Eulogy for My Father

Here is a transcript of the eulogy I delivered this morning during my Dad’s service at First Presbyterian Church of Lufkin.

Good morning everyone.

My Dad would be so honored…and perhaps somewhat embarrassed…to see you all here today. Clifford Grum was a man who never sought the spotlight or any type of recognition for his lifetime accomplishments, of which there were many. In this age of internet sensations and celebrities famous for just being famous, he was someone who actually deserved to be applauded for the many great things he did in both his public and private lives. I don’t think he would want us to be sad this day, so I’m going to try to keep things relatively light. Quite frankly, I’m not sure he’d want to be the focus at all and if there was a Cowboys game today, we would probably be postponed. But I do want to share a few select memories with all of you.

He told me many stories of growing up with very little and learning to work hard to earn his way into college. He earned two degrees, including a BA from Austin College in Sherman and his Master’s from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Off he went to Dallas and eventually met and married my mom.

Which brings me to my first Clifford Grum moment. Sometime after they were married and while they were still living in the Metroplex, my mom Janelle got a jury summons in the mail. My Dad, no doubt trying to be both funny and reassuring, told her something along the lines of “Don’t worry, you’re too smart to be a juror.”

I bet you can guess what happened next. Yep. She was picked for the jury. But not just that time. Every time she got called for duty, she was empaneled. And she never let him forget it. When I first got called for jury duty when I moved to Houston in the early 90s, I wisely kept it to myself.

Anyway, that time in Dallas also brought a chance meeting that would change the lives of our family and many of you in this room today. It was at Republic Bank that my Dad first met Arthur Temple. That appointment for a business loan would turn into a longtime friendship…and a career change that would take Dad and our family from Dallas to Lufkin, then to New York City for a decade and then back home again to Lufkin. It also, directly or indirectly, brought many of you into our lives.

So how did you and Clifford first cross paths? Did you meet the hard-working businessman, who still found time for family no matter what? I remember one time I had to be at summer camp in New Hampshire right in the middle of two important business trips. I don’t remember exactly where he was, but he had to get back to New York, pick me up and get me to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, then get himself back to New York and on the Concorde to get to London that same day. Somehow, he managed. I learned geography thanks to a globe he bought me so I could keep track of his many international trips while publisher of Fortune Magazine.

After a decade in New York, our family returned to Lufkin when my Dad was offered the opportunity to be the President of the new Temple-Inland. He would spend the next two decades running that amazing company and helping to grow and expand its reach. I know he was particularly excited when the company acquired Guaranty Bank. He loved all parts of the company but anytime he entered the financial realm he perked up just a little bit more. I remember many times he and Dave Dolben would be swapping banking stories. I’m honored to see some Temple-Inland folks here today…thank you all for coming.

Maybe you came into our lives because of Clifford the family man. He taught me many things over the years, from learning to shoot a rifle and clean a deer to, much to my mom’s dismay, learning how to drive. By the way, he taught me both of those skills out at Boggy Slough. I guess he figured that if I hit anything, we could eat it later.

It was during our years in New York that he found his love for the only hobby he ever really enjoyed – horse racing. Sure, he tried other things – like golf – but during the first lesson, the pro told my dad, a lefty, that his first problem was that he was on the wrong side of the ball.

And that brings me to Clifford Grum moment number two. He and I – well really he – owes someone on the 18th fairway at Crown Colony a wind chime. For those that have never played the course, the houses along that hole are closer to the fairway than any other, so most of them have metal grates that can be lowered over the windows facing the course. But those metal garage door like barriers can’t protect a glass windmill…and one Saturday afternoon, during one of his rare rounds of golf, that windmill was obliterated by Dad’s fourth shot on that par five. I don’t remember seeing the homeowners but I’m sure we left a note. And perhaps the homeowners were just hiding in case he tried another shot. Either way, golf didn’t last long. But something else did.

When I was 6 or so, we went to the races for the first time. We’d go to Belmont or Aqueduct once or twice a month I loved it almost as much as he did. There were 9 races a day and Dad would give me $2 to bet on each race. If I won, I had to give him the $2 back and I could keep the profits. If I lost, he would forgive the debt for that race. If he’d given that same deal to Arthur Temple, he might have stayed at Republic Bank a lot longer.

Speaking of financial institutions, maybe it was the bank that introduced you to Clifford. He loved the world of finance and banking and was honored to help grow Diboll State Bank into First Bank & Trust. He was proud of the entire team, led by Jay Shands, and today we are honored that the Board of the Bank is serving as honorary pallbearers and I am personally thankful to see some bank employees here as well.

When we moved back to Texas, he bought one racehorse – King of the Ocean. If you’ve ever wondered why our jockey silks are blue and green, that’s why. The blue is for the ocean and the green was for winning lots of money. At least we got the ocean part right.

That one horse eventually turned into two horses, then three and then before you knew it we had a stable full. We won some, we lost some. OK we lost a lot. But that wasn’t the point. My Dad enjoyed the track more than anything I’d ever seen. So I don’t think it really mattered whether we won or lost because he loved it so. Now don’t get me wrong, if you could ask him right now to list things he didn’t accomplish in his life but wishes he had, I’m confident winning the Kentucky Derby would be high on that list.

I’m firmly convinced that focusing on the horses got my Dad through the difficult time when both my mom and my grandmother passed away on the same day. That sorrow would later turn to joy when he met and married Mary K. and found that they shared that love of horses and racing.

And let me just say right now how glad I am that he found Mary K. I remember when he called me to tell me they were getting married. It was like I was the parent and he was a high school freshman about to go to his first dance. He was happier than I had seen him in many, many years and that happiness continued for the rest of his life.

Maybe you knew my Dad the religious man. His faith was unshakable and his support of the Presbyterian Church unmatched. He attended service every Sunday, no matter what city he was in and he was very proud of the growth of this church over the many years that he was a member.

I want to tell you one last story. A few weeks ago, Rick Goings, CEO of Tupperware and a longtime friend of my Dad’s, was in Italy visiting the Vatican. Hearing that my Dad’s health had made a turn for the worst, Rick called all the way from Rome to tell my Dad that he was going to see The Pope and would ask for him to say a special prayer. Upon hearing this lovely gesture, my Dad had only one question:

“So Rick, if this works and I get better, do I have to be a Catholic from now on?”

Thank you all for coming.


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