Remembering Leo – a eulogy for my father

Leo_Purdon_2

 

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My father was a teacher. This is what he taught me.

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He was raised in a time, in a family, with values, virtue, and a tradition of serving others. And with other like-minded families in his adopted country, all shared among themselves sustenance, warmth, and hope.

Too soon though, he experienced our country in the pathos and despair of the Great Depression. Soon afterward, in his military service, he witnessed the agony and tragedy of the Second World War.

And the contradictions he felt– the inspiring potential of the human being as compared with the utter failure of the institutions human beings invent – he could not reconcile. The urge to do that, to understand what it is that makes our rules, regulations, and institutions so often inhuman – was his basic motivation.

So he went about his days working hard to elevate, to humanize the situations he found himself in. When he began to assume leadership roles in the institutions he was questioning, an amazing thing would happen. He was somehow able both to lead and to question those very institutions.

By the end of his days he had witnessed precipitous declines in the major institutions of our time. In the end they failed him – even the medical profession failed him.

In the end he knew that our rules, regulations, and institutions fail us because they are not human. Only we are human. And it is always our challenge to humanize the artificial worlds we create and inhabit. Otherwise we are in danger of turning our homes, our schools, our churches, our cities – all institutions – into prisons.

We can accomplish our highest goals and fulfill our destiny by the simple method of listening to ourselves and each other closely enough to hear our heartbeats – by remembering, practicing, and envisioning what it means to be fully human.

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Dr. Leo A. DeSantis – November 5, 1926 – March 26, 2009 – Biographical Information
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Image: Dr. Leo A. DeSantis, circa 1954, photo by Purdon

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Remembering Leo – a eulogy for my father

  1. Read the eulogy and the biography, impressive and I didn’t realize not only was he an educator, but a fellow alumni at Kutztown University. It saddened me to hear he passed, yet it was enriching to have made his acquaintance at that picnic dinner ages ago at the farm. He was good people.

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