some great road trips like the one to Miami Beach in that 1958 Oldsmobile. You and Eleanor traveled to Europe (which you were always ready to talk about as well). You guys traveled to Napa for Bri and Bridget's wedding; to New York for Kevin and Marissa's wedding and just few months ago to New Hampshire for Chris and Josh's wedding. At all these parties you and Eleanor danced multiple times. You were always a smooth dancer. But without Eleanor, your dancing partner, your life partner, you would never have been able to make any of these trips and I know you'd be the first one to agree. You are also one of a small minority of people to live long enough to see a great-grandchild, Sean who as you know is here to see you today.

What will your legacy be? Your love for your family, your unselfishness, your understatedness, your constant support of us and belief in us; your ethic of hard work and loyalty; your energy; your bravery; your youthfulness, your generosity and your sense of humor which you kept until your last moments on earth. We will all remember different things about you as Husband, Dad, Grandpa, Father in Law, Great Grandpa, Uncle, Brother, Son and Friend. From time to time we'll be reminded of things you said or did and we'll smile or shake our heads with affection. When we go to a restaurant and walk up to the hostess and say, "Reservation for FELIX!" or when driving utter, "Jerk" when another driver does something stupid; or answer the phone with, "So what do you want?" These are some of the things that we'll remember. You came to virtually all of Jay's and my baseball games. You came to hear me play music (even in some dive bars) and every time we spoke on the phone asking me, "How is Claudette?" "How is your job?" "How are the boys?" and always at the end telling me, "Thanks for calling, Steve."
We also will remember you as an avid golfer, bowler (and later professional bowling kibbutzer).

But clearly the time that most defined your life was your time in the Army Air Corps. We've all heard you tell the story of 'The Jill' perhaps enough that we could tell it ourselves; even recently when Brian and Kevin and Marissa visited you in the hospital, you asked them, "Did I ever tell you the story of The Jill?" and then proceeded to tell an abbreviated version with the same enthusiasm as always. Eleanor told me that you would tell it to anyone who would listen. Earlier this year you and The Jill were reunited one last time in a cold Smithsonian Museum hanger where, even though you were having difficulty walking, you climbed up a tall ladder, twice, to look inside the cockpit, examine everything and after you came down from the ladder you said, "Yes, that's my Jill." Eleanor says you couldn't stop talking about that day for the last ten months of his life and the story you wrote about your military career and The Jill will always be considered a rare and beautiful family heirloom.

It is totally fitting and right that you are being laid to rest among other veterans who served their country with honor and distinction. You enlisted in the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor because you were angry about America being attacked. You served in World War II in the Army Air Corps, Technical Air Intelligence, 389th Service Squadron, where you were an airplane instrument specialist. Your military geography included Fort Dix, NJ; Jefferson Barracks, MO; Chanute Field, IL; Pendelton, OR; Ephrata, WA; Butte, MT; Alameda, CA. You saw duty in Townsville, Australia; Noemfoor, Dutch East Indies and Leyte and Luzon in the Phillipines. While at Clark Field on the island of Luzon you were assigned to Technical Air Intelligence in charge of aircraft instruments. Your assignment was to make ready and test fly all the captured Japanese planes and send out reports on all the flying characteristics of each airplane. As a reward for your excellent work in supervising the instrument crew, you were made the crew chief on one of the captured planes called The Jill which was to be taken back to Washington, DC. Starting at Alameda Naval Air Base in Oakland, CA, you and pilot Jay Perin (whom my brother Jay is named after) made what was to be a two-day flight to Anacosta Naval Base outside Washington, DC into a two-week adventure that included stops for Jay to visit with his parents for a couple of days, your visit to Hollywood, an air show, a hurricane and an almost-parachuting experience when the hydraulic pump and pump to switch to an alternate fuel tank failed to work properly. The stops in The Jill included Long Beach, CA; San Diego, CA; El Paso, TX; Dallas, TX; Little Rock, AK; Nashville, TN; Cincinnati, OH; Elkins, WV. Most definitely a memorable excursion. You were honorably discharged after spending time in various 'Pacific Theatre' locations where you survived enemy bombings and other types of attacks. You told us a story that the reason you didn't like to drink water was that at one of your bases, perhaps in the Philippines, you had learned that the locals used to piss in the water that ran down to your water supply!

So 'Thanks Dad', thanks for being there for us in some of our darkest moments; thanks for being who you are to all of us individually and for hanging around this long as the final member of a Felix generation now gone, except for the photographs and the memories. Thanks for thinking of the future and buying that little 8mm Revere movie camera with the blinding spotlights when I was born and giving us wonderful, forever lasting documentation of our youth; of learning to swim in the ocean at Silver Point Beach Club; of you teaching us how to play baseball; of family parties around holidays, of many family members, now long gone including my mother, your first wife, Lorna. Thank you for setting a good example. Thank you in so many other ways I can't even remember right now. I do know that we'll be toasting your life later with....yes, bananas and sour cream. But as we say 'goodbye' to you, Manney "The" Felix we're terribly sad; it seemed like you would always be around. But we know that while your body has left us, your soul and spirit are with us today and will be with us forever. Goodbye Dad. You have been an inspiration to us and will be for future Felix generations. We love you. We miss you. And we will think of you often. In your last days we saw you looking up at the sky, perhaps visualizing the trip your soul would soon be taking. One day we look forward to you telling us the story about that flight as well.

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