My Father, Ray R. Hastings, went to Heaven on December 26th. He spent ninety years on this earth and his life impacted thousands of people.
Dad was, in the words of one of his best friends, unique. He began his life in Kansas. I remember stories from my Grandmother and his aunt about how tiny he was and that they had to keep him alive and warm by putting him in the oven. A unique way to begin.
Dad started working at nine. He was a gandy dancer for the railroad, digging ditches and working twelve to fourteen hour days. This experience did two things for him. It gave him an incredible work ethic, plus it started his fifty-year smoking habit. You see, the only break from hard work he got was a smoke break, so why not. He quit smoking, cold turkey, at sixty. He was unique.
Dad was a star athlete in High School. He excelled in football, track and wrestling. He was fast, sure footed and strong. I remember when I was ten or eleven racing him about 200 yards. He whipped my tail. He was the strongest man I ever knew and always could turn a screw one or two more times than I could. Nobody in thier right mind would arm wrestle with him. I never saw him lose, even to younger men.
He was a patriot. He joined the National Guard at eighteen and eventually, on a tip from his father, wound up in the Army Air Corps (Dad hated the term Air Force). He was a Tech Sergeant responsible for the lead plane in his company, the 83rd bomb group. He was proud of his country and his war service took him around the world supporting ground troups with B-25 raids. A pilot from his group told me, “Everyone wanted to fly on Ray’s plane. They knew it would be perfect.”
Dad left the army in 1945 and married my mother. They have a legacy of sixty-five years of marriage. Near the same time, he found his career and spent almost fifty years doing what he loved to do.
Two stories galvanize my dad to my mind and heart:
The first was when I was about ten. We were in the desert town of Barstow, CA and Dad needed some critical information about a piece of property. He found the person with whom he needed to talk at his home. Dad parked our car across the street and went to the house. It seemed like two hours later he came back. His clothes were filthy (he always wore a tie, dress slacks and a coat). When my mother asked what he was doing, he told us that the man was working on his car and Dad helped him change the oil. He got the information he needed, made a friend and helped a person in need. That was my unique Dad. He enjoyed people and especially helping them.
The second was when I was fifteen. I was working in his office when a senior city official came to visit. It wasn’t five minutes into the meeting when I heard loud voices and saw my Dad, one hand on the visiting man’s collar and the other holding him up by back of the belt. Dad literally threw the man bodily out of his office. I heard the stunned visitor say, “You’ll never work in this town again!” It seems the official asked my Dad to falsify some documents and as a payback, he’d be rewarded some prime contracts. My Dad had tremendous honesty and integrity. He’d never do it. Truth is, after this event, my Father had so much work outside of our town, he couldn’t do it all without help.
Dad was unique, hard working, honest, happily married and a story teller. He’s probably fishing someplace in heaven, or telling stories to someone. He left us an incredible legacy. He’s pain free and I can’t wait to see him again.