So long dad...

Feb. 21, 2012

When the commotion finally subsided – after the police left, the medical examiner drove away and the van from the funeral home pulled out of the drive way – me, Pat and Kristi stood in the kitchen in silence. And then it hit us – we now were parentless. Thirteen months ago we were a family of five…now it’s just us three. And to me that’s very disconcerting. Dad’s puzzle of a parrot that he had been working on was still on the kitchen table, his slippers were in the living room, his red car still in the driveway – it didn’t seem like he should be gone. But he left someone time early Thursday morning…and quite honestly, I think he was ready to go.

When Mom passed away last January, we all had time to prepare ourselves. Her decline was gradual; people had a chance to stop by the house and say their goodbyes, and when she moved on, Pat and Dad were there. With Dad, he was mostly alone in a dark bedroom in the middle of the night. The frantic phone call from Kristi around 6:30 a.m. meant there would be no time to prepare. But that’s how it goes. Sometimes you have time to gather your thoughts and say what you want to say. Sometimes you don’t – and that is troubling, especially when you had opportunities to say what you wanted to say, but let them slip away. I think that’s a lesson all of us can take away.

As we started sifting through the hundreds of print and digital photos of dad over the years, memories of him came flooding back. There are photos of Dad and us kids when we were just a few years old taken at the zoo and other places that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. There’s a photo of Dad and Kristi, who was wearing a white dress at her first communion while we were living in California in the 1970s. There’s a photo of Dad and Pat, each holding a fish they had caught while camping in the early 1980s. There’s a photo of me and Dad sitting in the cockpit of a Northwest Airlines 747 that was leaving Chicago in a few hours for Japan. These photos are wonderful, and I know we’re all area grateful that we have so many of them.

Dad was born May 28, 1942 to Bill and Juliana Staedler in West Allis, Wis. A few years later his sister Susan joined the family. In 1959, at the age of 17, dad dropped out of high school and enlisted in the military. I think he wanted to see the world, and the Air Force was more than happy to oblige…he spent the next four years in Omaha…not the Beach, but rather Nebraska. After his four years he returned to West Allis, until a chance encounter at the old Cave, a bar across the street from Greenfield Park, changed his life. We’re not exactly sure if Dad approached Mom, or vice versa, but from that point they were inseparable.

In the next 40+ years together they gave birth to three children; moved to California and back again; and had all sorts of adventures together. Dad worked for several years at W.A. Krueger, a printing company in Brookfield, Raabe Paint in Menomonee Falls, and even a stint at Froedtert Hospital, where just about every Staedler at one time or another worked. We’re still waiting for Pat to apply.

Dad died Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, at home in Wauwatosa. He was 69.

He was the beloved husband of the late Janice Kathryn Staedler (Aerts). He is survived by his three children: Kristine, Patrick (Maria) and Stephen; four grandchildren: Rachel, Alexander, Benjamin and Jacob; and his sister Susan (Myron) Coons. He is preceded in death by his parents Bill and Juliana and other family members.

Those who knew Dad well I think would tend to agree that he was never able to move on after Mom died. Just the last time I saw him on Saturday, he started to cry when talking about Mom. Everyone reacts differently to death, but for dad, losing Mom was too much to bear. That’s why I think he was ready to go. He accomplished what he wanted to do here. He made a nice life for his family, raised three children and was a part of his grandchildren’s lives. But the thing he missed the most was Mom. Although he was by himself when he passed, he wasn’t alone; Mom was there to bring him home and end his pain of a broken heart. I’m sure the first thing he told her was I love you, and I know that’s what Pat, Kristi and I will be saying when we see them again…

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