Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tribute for Cap't Jack - The 5 Qualities

Preface: This post and the previous two posts represent a reprinted version of the speech given on April 6, 2013 at  the service for Jack W. Siulinski. 

     There are five qualities, to speak of, that really defined my Dad. The first quality was his love for animals. You may know that he loved dogs and was devoted to our family dog, Buffy, even though he seemed to yell at her a lot. Buffy did have a mind of her own! Dad would befriend dogs out in public every chance he got. He also loved birds and horses, which he was able to enjoy in his final years. His favorite activity at the Veteran’s Home was, no doubt, the horseback riding they offered there.

     The second quality was his humor. Dad had a pervasive sense of humor throughout his life as Paula shared. Some examples of his humor from the interviews in 2007: He was asked about school life in Rochester to which he replied, “I lived in a dormitory with a bunch of other schmucks!” When asked if he had an original plan for the size of his family, he said that he wanted a basketball team (5 on a team). I reminded him that he had more than a basketball team, and he responded: “well, more or less; I had a spare.” 

     The next quality that defined my Dad was his love of nature and being outdoors. I am glad that his service is in the spring. He was definitely an outdoor enthusiast.The short list of his preferred active passions is tennis, skiing, boating, camping, and biking. He also loved to BBQ.

The fourth quality was his love of travel, and Dad did a fair share of it, especially with his kids living in so many places.  During the interviews, he gave a thumbs-up for cruises, and particularly the food on the cruises.  Did you know he also traveled to Hawaii and Europe?  The picture to the left was taken in Heidelberg, Germany in 1996.  Two of the most fascinating experiences he ever had was flying over the Aleutian Islands when he was in the Navy, and flying in a helicopter over "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific", Waimea Canyon, on Kauai's West Side with Mom in 1994.  It was great that he got to see this beautiful place. 

Waimea Canyon
     The last quality and the one that defined Dad the most, for lack of a better word, was his sociability.  His social nature of connecting so easily with others was true in both his personal and work life.  As a child, I remember getting the impression that he was so important and well liked which made me feel important as well. 
     Dad's social skills never faltered even to his last days. The caretakers at the Veteran's Home in Scarborough, Maine, would often say they loved my Dad. When we would stroll along the halls and grounds, they would stop us to say hi, to whom they called Cap’t Jack, and sometimes gave him a hug.  I believe this quality of sociability got passed on to all of the Siulinski kids, and what I suspect is that it will also be highlighted in our services when our time is up.

Closing thoughtsHaving moved back to the east coast for a new job last fall, I was able to spend much time visiting my Dad during his last months. Speaking on behalf of my siblings: by being there for him, we were able to give back a little to the Dad who was always there for us.  No matter how different we were as kids and as adults, he always wanted us to be happy. During the family history interviews back in 2007, I asked my Dad how he would like to be remembered.  His response was: ”just being a nice guy..."
Click below to see a slideshow tribute:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tribute for Cap't Jack - Family and Career

     Jack’s career, his marriage, and the start of his family all began around the same time in the early 50’s.  When he got out of the service in 1950, he bought a new car and started taking courses at Portland Junior College - which later became USM.  It was his high school friend, Bud McCue that introduced Jack to Pauline.  How that came about: Pauline was living at Pine Point, and spending much time with her friend Sue Breton.  Since Bud and Sue were good friends, and Jack and Bud were hanging out again, one Sunday they drove out to Pine Point in his new car, and here is where Jack meets Pauline - this was the summer of 1950. Not to date my mother but 60 years ago she married Jack, and they moved to NY where he finished his 2nd year of college at RIT.  He graduated in 1952 and their first child was born in 1953.

Jack was a real photographic artist and film man.  He loved it so much that for many years we had a working darkroom in the cellar on Sargent Street.  Because photography was a passion not just a job, it extended to his family life, and therefore we have so many great pictures from throughout the years. The following images come from Jack's portfolio of photographic talents.  Since I wrote the speech, I get to show a baby pic.  I do not know how he got me in that pose or in those clothes!

     Dad was proud of his work.  After the interviews in 2007, he gave me reels of film that he had saved.  I am looking forward to getting them digitized at some point.  Probably, he was most proud of the work he did for the children at the Pine Tree Society.  I think he was also very proud of a special he filmed on whales that he really enjoyed doing.  If I was to choose his greatest film accomplishment, it would be the work he did on whales.

     One of my most positive childhood memories was going on work assignments with my Dad.  A few years ago, I wrote a journal entry about one those times.  I wrote:

It was great having a father as a photographer working in television. A couple of times I tagged along with him when he was assigned to film the governor at the State House. I remember entering the exclusive grounds of the oval office and being introduced to Governor Curtis sitting behind the big desk as my Dad began testing voice and lights. I had always viewed my Dad's work as special, and it having a coolness factor to it. This was one of those times.

     The Siulinski kids got to appear in local TV commercials and be a guest on the Lloyd Knight show.  In Dad's obituary, I wrote about the time I went on a plane ride in a 4 seater while he was filming the Prince of Fundy cruise liner for a TV commercial (see the image above).  What I did not say was I got so dizzy from that plane ride that I almost got sick.  When we finally landed, I felt like I was walking on the moon!  Still, it was a unique experience I will never forget.

Speaking of the moon, another distinct memory I have of something I did with my Dad was watching the 1969 moon landing live on the monitors in the CBS television studio in Portland.
In 1990, Jack retired after 27 years as a commercial photographer and camera operator for WGME-TV.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tribute for Cap't Jack - Early Life

Preface:  The next few blog posts are segments from the speech I delivered on April 6, 2013 to celebrate the life of my Dad, Jack William Siulinski.

     Good morning everyone. Thanks to everybody for coming especially to the family who flew in from all over the country. Today I will talk briefly about Jack's younger years, his life in the Navy, the start of his family, and his career. Then I will conclude with the 5 qualities that I think defined my Dad. I hope from hearing what I have to say that you will get the essence of who my father a young person, as a brother, as a husband, as a family man, as a co-worker, and as a friend. 

     From interviewing my Dad for about 5 hours in 2007, I got to know him on a different level. He really provided me the motivation to research our family history. I wanted to know more about the family that he knew so little about on his father's side. The picture to the right is Jack's grandfather, Albert Szulinski, who lived in New York.

     One of the things I learned from the interviews was that Jack grew up in two very different environments:  the city life of Portland where he graduated from Deering High School, and the rural community of Jemseg, New Brunswick, Canada, where he spent many summers visiting his mother’s extended family.  One of Dad’s earliest memories was a long car ride to Canada where he distinctly remembered looking out a small window while his uncle drove the long, winding, dirt roads through the wilderness of Maine to get to Canada (see the map below).

Courtesy of google maps 
The Dykeman's of Jemseg had a farm with chickens, a few cows and a few horses. Their family dinners often had more than 20 people, a contrast to the small family life in Portland.
Jack's grandmother, Hattie Dykeman, always had homemade butter, bread and pies.  In talking with Dad’s brother, Adam, recently, the scent came back to him even today of the homemade butter and hot molasses over fresh bread. A fond memory of something Dad did with his grandfather, Joshua Dykeman, was getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go turn out the light in the lighthouse at Grand Lake.
The Siulinski’s of Portland were much loved by their Jemseg relatives, and the yearly visits were much anticipated. Only 5 years ago, in 2008, the Siulinski brothers, Jack and Adam, and their wives took a trip to visit the Canadian relatives for a family reunion in Saint John, New Brunswick, but did not visit Jemseg.  It was June of 1996 that Dad last visited the farm and the lighthouse on Grand Lake.

Before my Dad went into the Navy, he had six weeks of military training while still in high school at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. He referred to the transition from the academy to the Navy as “coming out of the frying pan and into the fire”.  What may have led Dad to choose to enlist in the Navy was seeing the fleet visiting Portland when World War II was still going on.

Source: wikipedia
Life in the Navy took Dad from the heat of the South Pacific to the frigid climate of Adak, Alaska. He entered the Navy in August 1946 as a Construction Electrician. In California, he attended a Radio and Communications school in the Seabees program. 

The next post will explore the marriage, family and career of Jack which all began in the early 1950's.  

Note: Some of the pictures in this post were provided by Adam and Jean Siulinski of South Portland, Maine, and Marilyn Currie of New Brunswick, Canada.