I'm not prone to blogging about my extended family much. I tend not to introduce you to them. But today, I want to take a minute to introduce, belatedly, my wonderful Uncle Marvin
Marvin was a witty, intelligent, loving, man. He was an engineer, a sailor, a computer programmer, a master gardener, a wonderful father, a musician, a scrabble champ,a story teller and a HAM radio operator. He was a loving brother, and generous uncle. There is so much to say, so many stories to tell, that nothing I put here will or can be adequate. But I will do my best.
Marvin played clarinet and saxophone. He played in high school in New Orleans He was about nine years ahead of the guys like Pete Fountain, but developed sweet jazz skills all the same. He was a musician, not just a guy who plays the sax. So many folks play in high school bands, and then give up their music in favor of more serious studies in college. Not Marvin; he kept on playing through college, and grad school, and earning his PhD. And, he kept on playing, after getting a "real job" and marrying and raising his family. I remember, when I was in my twenties, going to hear him play in a little jazz band. He loved music from the Big Band Era, and played it so very well. He may not have made any recordings, but the world is poorer for his sax beign silent.
Marvin worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for many years, his last position was Section Chief. He and his co-workers contributed to our country's knowledge of nuclear energy. The world is better for the work he did. I didn't really know what exactly he did, but several of his contributions while in Oak Ridge were awarded patents.
Marvin had seven children - some were his biological children and some were step children. As far as I can tell, he treated them all as his own - with love, respect, nurturing, inspiration and all the other things that the best fathers give. I am no longer close to them all, but each time I speak to one of my cousins, I'm profoundly aware of what wonderful human beings he raised. There is a deep abiding joy in their hearts that seeps through even when times are hard. I am privileged to know them, and privileged to have known their father. The world is blessed by the people he brought into it.
When his children were grown, and had moved on to the various places they now live their lives, Marvin left Oak Ridge. He sold his house and bought a boat. He and his lovely wife Susan
lived on that boat, and sailed the tropical seas for five years. They had no address, but he did get a post office box so that he could get mail -- of course that P.O. box wasn't here on the mainland -- they stopped into Puerto Rico every few weeks to get supplies and mail. They had no phone either, of course, and so he used HAM radio to communicate with the rest of us. They only really put in to the mainland to visit their family, which they did do regularly if not frequently.
When they returned to land, Marvin and Susan settled in Oriental, N.C., a lovely little town in a county among whose attributes is that it has no interstate highways. Marvin continued with his HAM Radio activities, and had a regular time when he was on the air, listening for messages and passing them on for people who couldn't otherwise reach folks they're trying to contact. He returned the favors that others had done for him/us when we needed to reach him at sea. He touched people's lives with that simple dedication. Eventually, a hurricane passed near Oriental and took out his radio tower Alas, he never got the tower back up. A stroke two years ago slowed him down a bit, and he moved to Texas to be closer to family.
Marvin loved to travel. And he loved life aboard his boat. Once settled on land again, he found ways to go to sea by taking "alternate" approaches to travel. The rest of us board planes to cross the ocean. Marvin and Susan booked passage on cargo ships, and traveled across the sea with simple accommodations, no concierge -- but likely ate dinner at the Captain's Table any way.
Despite his seafaring ways, Marvin also loved to garden. When living on land, he had gardens and even a green house attached to his house. In addition to working in his own garden, which was carefully planted to appear as natural as possible, he volunteered at the Tryon Palace Gardens in New Bern, North Carolina. He was especially fond of ferns. Really fond of ferns. He collected them, raised them, and grew an amazing variety of them in his yard and green house. There are 12,000 varieties of ferns (who knew?), and while Marvin didn't grow the giant ones you find in New Zealand, he grew quite a few that were not at all indigenous to Pamlico County. That corner of North Carolina is more beautiful for the work he did. When he finally left Oriental, he took spores from his garden with him, and managed to establish another fern garden in Texas.
But mostly -- mostly Marvin was a wonderful person. He was considerate, thoughtful, and loved little more than a good discussion. He listened, and thought about what you said, and responded to what you really said, not just what he was thinking about. And when he responded, he made good relevant points. That is not to say that he didn't have opinions, or that he wouldn't share them with vigor. And it's not to say that some of his opinions weren't .... divergent from mine. But he was never overbearing with them (at least not where I could see it); he respected my right to my opinions too. The world would be a lot better place if more people engaged in discussions the way he did.
It's been far too long since I last saw him.
In the hurly burly of my own life, I failed, over and over again, to make time to go to see him, and though I'd been hoping to do just that this spring, I hadn't solidified plans. I am saddened that I let things go so long, saddened that my last hug with him was years back. But I'm so very glad to have known and loved him.
Luckily, my girls had the opportunity to meet him a few times, so they too have good memories of this fine man.
Goodbye Marvin, I love you still.