Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eulogy for our Father

Posted by Kathy and David Reich

My sister and I worked on this together, and we are so grateful that you are here today. Dad always loved a good funeral. He would come home from a funeral, call one of us, and proceed to give the funeral a review. So Kathy and I are really feeling the pressure to make this funeral a memorable one.

We’ve been truly overwhelmed by the incredible postings on his blog and the emails and phone calls. Many people have focused on Dad’s impressive accomplishments as a journalist. But just as many people have commented on what a proud father he was. Today I want to talk about our Dad as Kathy and I knew him.

Dad was, at heart, a great idealist, even a champion for social justice. In high school in the 1950’s, he would insist on having his Latino, African American, and Native American friends over to dinner, even when some of my grandparents’ friends were appalled.

Dad was in Birmingham on the day of the church bombings, and in Los Angeles the night that Bobby Kennedy was shot. These events shaped his thinking for the rest of his life. Maybe this explains why, in later years, he became passionate about helping disadvantaged youth—helping kids from around the country prepare for college, supporting college scholarships for kids at my alma mater, Grant High School, and helping young MetPro reporters succeed at the Times. I think Dad’s belief in social justice also explains why he, a Republican for most of his life, became so excited in the last months of his life about supporting Barack Obama for President.
Late in his career, when he approached his consumer column with such zeal, it was because he believed that someone had to stand up for common people contending with corrupt or inept companies. And it made a great impact on us when Dad waged spirited and courageous defenses of his fellow reporters and their trade while men with no knowledge of print journalism tried to run the Los Angeles Times like it was a cereal company.

Many of you have written that Dad could be cantankerous, irascible, and contentious. Let me add short tempered and choleric. But all of you have noted Dad’s other sides. As his son I received a fair share of groundings and other common punishments. But one of the things I liked is that they nearly never lasted long. Dad just didn’t have the heart for it. Although he could say mean things, Dad was not mean.

Dad knew he wasn’t the easiest person in the world to deal with, and as a result, he was unbelievably loyal and generous to his friends and family. As the oldest member of his generation in our large extended family, he was a major influence—not always for good—on his many cousins. He liked to tell us how he and his cousin Marilyn once spiked the Passover wine with vodka.

Dad collected friends throughout his life, in Palm Springs, at Dartmouth, at the Times, in his travels. In March he celebrated his 70th birthday in Palm Springs, and more than a dozen of his high school teachers and classmates attended the party. In 1968, on an around-the-world trip, he looked up a friend’s old pen pal in Bombay, and became close friends with him. In fact, the last email he sent was to this friend, A.S. Abraham. Once you were Dad’s friend, you were his friend for life. I think it’s an amazing testament to our dad that many of you here today knew and loved him longer than we did. The love and attention of his family and friends, especially his sister Carolyn and brother-in-law Lowell, truly sustained him over the last couple of years as his health was deteriorating.

But, as many of you noted, we always came first. Dad adored us from the start, but in our earliest years he wasn’t around as much. He was traveling for work, especially during the 1976 presidential campaign. But when my parents divorced a couple of years later, Dad insisted on joint custody, and he suddenly had us three nights a week and started taking us on his reporting trips.

He didn’t always know what he was doing as a father. He wasn’t a great cook, and he was terrible with doing things like assembling toys. My sister remembers some of those early days at Dad’s house. He got it into his head that good fathers read their children a bedtime story every night. The first story he read to Kathy was a horrific tale of an African farmer being tormented by a colony of killer ants. My sister had nightmares for weeks. Dad suggested that the best way to rid her mind of the killer ants was to read another book. He suggested Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

But the key thing with Dad was the unceasing effort and the obvious devotion and joy behind his parenting. Dad’s and Mom’s agreeing to joint custody was not common; most parents would not have done that. Dad’s habit of giving me ½ birthday cakes for my half birthday wasn’t normal either, but I really loved getting them.

Dad did some typical Dad things but he did them even better, like taking me to 25 Dodger Baseball Games a year, including the first game of the 1988 World Series when Kirk Gibson hit his historic walk off home run.

And Dad did some other atypical things to help raise us. Thanks to Dad, we grew up thinking that all children meet Presidents and dine with political leaders. He viewed the Olympic assignment as the greatest accomplishment of his career, and he made it a formative experience for us as well. Thanks to Dad, we had insider access to the Sarajevo and Los Angeles Olympics, and went on trips chasing the international Olympic committee around the world to India, Switzerland, Monaco, and Holland. And because he was a consummate newsman, we were always sure to be advised of the latest important headlines or the early exit polling in an election.
Dad always had our moral development in mind, instilling in us a sense of social responsibility. He stressed the importance of not just accepting the status quo. He taught us about civil rights and the political process even before we could read. My sister and I have both made commitments to public service in our lives, and Dad’s influence is one reason for that.
Finally, Dad was as obsessive about his grandchildren Abigail and Jonathan as he was about us. When Abby was barely a month old, he tried to convince Kathy that Abby was extraordinarily intelligent, constantly giving her elders what he called “an appraising look.” Last night, as Kathy and I were writing this eulogy, Abby, who is now almost 5, chimed in with a suggestion: “How about if you say, Papa Ken was a very, very good man.”

I’d like to conclude with one of Dad’s most important traits. He was always an optimist. His last published words were, “This is a bad time in the newspaper business, as it is, economically for the country in so many ways. But, I fully believe, brighter days will come, and we must do what we can to ensure that they do.” Dad, thanks to what you have given us, we and many of those you have touched will continue to do what we can to work for brighter days. We love you and we will miss you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy and David,
Thank you for posting a wonderful eulogy for your father Ken Reich, a loyal friend of mine for more than 40 years.We argued all the time, but his anger was almost always tempered with an apology later on if he went over the top, which was often. He was around for moral support when both of my parents died, and he will remain in my thoughts always. To me, he's just moved into another sound proof room. Mary Reinholz

7/04/2008 7:27 AM  
Blogger teachlife said...

I loved these beautiful words. Thank you for sharing this very, very good man (as Abby says) with those of us who did not know your father personally.

7/04/2008 8:43 AM  
Blogger Kanani said...

Bravo! You've made him proud.

7/04/2008 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was interesting to read both the LA Times and your Eulogies. Thanks for taking the time to write about Ken. He would appreciate the heart-felt words. Barry Bunin

7/04/2008 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a spledid tribute to your father yesterday. He would have given it "two thumbs up". If your life is represented by the children you leave behind, Ken did an outstanding job. I so enjoyed visiting with him at my mother's retirement party in Feb. And it was lovely to hear Bill Dwyre quote my mother, as one of Ken's three "soft spots" in his life. I think my mother felt the same way, and we were so glad to be a part of the service yesterday. Cherish the memories........! Bill Farnum

7/04/2008 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Sharon Bernstein said...

Dear Kathy and David,
Your Dad was a longtime colleague and a dear friend. We need more like him and I will miss him.

7/05/2008 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy and David:

How shocked I was to learn of your dad's passing. The last time I saw him was at my retirement party in February. Unfortunately, we only had a few minutes together, but promised each other to have a catch-up luncheon when he returned from his trip.

After the 1984 Olympics, Ken was covering our Commission. At times, I was certain he was the "last angry man" when he jumped to his feet as our attorney announced ". . .and now we will be going into Closed Session."

Our antagonistic beginnings eventually evolved into "friendly enemies". As time went by, I discovered his sense of humor, the extreme love he had for you, his delight with his grandchildren, and his pride in Kathy's accomplishments and David's Navy service in Iraq. It was destined that we would become good friends. . .but still do "friendly battle". I will truly miss him!

Margaret Farnum

7/10/2008 9:20 PM  
Blogger charlene said...

Our family spent several days at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge in 2005 at the same time your father was a guest there. We found him to be a very interesting, intelligent, well-traveled man. I found his blog when I returned home, have been reading it off and on since then. For the first time in a few weeks, I read it on July 1st and was shocked and saddened to read of his passing. I will miss his observations, particularly during this election year. He made this year's primary campaign bearable! I hope the Take Back the Times blog will continue to be available as I will periodically re-read some of his pieces.

I read your eulogy and listened to the recording and found them touching. I am sure he will be missed by you, his children, and by all of us who read his comments.

7/15/2008 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came upon this blog for the very first time today, having read an older entry through a Google search. I am sad to know I have arrived right when the architect of such a fine, focused blog has passed. I deeply love the newspaper business and believe in the mission of great papers as vital to a healthy, functioning, informed society. The great papers of our time are being led away from this mission. Those in charge no longer believe in the principles, which financial distress must not trump. Answers must be found, but the core idea and delivery on that idea of great newspapering must be protected, nourished, left intact, until you fall down on your sword and bleed to death, until the staff, heroically remains, working for free, until the business heads figure it out. Yet, they continue to clearcut as if the newspaper was the Amazon, and the two both are about breathing healthy air on the planet. My sympathies to your family. Your dad seems like a swell, passionate man. I can imagine great pride and love will ease your mourning. -- John Scheinman

7/16/2008 4:02 PM  
Blogger Bernice L. McFadden said...

I did not know your father, but we had two two things in common - the love of the written word and traveling. I stumbled upon your fathers blog sometime back when he was on his cruise odyssey. I just popped back in to see how it all went - and so imagine my surprise to read that he had passed on. Please accept my sincere sympathies. Know that I am wishing the family peace and light.

7/16/2008 4:47 PM  
Blogger Tony Roisman said...

In less than a month I lost two dear friends - my wife and Ken. We had such great times together over the years when Ken came to Dartmouth and stayed with us and when we were his guest at the Oregon Shakespeare festival a few years ago. Ken never stopped talking about Kathy and David and all they had achieved and were achieving. I felt like they were part of our family. The last time I saw Ken he was sitting at our kitchen table at 6 a.m. writing for his blog and cursing our intermittent wifi connection. I will miss him enormously. Tony Roisman

7/30/2008 5:44 AM  
Blogger shlord said...

Kathy and David,

I just happened upon this blog and want to extend my deepest condolences to learn of the passing of your dad.

I found the first line of your eulogy particularly interesting because your dad attended my dad's funeral, even got up and spoke, and now I am curious to know what sort of review he gave it. Hopefully a morbidly enthusiastic thumbs up.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about two childhood memories of your dad. I still think about the hiking trip he took us on in the Mojave desert where Kathy and I demanded that he take pictures of us pretending to be tied to the train tracks like damsels in distress. I also thought of your dad during the Olympics this year. In fact, I think of him every time the Olympics rolls around, as he took me to see Track and Field during the 1984 games, the one and only Olympic event I have ever witnessed live!

I wish you both the very best.

Take care,

Sharon Lord Greenspan

11/12/2008 12:44 PM  
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