Walter M. Windsor
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|1937: Walter and
|1956: Walter and
in New York City
|1981: Walter on
set of his
Filmography TV show
Eulogy Presentation by Billy Windsor
Walter M. Windsor: He Was Special
During 31 days at the Gwinnett Medical Center hospital, doctors and nurses kept saying Dad had previously survived a heart attack.
Not true – no heart attacks, no strokes, never had any cancer of any type, never even had a broken bone. Dad went to Mayo Clinic every year, and Dr. Calamia always said: “Walter, you have 16 nagging problems, but absolutely nothing life-threatening.”
He never had a heart attack. He had long had atrial fibrillation – an “irregular heartbeat,” but after 46 days in the hospital, his blood pressure was still a perfect 110/70.
The simple truth is that our Dad was special; he always traveled to the beat of his own drum, so his heartbeat was different from others, but normal for him.
Walter Michael Windsor had the best of hearts in all ways.
Dad died because a tiny little valve in his throat called the epiglottis quit working. I suspect Dad is telling folks in Heaven that he died of acid reflux.
When someone 89 dies, people usually think it was time. But Dad was a young 89. He was so sharp mentally and had such a deep, strong voice that you would have thought he was 59 if you talked to him on the phone.
Dad was not prepared to die when he went into the hospital. He told the nurses that he figured he would be there for 7 days. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
It won’t come as a surprise to most of you that Dad had provided detailed instructions over the last 20 years about what was to be done at his death. These are the actual typed single-spaced instructions. Dad had one primary directive: “I don’t want a mourning of my death. In whatever you children decide to do, I ask that you celebrate my life.” In his last update, he removed the directions for a party because he felt there wouldn’t be enough people to attend, but he still emphasized that we should celebrate rather than mourn.
Knowing that there were a good number of people who would want to attend, the four “Windsor kids” conceived the idea for this event.
On behalf of my brother, Tony, my sister Wendy, my sister Marty (known to some of you as Hard Rock, Woot Woot Wooter, and Murt the Gurt, and me – Billy Bam or BamPa), daughter-in-law Barbara – aka Bozzie or Boz, son-in-law Harvey, Dad’s 6 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren plus one due in August, his half brother – Howard, four sisters-in-law – Hazel, Peggy, Shirley, and Hortense, one brother-in-law - Steve, and assorted others, we come here today to celebrate Walter Michael Windsor’s life.
I can see Dad tonight. He’s probably thinking, this is really something, but I thought the kids would have learned over the years that 8:00 pm is PRIME TIME. Why did they start this at 7? Then he’d think, well there is something to be said for getting the jump on the competition as he checked the TV Guide online to see what HIS SHOW was up against….
Dad was one of the stars in “Inherit the Wind” here at this theatre complex. If you remember the play or the movie, Matthew Harrison Brady was the hyper attorney who had a nervous breakdown during the trial. One of the local critics wrote in his review that Dad did a great job. He said: “the role of Matthew Harrison Brady was written for someone who was a huge ham, and Walter Windsor was perfectly typecast for the role.”
Dad was a ham; he loved the limelight, and he has a front row seat in Heaven, and we believe he will enjoy the heck out of tonight’s show.
So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, those with us here in the room physically…and those observing from Heaven above, please put your hands together and feel free to “raise a ruckus” for Walter Michael Windsor.
Dad was special. He was special in ways that many people never knew. He had a lot of challenges.
Dad was born Walter Winkopp during World War I; it was September 22, 1918 in New York City. He was born in a trunk. For you young folks, that means he was born into a show business family.
Dad’s father was German - Walter Winkopp - a singer, dancer, live stage show producer. Big Walter was a good person – a vaudeville entertainer who was a dreamer but never hit the big-time. Unfortunately, he was always gone chasing the dream, and Dad did not have a normal childhood as a result.
Dad’s mother was Italian – Helen May Catoggio - a stunning beauty who Big Walter cast in one of his shows and then quickly married. “Tootsie” died of tuberculosis when Dad was 2.
Of his grandparents, he only knew his paternal grandmother, Caroline Winkopp. She was his caretaker for 7 years, but at the age of 9, Big Walter moved Little Walter from New York to California in search of the elusive dream, and in 1927, that was a million miles from Brooklyn and Grandma.
Dad had only a younger half-brother who he was able to spend very little time with. He had essentially no traditional family life as a boy.
While our mother Mary’s family used an outhouse, Dad spent many years without even a bathroom, kitchen, sink, or running water…much less a toilet or outhouse…or parent or guardian. Dad lived in a single room up above an amusement arcade and for a while, he lived in a boiler room in a basement. He spent time in two foster homes. He was alone much of the time.
Dad was poor BEFORE the depression, and then he was an 11-year old boy when the depression hit, and he spent the Depression years essentially on his own. He literally had nothing to eat but a container of peanut butter for a week or more when he was a child, and he never ate peanut butter again.
Dad never had a bicycle though he longed for one as a child so he could make money with a paper route….. and be like other kids.
He had a serious inferiority complex as a child. Thick glasses, a bad eye, buck teeth, no money, no parents.
He never got a college education, and he barely got his high school diploma. In the upper right corner of his diploma, it says “owes bills.” Dad very proudly received this diploma at his 50th high school reunion when he paid off the $100 in loans he took so he could eat. He repaid the loan plus 50 years of interest.
Dad never had a real home until he was 29-years-old and was able to buy a house at 105 Sunset Drive in Danville, Virginia. The house cost $10,000, and thanks to the GI Bill, there was no money down.
Knowing Dad’s background, it is amazing to me that he had such a big ego.
He was a very self-centered person in a few ways, but the most giving and unselfish person in most ways.
He was an incredible father! He was special.
Dad never complained about his childhood. We never knew most of this until we received our copies of the autobiography that he wrote at our request. We would hear the peanut butter story – usually after we turned our noses up at something served for dinner.
Dad told us many interesting and wonderful stories, but he didn’t complain about his childhood. He accepted the hand that life dealt him, and he made the most of it.
Dad became a huge success in his career and in his life despite tremendous adversity throughout his childhood. I don’t believe many who were so disadvantaged would have become so successful. He was determined to be successful in his career. He was determined to be a loving husband. He was determined to give his children all the advantages he was denied.
Dad was SPECIAL.
While Dad had a difficult childhood, he used the adversity to help him identify things that he was going to do differently.
While Dad was shortchanged in some ways physically, he was gifted in many ways.
Dad was gifted with a genius IQ. Despite limited formal education, there wasn’t much that he didn’t know. We didn’t need an encyclopedia or the Internet when we were growing up, we had Dad.
Dad was imposing – at 6’ 3½” with a deep voice that rivaled people like James Earl Jones; he was always a presence.
Dad was gifted with a love for music and talent as a singer and piano player. He never had a piano lesson and couldn’t read music, but he could play about any tune… in the Key of C.
Dad had a big smile……and a great sense of humor. He was a happy man.
Dad was a doer. It is amazing the wide variety of activities he packed into his life. Dad was a liver. He didn’t sit back and wait for things to happen. He was even putting together musical shows at his retirement home.
Dad didn’t just love his wife; he adored her. He was incredibly mantic and thoughtful.
Dad appreciated his family, and he was a great father.
He was a loving grandfather to Brittany and Ryan, to Nicholas, and to Stephanie.
He welcomed Brittany’s husband, Robert Harrell, into the family as his grandson-in-law.
He was a doting great-grandfather, or as Madison chose to call him – Grand BamPa.
When Brittany visited Dad in the hospital, he was able to put his hand on the baby bump, but it was too early to know if it was a boy or a girl. Dad, it’s a girl – Miss Mackenzie Harrell will be here in August.
Dad was a ready-made step grandfather and step great-grandfather to Harvey’s children – Wendy’s step children. Chip Harper, Chip’s wife, Michelle, Amber and her husband Mike Maroon, Brianna Harper. Kaylyn Harper, Myles Maroon, Kurt Harper.
While grandson Ryan has not yet married, Dad was very fond of Yuriko and her daughter, Kailey.
Dad was a great father-in-law. Bozzie spent a lot of time with Dad in the hospital until she broke her ankle. Dad told Boz that he loved her as if she was a daughter.
Dad was a giver. He didn’t spend money on himself; he spent what he earned on his wife and children.
Dad was a workaholic. He loved to work. It was his hobby. He spent his whole life working for others, and he always approached every radio and television station management job working as long and as hard as if he was the owner. His desk was always piled high at the office and at home.
Dad was honest – a man of high integrity. I never heard him tell a lie.
Dad’s first real job was as a radio singer on “Daddy Rango’s Midnight Frolic” on KGER Radio in Long Beach, California in 1935. He was just 16 years old. He was then a writer and actor for “Bobby and Betty and Their Magic Boots” on KFOX Radio in Los Angeles.
He wrote jokes for W.C. Fields on the Chase and Sanborn Hour, but he was fired from that job. I asked Dad about that in the hospital. It seems that Mr. Fields resented being coached by a 16-year-old kid on how he might better deliver the lines that Dad had written. He said: “Sonny boy, I will tell your joke my way, and not only will it get a big laugh, it will be the biggest laugh in the show.” He did. It did. Dad was looking for a new job.
Dad was almost always a well-known local personality.
Dad was on the radio. He worked for at least 11 commercial stations as an announcer, singer, or actor from 1935 to 1953, and he was on the radio at most of the places he was stationed in the Army from 1942 to 1946.
He had the pleasure of the best assignment in the military – stationed in Hollywood, and then he was transferred to one of the most undesirable places in the military – Ahwaz, Iran, where he broadcast wheelchair basketball games but apparently made the most of it and spiced things up a bit by conducting a contest…a pin-up girl contest.
Dad was inducted into the Army as a private despite flat feet and a bad eye. He served for four years during World War II and left the Army as a lieutenant.
You may be wondering how Dad went from Walter Winkopp to Walter Windsor. After a performance at a theatre in The Bronx, the theatre manager told Big Walter that his act was great, but he would never go far with his name. As he walked out of the theatre with his weekly pay in hand, my grandpa looked up at the marquee; it was The Windsor Theatre. Grandpa liked the name Windsor, so from that day forward, the act was known as “Walter Windsor & Company.” When he got out of the Army, Little Walter had his name officially changed to Walter Michael Windsor.
Dad moved into radio station management in 1946 at the ripe old age of 27, and he never looked back. In his first job as a radio station manager, he not only managed the business, he built the entire station and business from the ground up. He had, of course, never done anything like that before, so he researched carefully, sought information and advice from others, and built a great station.
Over the next 44 years, he had 3 radio station management jobs and 6 television station management jobs. The only jobs he held in 37 years in television were General Manager, President, or Chairman. In radio, he had at least worked as a singer, actor, announcer, sportscaster, and salesman before he became a manager. In TV, he skipped all the preliminaries and became a manager at the age of 35.
Dad was always an innovator. He had many firsts in the broadcasting business. He was the first person to sing with a record on the radio. He may have been the first person to broadcast high school football games on the radio.
Dad was on TV. Texarkana, Shreveport, Lubbock, Lexington, and Orlando – Dad was always on TV. All the famous people were on TV, and our Dad was, too. That never ceased to be cool to the “Windsor kids.” Dad was special.
Dad loved all of his TV Station Families, but Channel 9 in Orlando was his favorite. He had many wonderful memories at Channel 9, and he loved the fact that he took the job as a temporary position that lasted 17 years. He loved building a team that made the station #1. He endured the tragic collapse of the tower, but then loved outpositioning Channel 6 so Channel 9’s antenna was at the highest point on the new tower.
He loved meeting many hundreds of celebrities. Of the TV stars who came to town, Robert Young and Lawrence Welk were his favorites. Lawrence Welk became a very good friend. David Carradine was his least favorite after bizarre behavior by both Carradine and his wife in the lobby at Channel 9.
Dad was in a movie, at least his voice is – The Negro Soldier. It was filmed when Dad was in the Army. He was the person who welcomed the new recruits to basic training. I believe his line was: “Welcome to the U. S. Army; it’s good to see all your happy smiling faces.”
Dad acted in many plays. His resume as an actor includes Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” “Inherit the Wind,” “Cabaret,” “Stalag 17,” and many many others.
Dad was a Broadcast Pioneer. His membership certificate shows he began in the broadcasting business in 1935. He retired in 1990. That’s 55 years doing what he loved. He was one of the youngest ever to join the Broadcast Pioneers when he qualified for membership after 20 years in the business; he was just 36 years-old.
He put us on the radio and on TV. I first spoke on the radio when I dazzled listeners with my knowledge of Dickie Barcheski and the other players for the Columbus Cardinals baseball team. I was 3 and Dad was doing the play-by-play. I was first on TV at the age of 5. Dad televised my sixth grade championship flag football game in 1959. I’m sure that must have been a first in the television business. And he sent TV crews to cover the birth of our children, and they appeared on the nightly news. Dad was special, and he made his children and grandchildren special, too.
Tony and I were given the opportunity to work as DJs, cameramen, booth announcers, and appear on camera.
Dad lived with the Mitchum family for a while - Robert Mitchum and his brother, Jack, their sister, mother, and stepfather. One of Dad’s funniest stories is how Jack and Dad pooled their resources and bought a car for $15. They managed to come up with $7.50 downpayment. They drove that car non-stop for several months charging other students for rides. Then one day the engine started smoking, and the car sputtered and spewed black smoke, and then it kind of exploded and ground to a stop. Dad and Jack pushed the car back to the car lot and left it there with a nasty note on the windshield. They later learned that cars need oil as well as gas….
Dad knew many, many stars, celebrities, and politicians. Actress Barbara Britton (a high school flame), Ann Jillian, Delta Burke, Bob Hope, Lawrence Welk, Ella Fitzgerald, Senator Bill Nelson, and many hundreds of others.
We didn’t just watch Bozo the Clown on TV; we knew Bozo. Dad signed Bozo’s checks!
Dad and Mom didn’t just watch the Lawrence Welk show; they stayed at Lawrence’s house; they hosted his birthday party; Mom danced with Mr. Welk on TV; and Mr. Welk treated our sweet Grandmother Johnson as a queen when Walter and Mary took her on a trip to California.
We didn’t just watch Art Grindle jump up and down yelling “I want to sell you a car:’ Art jumped up and down on our cars at our house.
When we went to Hollywood on vacation and took a Universal Studios tour, we weren’t with tourists; we got a real behind-the-scenes tour.
When we went to California on vacation the year I got my driver’s license, Dad didn’t rent a sedan, he rented a convertible and let me drive. He knew that was a teenage boy’s dream come true.
When Ronald Reagan visited Orlando, he used Dad’s office at Channel 9 when he needed to conduct important business.
Needless to say, the people we were able to meet and Dad’s celebrity made us special, too.
When we lived in Columbus, Georgia and there was no local TV station yet, Dad bought a giant telephone pole and had it planted next to our home with a big antenna on top, and we were one of the only people in town with television. In Texarkana, we were the first to have color TV.
Dad became computer literate at the age of 69 and even became an Internet entrepreneur at the age of 80. Dad was the leading authority in the world on American songs written between 1920 and 1960, and his web site www.songdex.net will be maintained forever by grandson Ryan.
Dad wore Bermuda shorts and black knee socks…and we were able to see that we should not make that same mistake.
Dad had unusual taste in cars. Something seemed to draw him to the underdogs; he owned an Edsel, a Kaiser, a Frazier, and an Olive Drab Green 1963 Valiant with push button transmission. When he bought a 57 Chevy, it was a station wagon…and pink. When he bought his first Cadillac, it was light purple.
Dad often danced with our mother in the den of our homes, and he sang to her often.
Dad raised a lot of money for charities. The Boys Clubs, the Texas Tech Band, the Orlando Symphony, the Orlando Repertory Theatre, PESO, the American Cancer Society, and more.
Dad provided a helping hand to many people.
Dad had an amazing ability to maintain relationships with co-workers, friends, army buddies, neighbors, and family.
Dad was old-fashioned and proud of it.
He got paid for doing jobs that he loved.
Dad compensated big-time for the loss of his mother and absentee father by always being there for us and by giving us an exceptional family life. Dad never had a vacation as a child, so we always had wonderful vacations. Dad never had much at Christmas, so Christmas was a special time for us.
Dad was a great role model. He taught us many valuable things.
Dad left us with more than memories. His autobiography, Forks in the Road, is a valuable history that we treasure, and the videos that he created with narration and a soundtrack from our home movies are priceless.
Dad had a great eye for talent, and he was a phenomenal recruiter.
Smokey Burgess had one of the greatest voices of all times. Dad heard him on the radio on a competitive station as he drove into Columbus, Georgia to become General Manager of WGBA, and he hired him away. The Burgesses became our family’s best friends.
When Dad took over Channel 9, he recognized that Charlie Stump was the most significant person on the air in the Orlando market. He hired him away. It was often said that Charlie was so important that if World War III broke out, Channel 9 would mention it, but say “But first, here’s Charlie Stump with the weather.”
Dad received a tape from a young college student named John Tesh. Dad immediately recognized that John had tremendous potential. Dad was right, and John became a superstar as a newscaster and on Entertainment Tonight, then as a musician. When the uninsured U-Haul trailer containing all of young John’s clothes and worldly possessions was stolen from the Orlando motel parking lot, Dad replaced what he lost.
Dad recruited Bob Jordan -- a great news director who was a wonderful friend to Dad after he retired. As Dad got older, he became a little grumpy and unreasonable, and Bob was understanding, and we can’t thank him enough for his love for Dad and his friendship to our entire family.
Then there is Anya - #10 on Deal or No Deal. Okay, Dad didn’t recruit her, but he wished he had. She was his favorite! Dad maintained his eye for beautiful women. Just three weeks ago in the hospital, he was commenting on how attractive Kelly the speech therapist was.
Other news people recruited on Dad’s watch in Orlando have been great on air personalities and good friends to Dad after he retired. Danny Treanor, Carole Nelson, Bob Opsahl, and Marla Weech.
But his most successful recruiting job of all times was when he recruited a receptionist at WDVA Radio in Danville, Virginia.
He spotted Mary Garnett Johnson working at the Burton Hotel in September 1947, and thought “Wow.” His heart skipped a beat when he saw her applying for a job at the radio station he managed. He hired her as receptionist. They dated for 13 consecutive nights. He proposed on the 14th night (October 14, 1947), and she accepted (though she had yet to call him anything but “Mr. Windsor.”)
They were married on November 29, 1947. Dad liked to say he hired her, dated her, fired her, and married her. They were very happily married for 30 years until cancer stole Mary from Dad and all of us.
Dad was special, and Mom was, too. The Johnson family is the sweetest family you will ever meet, and Dad said that Mom’s mother, Rosalie, was the closest thing that he ever had to a mother.
Dad and Mom were very close to Mom’s sister, Hazel, and her husband, Pat. And they were always very close to Mom’s sister Peggy and Mom’s brother, Steve.
One of Barbara’s favorite stories about my Mom comes from when I brought her to Orlando to meet the family back before we were engaged. Barbara knew what the bathroom looked like every night when she went to sleep, but a good fairy came during the middle of the night and everything was spotless and fresh the next morning.
Mom was an incredible cook, and Dad loved to eat. She was one of the sweetest women ever, a spectacular mother and grandmother, and a special person who people were drawn to. With apologies to the hundreds of people Dad recruited in his career, Mom was by far the best.
In addition to Mom, we received many “gifts” from Dad.
Dad was a great role model; he gifted us with intelligence, logic, work ethic, creativity, a sense of humor, writing ability, public speaking ability, attention to detail, organization…
Dad was an incredible typist; he could almost always type faster than his secretaries. This gene was passed to all of his children and grandchildren.
Dad gifted us with his incredible love for music. Marty is the biggest music lover among us.
Dad loved to play games and watch game shows.
I learned many business strategies from him: Zig when the other guy zags (or outzag the zagger); Timing is everything; Move quickly; Always bid $9 more than you would; I could go on and on.
We learned and relearned Packing, Moving, and Meeting New People skills. We learned to find our way in new towns, new homes, new schools, new neighbors, and new friends. Mom and Dad lived in 18 houses in 9 cities from 1947 to 1977.
Dad loved football. Tony and Dad spent 40 years picking every Division I college football game every week of the season.
I learned lessons in Grandfathering from Dad. Let me read what Dad wrote in his Christmas newsletter to friends and family in 1973: “Brittany Ann celebrated her first birthday on November 20. She is without a doubt the cutest, most beautiful and smartest one-year-old that has ever lived.” I wrote the same thing about our granddaughter, Madison 30 years later!
Dad spent 36 great years in Orlando, and while Tony and I lived in various spots around the country, Dad loved having Wendy and Marty nearby. They enjoyed many special times.
Dad did turn to Tony and me for advice and help over the last 15 years of his life. On one or two occasions, he actually seemed to take our advice. He moved to Village on the Green, and it was a good move. It wasn’t perfect, but perfect isn’t easily achieved when your wife is gone and you are in your 80’s.
In 2005, Tony and I suggested that Dad move to Atlanta and live with Tony. Dad moved in December 2005, and he was very happy with that decision. We were delighted to be with him much more often.
Tony worked night and day to assist Dad, and Dad was very fortunate to find Hyacinth Stonicher as his daytime home caregiver and more recently, Mark Atkism as his night time caregiver. Dad was so appreciative of the help that Tony, Hy, and Mark provided. Tony deserves sainthood.
When we were growing up, I always thought we were rich. It turns out we weren’t rich financially, but Dad sure gave us everything he had, and we certainly were never forced to eat peanut butter. We all had bicycles. We all received cars.
Not having had an opportunity to earn a college degree, he was exceptionally proud that all four of his children did so. He was doubly proud of Wendy because she earned two degrees.
Dad was very generous. He was good to others.
He was scary when we were little. When he stood up and raised his deep voice, we instantly became little angels.
While I knew logically that Dad couldn’t live forever, part of me felt he would. Dad was bigger than life. He was special.
Dad has had such wonderful friends in his life. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Tony will be recognizing many of them. I must mention sweet Frances Burgess who has been like a second Mom. Dad’s wonderful musician friends. Jim Robinson and his wife, Betty. Winn Williams. And cousin Bill Winkopp…shown here at Dad’s 80th birthday bash, which he absolutely LOVED!
Dad wanted to have one more 0 Year party, but it just wasn’t in the cards. He didn’t quite make 90, but he lived in 91 different years – 1918 to 2008.
We have created a tribute to Dad at www.walterwindsor.com. Dad’s autobiography is printed in full on the web site under the link “Life Story.” At last count, over 150 messages have been received from friends, family, and folks who didn’t even know Dad personally, and those are all on the web site as well.
Dad spent 33 days in the hospital and 16 days in the hospice.
We hope some of you might benefit from what we learned from this experience. For example, we learned that a simple Living Will is not sufficient in today’s world. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the web page on www.walterwindsor.com titled “The Death of Our Father – What We Learned.”
After close to a month in ICU, Dad was moved to a regular room. When he became really lucid, I seized the opportunity to talk with Dad about the realities of his situation. I had done this before, but I was never sure if he could really understand what I was saying. Dr. McGann advised Dad and us that he felt there was only a 10% chance that Dad's lung might get strong enough to work without a machine. Dad made some funny comments, thanked the doctor, and saluted him goodbye.
Dad didn’t want a machine. Dad came to accept that his time would soon come. He was agitated and grumpy for a while, and then he became calm. He made his acceptance clear when Marty walked in from the airport; he welcomed her to his "Last Hurrah." He said he was on his "final assignment" and Walter Windsor would soon be "signing off" for the last time, and other such colorful expressions that tied to his career. He just accepted his condition and prognosis like a man. He never cried. He never complained. I wish I were that strong, but I am not. He accepted the hand that life dealt him, and he made the most of it.
He said he wanted to specify the date and time that he died. He wanted to get everyone together and then "pull the plug." I explained that it couldn’t work quite that way as he didn't really have a plug, but he was happy that it could kind of be on his terms.
Boz, Marty, and Brittany went all over north Georgia in search of Dad’s favorite Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream. Dad LOVED it! He said if he had to go, he wanted it to be while eating Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream! His last meals were avocados from sister-in-law Hazel’s yard, and Starbuck’s Coffee Ice Cream.
Dad told us that he had a wonderful life with Mom and that in recent years, he had enjoyed living life through all of us. He said he would miss so much knowing about the twists and turns in life for that we would be navigating.
I told him that Mom is in Heaven, and she knows all about what's going on with all of us, and he can, too. I asked Dad if he would agree to meet with someone from Peachtree Presbyterian Church. He enthusiastically agreed! Dad had been mad at God since Mom died. Within a few minutes, Reverend Chuck Roberts was there to see Dad. Marty, Tony, and Boz were there, and Wendy listened in from Orlando by cell phone.
Chuck was wonderful. Chuck advised Dad that he was going to Heaven. He explained that the Presbyterian Church believes that if you have ever accepted the Lord in your heart at any time, you will go to Heaven. Dad told Reverend Chuck that it was important to him to be with Mary in Heaven. He said he enthusiastically and wholeheartedly welcomed God into his heart. We all joined hands in a circle and Reverend Chuck read a perfect verse from the scripture and said a wonderful prayer. It was a VERY SPECIAL experience, and we are so happy for Dad that he was conscious and we could all have this special time together.
It's hard to say that the day your father accepts that he is about to die is a really special day, but it was.
Dad spoke to Bob Jordan by telephone, and I overheard him tell Bob that the toughest thing he was dealing with was that the kids weren’t ready to let him go. That told me that Dad was ready.
A few days later, Dad was moved to a hospice.
Dad’s eyes were closed as they had been most of the time. He had not been speaking coherently. Tony and I were with him. I leaned over close to him and said, "Dad, we'd all like to ask one big favor of you. When you see Mom in Heaven, please give her a big kiss from all of us." Dad didn't open his eyes, but he said, just as clearly as could be, "I will do just that."
The last clear thing that Dad said to me was that he saw Mom “on the dock.” He would reach out his right arm as if to grab Mom’s hand, and he did that many times over his final days.
We played music for Dad virtually 24/7 in the hospice. The last time the doctor saw him, he prescribed: “Just keep playing that great music.” Dad’s favorite song was Star Dust, and we played it a lot. We also played CDs from Dad’s Orlando music friends, Rick Fay, Carol Stein, and others.
Dad died at 1:19 am on February 29. Tony and I were by his side - each holding one of his hands as we had done so many times as children. It was peaceful. He was in no pain. We were happy that he was now in Heaven with Mom, with the mother he never knew, with his dad who he became close to over the last 10 years of his life, and with friends and family.
When I spoke last week with the cutest, most beautiful, and smartest grandchild that has ever lived, Miss Madison, about coming to Orlando for the funeral this afternoon and the Celebration tonight, I told Madison that it would be fun but also sad. Madison asked me why it would be sad. She said Grand BamPa is happy; he’s in Heaven. And so he is!
Tony and I find it interesting that Dad died at 1:19 on February 29 at the age of 89. Dad’s favorite number was 9 ever since Channel 9, so knowing him, he planned it that way. He was special.
We feel certain that he held on so he could die on Leap Year Day. That way, we would only think of his death once every four years. He made it absolutely clear to us that he wanted us to do nothing but celebrate his life. And that we do!
Dad, we love you so much it hurts. The “Windsor kids” could not have asked for better parents or a better childhood.
Walter M. Windsor was Our Dad. He was special.
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