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Eulogy - originally prepared 4/18/17

June 5, 2020
Preface for 6/5/20: I intended, though forgot, to upload this years ago. I recall part of the issue was formatting it onto the website. For all those hoping I would have it up sooner and those who were unable to attend his service, here it the eulogy I prepared for my father's service:

In preparation to speak today, I remembered the memorial service many years ago for my maternal grandfather, Elroy, in which both my father and I spoke about our relationship to my grandfather, and the impact he had upon our lives. My father spoke about his personal experiences showing my grandfather's integrity, achievement, family, and the profound effect he had on those whose lives he touched. My father was never one to brag or place himself on a pedestal, so I hope he appreciates how we speak of him today.

Anyone getting to know my father learned he told marvelous stories. If I neglect or omit details, please bear in mind I am working from memory, and I hope you will each contribute your experiences today. On behalf of all our family, welcome to this remembrance of Mike Price.

My father was born and raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma. His mother, Loretta, meant a lot to him, and they shared a strong artistic talent. His father, Jack, had dreams of playing professional baseball until a factory accident left him missing most of an arm. Remarkably, Jack continued to successfully play for minor league teams, and my father would tell wonderful anecdotes about his dad.

According to my dad, his dad would take on odd jobs. Jack started working at a local bar where folks knew one another pretty well. The locals knew not to mess with him as he was very tough in spite of missing his right forearm half way past his wrist, and not being a large guy to start. One day a fellow came in, found it funny he was the bouncer, and decided to start trouble with him. As my dad retold the story, Jack raised the man off the ground with his left arm, and proceeded to beat the man senseless with the nub of his right forearm, which he described as a blur of punches like watching someone working a speed bag at the gym.

My dad didn't emulate every aspect of his parents, but he loved them and tried to make them proud. As a boy, his main hangout was Blaine's, his aunt Maybelle's clothing store. Maybelle even took him to New York City when he was young, and it left a magical impression on him. When not hanging about the store, he enjoyed going to the movies. He especially liked Westerns and Science Fiction. Will Rogers and Captain Midnight were boyhood heroes of his, and contemporary films like Matinee and shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 held strong nostalgic affection for him.

Another personal hero of his was Chuck Yeager in addition to NASA and the astronauts. He built model rockets as a boy, and shared that hobby with my brother and me when we were young. We lost a lot of rockets, but no fingers. A few years ago, he fulfilled a lifelong dream to watch a space shuttle launch.

As he got older, one of his earliest jobs was at the local country club in Shawnee, where he learned to play golf. He enjoyed playing in his youth, played for his high school, and carried on playing into adulthood. In 1983, he played in a statewide amateur golf championship with a team of three other men. The won the Oklahoma tournament, and were set to play at the National Championship. On Father's Day that year, we gave him a bicycle. He took it for a ride, got distracted mucking about with the gears, and ran into the front of a parked truck, breaking both wrists. The doctors told him he may only get 50% of the range of motion back, but he was determined to play in that golf tournament. After having the pins removed from his wrists, he practiced through pain every day with the golf clubs until he could do it. He played in that tournament, which was held in October 1983. They didn't win the tournament, but he retained full use of his hands and wrists as a direct result of his determination.

Throughout high school, he lived with his paternal grandmother Vernetta and grandfather Allen, and spent a lot of time with his uncle Don. His high school elected him senior class president, and he was quite popular. Don's influence inspired my dad to pursue a college degree at the University of Oklahoma.

Like Don, my dad chose to major in architecture, and joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Some of his best stories were about the crazy times he had in college. He once told me how some of the guys were sharing a small room, and decide to build bunk beds into the closet so they could set up a card table in the room. Another time, he and his friends went to Colorado in search of a UFO. He relayed many stories over the years, so I picture a cross between the movies Animal House and Fandango, the latter of which my dad said reminded him of his fraternity time in college, and the strong bonds of friendship he forged through various reckless adventures.

Due to his draft status changing, and knowing he would be called up for service while still enrolled at OU, he stopped attending classes in the spring of 1970. He and my mother were dating at the time, so they made a difficult decision to marry before moving to Canada. My father filed for conscientious objector status. Unfortunately, during these first months of marriage while in Canada, his father passed away after complications from surgery. They were unable to return to attend the funeral, which affected his relationship with his mother for some time. They returned to Oklahoma after about four months, and were approved for civil vs. military service, located in Kansas City. They worked first at a hospital then an outreach center to help at risk youths.

After Kansas City, they put down roots in Norman, OK. I came along a few years later in 1975. We lived in an apartment until 1979, when we moved into our house, which my father designed. For those of you who have not seen it, he put in a barrel-vaulted skylight that stretches the length of the house, a split-level style entryway to connect to the upstairs and downstairs, and a two-story great room designed to bring in plenty of natural light. The home has been featured on the University of Oklahoma Architecture tour, as was his current home where Mary lives today.

My brother Mathew was born in 1982. My dad supported us in sports and hobbies. We enjoyed playing games, and watching movies together. He taught me to play baseball, we'd take occasional skiing trips, and we took family vacations every year using my grandparents' motor home. We traveled to Disneyworld twice, Washington D.C. once, but we spent much of those trips going to Canada. My dad would chop firewood, we picked blueberries, we would go hiking, and at night we'd cookout at our campground and sometimes visit with fellow campers. We particularly enjoyed British Columbia. His favorite place was Rogers Pass, and we'd regularly stay at the Illecillewaet campground.

When Mat was young, the four of us went up a trail near Roger's Pass call Asulkan Valley. My mother gets vertigo easily, so she avoids steep drop-offs on both sides. She was petrified, and refused to let Mat or herself proceed. For better of worse, my dad didn't scare easily. As a father myself, I often have to put up the same strong front for the benefit of my family. Five years ago, a tornado came right past my home in Norman, pushing over a fifty-foot oak tree, which barely missed the house while I was inside with my son. During that moment, I thought about my dad, and how he'd react. He may be terrified inside, but you'd never know it. I feel as though my son learned some of the lessons I got from my dad that day as I handled it calmly to diffuse the stressful situation.

My father wasn't perfect. Growing up as only child left him clueless as to how to deal with sibling rivalry between my brother and me. At Christmas, he tended to buy presents for all of us that he wanted fr himself as opposed to things we wanted.

My father made a lot of us nervous with his driving. He wasn't a poor driver so much as one who was easily distracted. He would want to look at sights when he was driving, which was enormously disconcerting. He would tell my mother about his excellent peripheral vision, so she would ask him to start using his peripheral vision to see the sights. Interestingly though, he was the best parallel parker I ever saw. He once parked a motor home on the street with less than 2 feet to spare between other vehicles. It may have been the most memorable part of that trip. It's a testament to his attention to the fine detail when he was focused, and general lack of attention when he wasn't.

However, one of the most frustrating flaws he had was his approach to projects. It always seemed ironic to me how he ended up working with the Project Management Institute since he was the last person I ever wanted to work with on a project.

Once, my dad put up a basketball goal at the house. He poured cement, installed a pole, and mounted a backboard and hoop to it. It was 6" too high. A few years later, he decided to remove it, and wanted my help. I was around the age of 13, and about 100 pounds soaking wet. He rented a jackhammer to break up the cement. However, he opted for the largest one they rented since it was only a few dollars more, and he assumed we could do the job faster. The tool was more than half my weight and the job took forever to complete.

Most kids growing up do not experience putting up outdoor Christmas lights as a weekend-long activity. My dad would change the design over and over, and when he finally had it the way he wanted, we would discover we had the strand of lights backward, so we'd redo it. That would give him just enough time to decide it should be done a different way. Eventually we "finished," but he would go back a couple days later to redo it again.

He enjoyed building things. He built us desks, shelves, a tree house, a soccer goal, rebuilt our deck, and many other projects in which I was along for the ride. When he worked toward his PhD, he studies personalities, and how they learn. He identified heavily toward creativity, with weaknesses in following structure. There are many things I miss about my dad. I miss how he talks on the phone with hand-gestures and his doodles he left around the house, but I do not miss those projects we worked on together.

Aside from travel, my father was passionate about movies. He learned visually more so than through books, as do I. He loved classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca, science fiction like Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and clever comedies like My Favorite Year, Local Hero, and Woody Allen films. When he was in the hospital some time back and under medication, he started saying "Go ahead! Lash me you swine. You'll no loosen my tongue." His speech was slurred, and Mary thought he was hallucinating until I pointed out he was quoting Peter O'Toole from My Favorite Year from a scene where he was drunk, and they were restraining him to get him undressed for a bath. Years ago, my grandmother Esther passed after an eight year battle with Alzheimer's. As sad as losing my father was, I am grateful he kept his mind throughout. His wit was remarkable as times.

In high school, I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student. Both my parents were supportive of this, and the and Mat visited near the end of my exchange. This was the first extended period of time away from them, and this was probably the first time my father started to view me as a man. I showed them around, translated German for them, taught them about the customs, and most importantly I made all the travelling arrangements. Growing up taking family vacations, I had little part in the planning. The trip went quite well, and I felt I'd completed some unnamed rite of passage within his mind.

As I entered my college years and my twenties, I spent less time with the family on a daily basis. In 1997, I moved to Minnesota. Although I didn't understand immediately, my parents were int he process of separating, then divorcing in 1998. I suppose it was fortunate the divorce was amicable, but it was unfortunate my brother didn't have our dad around during most of high school. I had just gone through my first really tough break-up, so I started seeing my parents differently than I had in the past. Though I didn't like what was happening, I knew my dad needed to take a new direction with his life. Over the years, he stayed involved with our lives, but I could always tell he wanted to be more involved. I moved back to Norman in 2001, shortly after losing my grandfather, Elroy. A couple years later, my dad's mother passed. A short time after receiving his diagnosis, my dad decided to move back to Oklahoma as well in order to be closer to family. 

I'm grateful he saw me get married, got to know each of my children, and got to spend time with us during the holidays making happy memories. My wife and I recently moved our family to Fort Collins, Colorado. We started looking at Fort Collins in part because of my dad's recommendation. We love the schools, the people, the weather, the views, and the general atmosphere. My father was very supportive of us during this process. He loved the mountains, and I know he'd be proud of our decision.

My dad's time was cut short, but I'm glad he helped raise my brother and me, spent twenty-eight mostly happy years with my mother, happily remarried, and had a lovely life with Mary. I know when he lived in Philadelphia, he enjoyed his job with the Project Management Institute, which allowed him to  travel a great deal. He spent a lot of time prior to his lung transplant fulfilling many of his dreams and wishes by travelling as much as he could. Even though I didn't always see eye to eye with my dad, I always appreciated him having the courage to follow his dreams, and I try to keep those memories close to my heart every day.

Home & Home

June 11, 2016

I first met Mike when I was convinced to volunteer on the Members Advisory Group he led for PMI's Registered Education Providers' Program.  Since we both hailed from the Big 8/12 and had a fondness for college sports, we quickly developed a friendship that covered almost two decades.  

I knew we would become great friends on one of my early trips to Philly.  Mike knew I had a habit of trying local dives to get a flavor of an area.  However, this was NOT the way PMI treated its volunteers.  The organization was always careful to ensure volunteers ate and lodged well so dives were NOT on the menu.  But, that didn't stop Mike.  So one cold January evening, Mike asked for directions (Before Google Maps) and we drove into Philly proper and sat on a frigid picnic table eating some of the worst cheesesteak sandwhiches ever created at Pat's served with authentic Cheese Wiz.  Laughing about the whole experience.  Only six months later we would attend our first OU football game together in what would become an annual home and home tradition that lasted 15 years.  In that time we saw the Red River Rivalry and Adrian Petersen's freshman performance, Kevin Durant's incredible game in Lawrence, the very last Missou game in Lawrence, and the Bg 12 Tournament.  As great as those games, and many others were, they are not what I cherished most.  You see, every year Mike and I travelled somewhere together it was a grand adventure where the only promise was time with a great friend and the unexpected.  Here are two of my favorites: 

One of our earliest trips Mike picked me up at the Will Rodgers Airport and promptly informed me that he had left our game tickets in his desk back home in Philly.  "You're kidding right?" I asked.  "Nope," he said laughing.  The only reason he had figured it out was he had run into another friend switching planes in Denver who was coming from Texas and was explaining to the man about his weekend plans.  When he got to the part about the game he realized he needed tickets.  No worries though, he assured me.  He had already arranged to have them next day'd to the Kinko's / Fed Ex Office in Norman.  That night we ate at Coach's and toasted his airport run-in confident the problem was solved.  Unfortunately, the next morning as we walked into Kinko's we were told they wouldn't accept and hold a UPS overnight shipment (It's a Fed Ex Location), and the driver had just been there!  After 30 minutes of searching we found a UPS service location from which we could call to locate the envelope.  We waited another 10 minutes in line as game time quickly approached, and just as we got our turn at the counter a brown shirted driver walks in and right up to Mike.  He promptly asks if he is Dr. Mike Price literally out of no where.  I don't even remember who OU played that year, but I remember laughing the whole time about our good fortune.  

A year or so later, Mike again picks me up from the Oklahoma City Airport late on Friday evening in his rental car.  As we drove down to Norman, Mike told me about how he had the exact same name as another guy who went to OU and also now lived in the Philly area.  However, the other guy had made a bit more money than he, and had made a small donation to the University.  Mike swore he had never used the commonality to his advantage, which I just couldn't believe.  Just after I had finished ribbing him about it, one of Norman's finest pulled us over for going 15 over the speed limit through downtown.

As we pull over Mike unbuckles his seatbelt to get his license.  When the officer approached he immediately informs Mike that it is a $100 fine for not having your seatbelt buckled, and hedoesn't seem pleased to hear we are driving a rental.  He takes Mike's documents back to the patrol car and is gone for almost 20 minutes.  He finally returned and began to hand Mike a simple warning for going 5 MPH over the speed limit, and telling us he was only giving us a warning.  However, he had one question, "So do you have any association with the University?"  We could see from the look in the officer's face he was convinced he had just made the biggest mistake in his career.  For most of us this scenario has an easy out.  Say, "yes" and drive away with no one the wiser, but not Mike.  Ever humble and honest to a fault Mike smiles at the officer as he tries to wrestle the ticket from the officer's hand and says, "No, but we both live in Philadelphia and I get that a lot."  The cop followed us all the way to the hotel.

Mike and I really only saw each other twice a year, but we would text constantly especially during college football and basketball seasons.  I will miss his try wit and sense of humor as we both often lamented our teams' early exit.  Last fall he suggested I bring my 9 year old son along for our annual trips.  This year will be Jake's first in what I hope will be a continuation of a long tradition.  Over the years, I know he will grow tired of hearing the same old stories, but someday I am confident he will understand why I continue tell them.

Thank you Mike for the memories...
 

Meeting Mike

June 10, 2016

The PMI Registered Education Providers Advisory Group was how I met Mike. While we look agreeable in this photo, Mike was able to bring together people with a wide diversity of opinions to hash out how the first REP program should set standards for PMI training providers. He made us laugh, admire his insight and intelligence - and love him. He gracefully pushed me to work better for the larger community and helped me to grow. We both loved good food and good wine. When he married "that other Virginia girl that drove him crazy" (albeit in a different way), I was so happy for him! He chose right. Fortunately for me, after PMI he remained a friend.

Mike, I will miss you, but also know you are with me forever. Many thanks.

Movies

June 6, 2016

My father and I shared a passion for movies, and my dad's tastes were very specific. Here's a list of some of his favorite films:

Local Hero: Texas oil man representing a large company travels to Ferness, Scotland, and has his perceptions of the world greatly expanded through his interactions with the excentric citizens, including the occasional mermaid.

Matinee: The son of a naval officer recently stationed in 1962 Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis makes new friends, which include Hollywood horror producer Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman), who reminds people that life means little without a little magic.

Them: Radioactivity from nuclear testing causes certain ants to grow to giant size, terrorizing Los Angeles.

A Christmas Story: Young Ralphie carefully negotiates the tribulations of childhood in 1940's while trying to convince his parents to gift him a Red Rider B.B. Gun for Chiristmas.

God of Cookery: Less a favorite than something my dad found intriguing in new Chinese Cinema. A comedy about the business of celebrity chefs set in China. Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle).

The Producers: My dad always said that every character in this film was certifiably insane, but it works. The original Mel Brook's film far exceeds the broadway muscial (sorry, but there is only one Zero Mostel). 

My Favorite Year: Arguably Peter O'Toole's greatest performance as an Errol Flynn-like movie star (Alan Swann) set in 1954. The main characer, Benji Stone (aka Benjamin Steinberg) is a fictional representation of Mel Brooks, and the story is a semi-autobiographical piece set when Brooks was a writer for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows. Benji is a junior writer for "King Kaiser" on a similar live variety show, which is hosting the washed-up Alan Swann who happens to be Benji's personal hero. 

Asulkan Valley

June 6, 2016

Dad's favorite spot in the world was the Illecillewaet campground in Glacier National Park in British Columbia Canada, near Roger's Pass. From that picturesque setting, there were dozens of hiking trails.

One of the most notorious trails was Asulkan Valley. I recall being around 10 or 11 years old, and my father leading us to the end of the trail, which included a section near the peak where the trail runs along a narrow ridge. On the right side was a 70 degree drop to certain death, and on the left side was a 60 degree drop to certain injury. My mother's vertigo, and fear for my younger brother, paralyzed them from proceeding, but dad and I continued to the peak.

Due to my age and my mother's acrophobia, I ended up being my father's regular hiking buddy, at least on the trails that led to dramatic heights.

Christmas Lights

June 6, 2016

Putting up exterior Christmas lights in most households was an activity that lasted an hour or so at most, but in our hosehold it was a weekend activity. My dad was a big advocate of figuring things out the hard way, and they had to be perfect. Had we been raised in a Northern latitude, I am confident I would have lost at least a couple digits to frostbite given all the time spent rehanging Christmas lights that weren't just right.

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