Something was terribly wrong this year. While America was commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I was feeling the loss of my brother-in-law, David Fearer. I used to call him just about every Sunday morning or at least every other week. And I never missed wishing him a happy birthday on June 6. I also tried to catch him on Father’s Day before he went out with his daughter and son-in-law, Barbi and Joe Quaratella, the son-in-law he referred to as “the Mensch.”
Dave and his brothers were always very close. Maybe it was because they lost their mother at 39. Butch, the oldest, was almost 18; Dave was 14; and my husband, Nate, was the youngest at 11. When World War II broke out, they were each drafted into the service. Dave was the only one who saw action overseas as part of General Patton’s Army.
Butch became a baker, and Dave was an accountant who also had other vocations including owner of Green’s Book Store. My husband was a pediatrician. I don’t know how they managed it but they – and eventually we – got together quite often.
I have to admit, however, Dave was probably the glue that kept the trio together and their widowed father was included in everything possible.
Admittedly, Dave also had the best sense of humor; he had a way of always leaving folks laughing. I remember it was Dave who could hardly wait to have the family over so he could play a recording of “The 2,000 Year-Old Man.” It was the shtick created by the brilliant duo, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. Dave could have made them into a trio.
Dave and his wife, Ruth, and children Barbi and James, lived in Sharon and were active temple-goers. Though Dave seemed headed for the rabbinate, his mother’s illness and death had caused him to change direction. So did love and war. He was only 20 when he and Ruth married and it wasn’t long after that he was drafted and sent overseas. He earned the Purple Heart after he was wounded on the battlefield of France, and he also was honored by France with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour for his service liberating that country.
In filling out the application for the Legion of Honour, Dave laughingly said, “I told them I left part of me on the battlefield in France.” Though he never said so, Dave was proud of the honor and showed it by putting Legion of Honour address labels on his correspondence along with American flags. When I asked him about the ceremony that took place at the French Embassy in New York, he was more impressed that of the 18 honorees, five were Jewish.
Sadly, by this time, James had passed away from cancer at 49 and Ruth had died of Parkinson’s disease. Dave moved to Connecticut from Florida to be near Barbi and her husband, Joe, and grandchildren Jonathan and Tami and their three children. Though they all convinced him they would take care of him if he became sick, it was Dave who wound up taking care of everybody until the family relocated to Virginia.
Never one to sit around, Dave, already into his 80s, checked ads for jobs. For several years, he picked up medicines packed in ice and delivered them to the post office to be sent to hospitals. He worked for the census bureau and was chosen as the supervisor responsible for everyone else’s survey. Dave, Barbi, and Joe became active temple-goers on Friday night but Dave especially enjoyed the brown bag lunches and study groups with the rabbi. Wherever Joe “the Mensch” and Barbi went, they made sure Dave was with them.
If it were Father’s Day, the threesome might go to Foxwoods for brunch or a restaurant for dinner. If it were Thanksgiving or Christmas, they were invited to Joe’s sister’s house. And at the High Holidays, they were always at temple together.
The last few years have been challenging for both Barbi and Dave. I could hear in his voice how tired he was, how concerned he was about his daughter. In his 90s, the last few years he would say, “When I wake up in the morning, I wonder why I’m still here.” At 94, he was ready to join his wife and son. Dave died in the hospital about nine months ago with “the Mensch” by his side. And I no longer can call him to say, “Happy Father’s Day.”
Myrna Fearer writes from Danvers.