Jerald Douglas “Doug” Huggins November 18, 1922–August 21, 2016
When I was in the fourth grade the teacher asked us to write a theme about the person that we most admired. Other kids wrote about the President or a sports hero or a movie star or some other public figure. I wrote about my father.
In deciding what to say about him today, I tried to recall the big events of my childhood that made him a hero to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there really were no big events. Just lots of small ones, which, when taken all together added up to one very special big event—growing up with Doug Huggins as my dad.
My dad was a practical man. Not the kind who built things or enjoyed tinkering with engines, but he could fix a bicycle wheel, fly a kite, make paper airplanes, skip stones, re-attach a doll’s head to her body, and re-animate just about anything that ran on electricity. He never coached my softball team, but he threw countless pitches for me to swing at. He never pulled me from a burning building, but he was excellent at bandaging skinned knees. He thought nothing of coming home on Friday night after a long week on the road, only to change clothes and get back in the car to accompany me to some father/daughter event at school.
He took me fishing. He taught me to read maps. He took off the training wheels when he thought I was ready. He taught me that whatever I did, I had to give it my best shot. And he taught me the importance of truth. He was very big on honesty. Nothing my brother or I could ever do would get us in as much trouble as lying about it. And, as he always said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said.”
He had his whimsical side as well. I can’t recall what age I was when he wrote “Ode to a Princess,” which began “Once upon a time, many years ago, in a far out land called Burbank, a fair princess was born to King Jerald and Queen Ruth…” Every year for the last fifty years my phone would ring at 7 AM on my birthday and he would recite to me the story of Princess-Judi-with-an-i…climaxed by a spirited rendition of Happy Birthday by him and my mom.
My dad loved German cars and Mexican food. He loved reading books and playing golf and road trips. He loved his family and his friends and his country and the Navy. He loved pleated pants and he wore them whether they were in or out of style at any given time. He disdained pinky rings and flowered shirts. He liked his steak well done. “If it’s smokin’ it’s cookin’, if it’s burned it’s done” was his motto. He showed me what a delicacy leftover cornbread can be when crumbled into a glass of cold milk, about 11 pm. His baby back ribs were unprecedented. He hated vegetables cooked al dente…actually anything cooked al dente. He liked his coffee boiling hot, his tea sweet, and his martinis dry.
I loved him and so did everyone else who knew him.
Perhaps the most telling testimonial to the kind of man he was, is that some 20 years after my first husband and I divorced, he wrote my father a letter telling him how much he appreciated him and missed him and what a great father-in-law he’d been. In that same spirit, I’d like to say this about my father…it’s a Hebrew proverb:
Do not say in grief: “He is no more,” but live in thankfulness that he was.