A Tribute to my Dad

I’ve been quiet on social media lately, especially in blogland and on Facebook. Let me explain. I have also not posted any sermons recently as I have been away from the pulpit. This has been a time of reflection and change, which came to a head this past Monday, May 6, around 11:30 PM. That’s when my brother called from hospice to let me know our dad had died.

Dad paddling in the Okefenokee (2015)
Dad paddling in the Okefenokee (2015)

As you may imagine, I didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night, and was up way before sunrise to walk the beach (I was staying in Kure Beach). As the sun rose, I remember all those times being with Dad on the boat running out of Carolina Beach, Masonboro, or Barden’s Inlet as the sun rose. Dad’s timing always seemed perfect as we headed out toward the sun for a day of fishing. Of course, there were other days with rain or fog… But now, they’d be no more of those adventures.

On April 30, my father had his fourth intestinal surgery in twelve days. The first surgery was on Thursday, April 18. I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the time. My dad came out of the surgery doing well and things were looking up. We had several conversations by phone. He expected to get out of the hospital in four or five days. But before this happened, his intestines started to leak and there were infections. The next Thursday, he had the second surgery. They were not able to do everything, so they scheduled another surgery for Sunday and kept him sedated. There would be one more surgery for Tuesday morning, April 30. I arrived in time to meet the surgeon as he met with my brother, sister, and me. While he expressed hope, he also warned us that our father couldn’t survive another intestinal surgery. 

Dad shooting a basketball after his 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration
Dad, after his 25th Wedding Celebration (1980)

On Wednesday, they removed the respirator and Dad slowly woke up. Things looked even better on Thursday morning, May 2. I was there first thing that morning and when the doctors and staff made their rounds. They discussed moving Dad from ICU to a step-down unit that afternoon. Later in the morning, my brother came in to relieve me. I went out to have coffee with Billy Beasley, a friend of mine whose friendship goes back to my elementary school days. While there, I got an urgent text from my brother to come back, that Dad’s intestines were leaking. Over the next hour, we learned there was nothing more they could do. Dad understood what was happening and with my brother Warren and I on each side of the bed, sniffling, he told us not to cry. He later thanked us for being there and for being good boys. They moved Dad that afternoon to hospice, where he spent the next five days. 

Fishing off Jetty at Masonboro Inlet, Wrightsville Beach
Fishing at jetty at Masonboro Inlet (~2010)

Thankfully, the first two days, Dad did well and was able to see a lot of friends and family members. My younger brother was even able to make it in late Friday night from Japan.  One of the highlights during this time was one of the visits of the pastor of his church. He is relatively new and thank my father for all he did to support his ministry and how he checked in on others within the congregation. My father said, “that’s what we’re supposed to do.

By Saturday, May 4, Dad began to slip and mostly slept. Once, he woke up enough to say, “That was nice,” after I prayed over him. They had to keep increasing morphine to keep his pain under control. Although a strong man, fate took over. Yet, it took him a long time to give up. He would eventually stop breathing when alone (my brother was in the room but asleep). 

Probably ten years ago, my father had me write an obituary for him and my mother, Barbara Faircloth Garrison, who died in 2020. I pulled out the obituary from my files, updated it (mostly increasing the number of great-grandchildren), and began editing it with my siblings. Below is the final product: 

Mom and Dad in front of a camellia bush
Mom and Dad in the 1990s the (copy of photo wasn’t the best)

Charles Albert Garrison died on May 6, 2024 from complications following intestinal surgeries. Charles loved being on the water and never felt more alive than when he was out on his boat or fishing. He and his late wife were known for their love for each other and their hospitality toward others, including annual New Year Eve oyster roasts. 

a b&w photo of dad in a cap and gown in 1942
Dad at six years of age

Charles was born on December 29, 1936 in Pinehurst, North Carolina to Helen McKenzie and A. H. Garrison. He was an Eagle Scout and while a high school student played football, basketball, and baseball. In 1955, he graduated from Pinehurst High School and two months later, on July 29th, married Barbara Jean Faircloth. Their marriage lasted 65 years, till Barbara’s death in 2020. Together, they had four children: Charles Jeffrey (Donna), Warren Albert (Sheri), Sharon Kaye and David Thomas (Monica).

In 1962, Charles went to work for the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. He was employed by the company for the next forty years. He began his career in Petersburg, Virginia in January 1963. In 1966, he jumped at the opportunity to move to Wilmington, North Carolina where he could be near the ocean. He would live the rest of his life in Wilmington except for two overseas assignments in Japan and Korea. During his career with the company, he was an insurance inspector, an ASME Code Inspector for Boilers, Pressure Vessels, and a Nuclear In-Service Inspector. He retired from Hartford in 2002 but continued to do consulting work for another five years. He finally gave up working to care for his wife. 

Surf fishing at Cape Lookout
Fishing off Cape Lookout (Fall 2008)

Charles remained active throughout his life. In his younger years, he hunted and fished, played basketball and softball. Once he moved to Wilmington, he continued to play softball for a few years and limited his basketball to outside pickup games with his sons and their friends. He devoted as much time as possible to fishing. He often spent weeks in the fall of the year camping and fishing on Masonboro Island. Later, he would make a sojourner of a week or so to Cape Lookout, where he would camp and fish with family and friends.  

Mom and Dad with grandkids in the 1990s (notice the reindeers in the yard)
Dad with grandkids in the 1990s (notice the reindeers in the yard)

The church was always important to Charles. Like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he was a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church. He served on many committees, especially the building and grounds committee at Cape Fear Presbyterian Church, where he remained a member for 58 years. Charles attended church every Sunday he was able. He and his wife made many friends at Cape Fear and often visited new families within the church. They also delivered tapes of the church services to shut-ins within the congregation. 

Basketball goal
Basketball goal (in need of a painting)

Charles was a craftsman and handy man. He restored a home in Pinehurst and added on to his home in Wilmington. In high school, he made his future wife a cedar chest which they used for the rest of their lives. An excellent welder, he built the basketball goal which still stands in his yard. His great-grandchildren now play basketball on this goal. He also welded a Christmas tree stand out of steel that would have survived a nuclear war (the tree might have snapped off, but the steel stand wasn’t going anywhere).  Charles was also known for his handmade wooden Christmas decorations including a sleigh and reindeer which populated his front year during the season. He also built many Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer door hangers and poinsettias holders which he gave away as gifts. 

Charles also served as a leader in the Boy Scout program when his sons were in scouting and helped coach baseball. Charles continued to enjoy attending the ball games of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He also served for many years as a Myrtle Grove Volunteer Firefighter and as a Gideon. 

Charles was preceded in death by his parents, a sister (Martha Kay), and his wife. In addition to his children, he is survived by his brother Larry (Louise), his four children, seven grandchildren (Craig, Kristen, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Clara, Thomas, and Caroline), twelve great-grandchildren, a niece (McKenzie), and many cousins. For the last three years he enjoyed the company of Ginny Rowlings and her family. They spent many evenings at the NC Symphony, concerts and plays and eating ice cream. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Cape Fear Presbyterian Church and the Lower Cape Fear LifeCare of Wilmington (hospice).  A graveside service will be held at Oleander Memorial Gardens on Monday, May 13, 2024 at 2 PM. The Rev. Aaron Doll of Cape Fear Presbyterian Church will officiate. Charles will be buried by his wife in a plot they picked out and where his body will lie in rest near the salt water he loved and where, at high tide, it might even tickle his toes.[1]

Paddling in the Okefenokee, 2014
Paddling in the Okefenokee, 2014

Some more “Dad Stories:

Four days in the Dry Tortuga’s

Lessons from Dad (with some great photos)

Lumber River Paddle (my last great adventure with Dad)

Fishing off Cape Lookout, 2020

Thanksgiving Day Hunt

Dad’s 85th Birthday (and my last time paddling with him)

[1] Some might wonder about this last line, so let me explain. My parents brought cemetery plots in the 1980s, after coming back from Japan. His mother (my grandmother) wanted to know why he wanted to be buried so far away and not with the rest of the family at Culdee Presbyterian Church in Moore County. My father told her that he wanted the salt water to tickle his toes during high tide. My grandmother didn’t think it was funny, but I Dad (and I) got a laugh out of it.

56 Replies to “A Tribute to my Dad”

  1. Jeff – I don’t understand how the rhythms on fb work, but unless I go to your page I never see your posts. Yet I have thought of you numerous times lately. Tonight I was reminded to go to look at photos you might post and I read of your bad news. Words don’t really seem like much to offer for such losses. As I read of your father and your obvious relationship with him, the word envious comes to mind. At my age I still somewhat search for relationships of a father figure type. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my Dad but have felt very close to some Father types in my life. Their passings were tough. Hold your memories as close to your heart as possible. May they be a grand comfort to you. Sorry for such a long message. May the Lord be with You – Keith

  2. I’m so sorry to learn about your father’s passing, Jeff! The post you shared and his obituary really gave me a sense of the wonderful father you had. Thank you for including lovely family photos, especially the one of your dad and mom in the 1990s. Just beautiful! May you find peace, comfort, love, and happiness in your memories and hope in the thought you will see him again. Take care! Sending you a big hug!

  3. Sage
    My condolences! What a great dad; my prayer is that God continues to bless you and your. Siblings because of his life.
    I only hope my kids sense benefits from my fatherhood.

  4. “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now.”

    “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

    The Lord of the living and the dead be with you and your family as you grieve the passing of your father.

    Late last year I shared a word of God as we gathered around my mom’s body (I arrived home a half hour after her final breath.)

    For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

    For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

    The peace of the Lord be with you.

    1. Thank you Brian. We have walked similar paths recently. At such time, our hope in the resurrection is our only consolation.

  5. Ohh Jeff, you have my deepest sympathy, and I extend it to all his family and friends.

    Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam, (his soul is at the right hand of God).

  6. Thanks for sharing some of your Dad’s story. Now I see how the water is part of your life. Liked the salt water will tickle his toes. Blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ 🙏

    1. Thank you, Cody. Dad also had specific instruction as to how he was to be dressed for the casket: shorts, a fishing shirt, and no shoes

  7. Jeff, I’m so sorry to hearcabout your Dad passing; he sure was an amazing man and leaves quite the legacy. You and your family will be in my prayers and my heart.

  8. Deepest sympathies, Jeff. It’s trite, I suppose, to say a life well lived, but it is also appropriate. And what a beautiful tribute to your dad. I’m praying all the good memories will be a comfort to you.

  9. Jeff, I’m so very sorry for your loss. What a shock it must have been. I can certainly see where you got your love of nature from. Your father sounds like a wonderful man from his dedication to work, your mother, his crafts and his children and grandchildren. The tree stand story made me smile. How sweet to also build Christmas ornaments. You wrote a beautiful obituary. Thank you for sharing your father’s legacy here at the blog.
    Thinking of you.
    p.s. the photos are a real treasure.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. He is of an age where there are 1000s of photos (My daughter and my brother’s daughter spent a lot of time going through them to create a slide show for the reception).

  10. So sorry, Jeff. May God hold you close and comfort you as you grieve the deep loss of death. Your Dad sounds like an amazing and faithful man. 🙏✝️🙏

  11. Sorry for your and your family’s loss. He sounds like a great man and obviously a wonderful father figure. Blessings to you.

  12. I am so sorry for your loss. A simply beautiful tribute to your father. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  13. So sorry for your loss. I remember your Mom and Dad from those Bradley Creek and Roland Grise years. Give Warren a hug for me.

    1. Thanks, Carl. Yes, you knew him when he was much younger. Much of this has fallen on Warren, as he lives close by. He and my sister have helped Dad stay at home until he went into the hospital.

  14. Excellent tribute, and I am also sorry for your loss. He raised at least one good man, and I suspect the others come up to his high standards too. May he rest in peace, beside your mom.

  15. I was afraid of this when I saw the title in my sidebar. A lovely, heartfelt tribute. So sorry for your loss.

  16. Jeff I am sorry for your lost. Please remember that he is in a better place and no longer suffering. May God bless your family and offer comfort during this time

  17. Great man, great father image, great obituary. Large lost.
    My condolences to you and your family.

    1. Thanks, Roger. Didn’t you meet him on the Okefenokee trip I lead back in 2015? Dad had always wanted to explore the swamp and so when I moved to Skidaway, he joined me in three trips into the swamp. Last January, when I went down there to paddle again, he said he wish he could join me again, but health wise wasn’t able to make the trip.

  18. Jeff, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Your tribute to your dad is so loving. Wishing you comfort and peace during this sad time.

  19. I’m so sorry for your loss Jeff. Even tho we know he’s in a far better place it’s never easy. God bless you.

  20. I’m so sorry for your loss, Jeff. I enjoyed reading about your dad, and now I know where you got your love of the outdoors, fishing, and the beach. May God grant you peace today and every day.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Yes, I did learn to enjoy the outdoors from him (although my love of the mountains and desert came from taking his love a step or two further).

  21. I am so sad for your loss. I never recovered from losing my mom and her wisdom, but such is God’s plan, that we all move on (I know you know that–I guess I’m telling myself).

    1. The idea of death being a part of life is hard for us to accept and why we fight so hard against it. In the end we all die, our parents and sooner or later, ourselves. We need to continually remind ourselves of this truth as we trust something is greater than what we experience in this life.

  22. My condolence on your great loss Jeff. After nearly two decades of reading your blog posts about him, I feel as if he was part of my family too. I always looked forward to your adventures whenever you were back home.

    1. Thanks, Ed. That’s a high compliment about my dad. Not many people my age have parents who do things like paddle and fish with them when they’re in their mid-80s.

  23. You have my sincere sympathy, Jeff. This is a lovely tribute and I smiled at the last line of the obit. I’ll be praying for you and your family in the coming days.

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