My grandfather, Bob Gettis, passed away early in the morning on Saturday, January 1, 2011. We've been busy this week preparing for the funeral services, and the past two days have been a whirlwind of friends, family, tears, emotion, laughter, and remembrance. Because I don't know what else to say, I thought I'd post what I read today at his funeral.
How does one begin to reflect on the life of someone who has touched so many? My grandfather, Bob Gettis, “Poppy”, as we affectionately called him, left a legacy. Last night, over 300 people walked through the doors of the Klee Funeral Home to say goodbye, and I’d be willing to bet that those 300 were just a glimpse of the lives he was a part of, transformed, and inspired. But for the six grandchildren, eight children, and wife he leaves behind, I’ve noticed that most memories of Poppy revolve around one of his favorite emotional expressions…laughter.
Poppy was a great educator. After achieving a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education, he continued studies at Temple University, and received a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies. So naturally, whenever one of us would tell Poppy about a rough day at school, his response would be “well just quit already!” And when you showed off your report card, proud of the fact that you got that 96 in English, Poppy would quip, “what happened to the other four points?” He also never hesitated to remind us that he knew everything.
Despite that, Poppy was always supportive. He loved supporting us in our sporting events and musical concerts. No matter what sport—whether it be soccer, field hockey, tennis, basketball, bowling, volleyball, or softball, Poppy loved watching and cheering us on, keeping track of scores and statistics, and celebrating victories, like Logan’s half-court shot, or Mitch’s tennis championships. He instilled a love of baseball in all of us, and could always be seen rooting for his favorite team, the Reading Phillies.
While Poppy never allowed his MS to define him, he did put his scooter and wheelchair to good use. Until we were too big, Poppy would drive up and down the driveway (and sometimes around the mall) with one of his grandchildren perched on the back. I’m pretty sure its illegal, but I remember even going through a Burger King drive-thru just on Poppy’s scooter once! And while he wasn’t always the best driver, like the time he ran over Mark’s foot at the Franklin Institute, he wouldn’t hesitate to make it up to you by letting you ride around all day with him.
Poppy had a confidence to him that was something to marvel at. Once, while wandering around Philadelphia, he told Matt, “If you don’t know where you’re going, just act like you do.” He also appreciated a freebie, and was always confident enough to sign up for credit cards and sweepstakes with a fake name (though keeping the initials RBG). He and Zac spent quite a few summer days fishing for foul balls hit during batting practice out at the Phillies, and probably could fill a few bags with the ones they retrieved.
Poppy was also pretty competitive. He liked being (and always was) number one. However, that was one thing he passed on to his grandchildren. Matt has a very specific memory of Poppy that goes something like this: Before p.m. kindergarten, I would sit on stool next to Poppy in his big blue chair and we would play Sorry or dominos everyday. He laid a long piece of plywood over his lap and we would play all morning long (that is until the Price is Right came on at 11). On the top right hand corner of the border read the names “Poppy” and “Matt,” and under our names he tallied the winner of every game, for everyday that entire year. A few years ago we found that piece of plywood. I beat him by one :-) (looking at Uncle Chris say, "Coincidence, I think not!").
Above all, one of the things that always amazed me most about Poppy was how innovative he was. From building his home with his own two hands, to creating the “PoppyMobile”, which Mark termed, “the most unrideable vehicle ever created”, he never stopped building and crafting. He even founded his own club, The Blue Club, and welcomed all of us kids in, if we met the criteria, of course!
But perhaps one of the most profound and common memories of Poppy is touching fingertips. Because we couldn’t always reach him, the six grandchildren always said goodbye to Poppy by touching our fingertip to his. Parting without partaking in this ritual was simply unheard of.
Poppy is a model of strength, confidence, humor, wisdom, joy, gratefulness, devotion, love, freedom, and so much more for all of us. We love you Poppy and we miss you.
Poppy, you've left a big hole in our hearts. We remember you with love and laughter, and will miss you always.