Posts Tagged ‘Bob O’Dwyer’

Eulogy for my father

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

My father’s funeral was a year ago today, in San Diego. Today is also his birthday. He would have been 91. I’m posting the Eulogy I wrote and said at his funeral Mass, mainly because I want to keep track of it and this is a good way. It’s strange because when my father was alive, I never would have described us as “close”–our relationship was complicated in the way every relationship is complicated–yet I miss him tremendously, every day, as much as I miss my mother and in some ways, more so. In a few years, I might have enough distance to write about my father, and the power he had over me, over all of us in the family. But for now, I’ll post his Eulogy, and remember him with love.


Good morning. I’m Jessica O’Dwyer, Bob’s third daughter. Bob—and his late wife, our mother, Gerry–had five children, eight grandchildren, and one great grandchild. On behalf all of us, thank you for coming. Thank you especially to our Uncle Roger, Bob’s youngest brother, and our cousin Sean, for traveling from Texas. Thank you to the community at San Rafael, where Bob attended Mass regularly and, afterward on Sunday, consumed many donuts with good friends.

Bob’s Catholic religion was a guiding principle in his life. Perhaps THE guiding principle. He raised his five children Catholic, herding us to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. He sent us to Catholic schools and made sure we received the Sacraments. More than that, he led his life according to the Golden Rule: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Beneath his rough exterior, Bob was kind. Compassionate. He was the first to extend his hand to help when it was needed. He understood hardship.

He also loved a good laugh. Bob collected jokes—Irish jokes, Jewish jokes, Italian jokes. Jokes that began “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walked into a bar.” He loved comedians from the Marx Brothers to Ellen DeGeneres. He’d watched every Seinfeld episode so many times he could quote the dialogue.

To his family, Bob was protector and provider. He rose at 4:30 AM to catch the commuter train in our New Jersey town to the high school where he taught in the South Bronx. When school was out, he caught another train downtown where he supervised a night school. Weekends, he did odd jobs for extra cash; summers, he “shipped out” to exotic ports, working as an engineer. When he was scheduled to pick us up, we never had to worry if he’d be on time. His adhered to the motto: “If you’re not early, you’re late.” My mother called him “Johnny on the Spot.”

And oh, how he loved her, his wife Gerry. Up until his very last days, he’d marvel that he’d gotten so lucky, that they found each other, that they’d shared such a beautiful life. They met on a blind date and fell in love at first sight. Theirs was a grand and happy union that lasted 63 years. I have no doubt they’re together now.

Bob was an avid bridge player who loved classic films, historic documentaries, and good food. On Saturdays, he cooked spaghetti sauce while Italian opera played on the radio. His Thanksgiving stuffing was legendary. (His secret was ground beef, cashews, and hot sausage. Lots of spices.)

Bob was opinionated and vocal, a writer of letters to the editor, including one from the 1980s’s that warned against the presence of “internal passports,” published in the New York Times. He was a master at agreeing to disagree. He believed in the dignity of all people, equal education and equal opportunity.

Bob’s presence was large and so was his heart. We miss him already.


My father’s obituary

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Rest in peace, Dad.

Robert Joseph O’Dwyer (Bob) died of natural causes in San Diego, California on July 4, 2018. He was eighty-nine. Bob was the first of his strain of the O’Dwyer clan born on U.S. soil. His parents met and married in Queens, New York, after emigrating from Ireland and Scotland in search of better lives. Bob’s mother supported Bob and his three younger siblings as a teacher in New York City public schools. Bob’s father had served in the trenches during World War One and, suffering the effects of mustard gas, worked sporadically as a tailor.

Bob spoke fondly of a boyhood that involved frequent fisticuffs, street stickball, and evening runs to the neighborhood tavern to “rush the growler” (buy beer) for assorted relatives and friends. True to his Irish heritage, Bob was a skilled raconteur and collector of jokes, gifted at telling stories. Family gatherings often ended with rounds of “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” sung to the mournful strains of bagpipes.

In 1950, Bob graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) with a degree in engineering. He enlisted in the United States Navy and served during the Korean War. While stationed in Newport News, Virginia, Bob was set up on a blind date with local girl Gerry Quick, who was home on vacation from her job as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. Both agreed it was love at first sight. They married in 1953, forging a grand and happy union that produced five children and lasted sixty-three years.

After leaving the Navy, Bob tried several professions before he found his calling as an educator. He taught at Kings Point and Aviation High School in Queens and supervised the Night Apprentice Program at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Chelsea. He retired as Assistant Principal at Alfred E. Smith Vocational High School in the South Bronx. Bob earned an MBA from St. John’s University and a Certificate of Advanced Study from NYU. He served as shop steward of his teachers’ union.

Bob and Gerry lived in Virginia and Maryland; Syosset, Long Island; and a block from the Atlantic Ocean at the Jersey Shore. Upon retiring, the couple moved to San Diego, where Bob volunteered at Old Town, the Star of India, and in Emergency Management. Bob was a faithful Catholic who attended daily Mass at San Rafael Church in Rancho Bernardo. He was an avid bridge player who loved classic films, historic documentaries, and good food. His Thanksgiving stuffing was legendary.

Bob was predeceased by his wife Gerry, parents Roger and Catherine, and sister Margaret Pineda. His siblings Roger O’Dwyer, Jr., and Mary Sheehan survive him. Bob is also survived by children Patrice O’Dwyer, Adrienne Phillips (Paul), Jessica O’Dwyer (Tim Berger), Robert O’Dwyer, Jr., and Deanna O’Dwyer Swensen (David); eight grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; and nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 AM, August 20 at San Rafael Catholic Church, 17252 Bernardo Center Drive, with a reception following. After the reception, Bob’s ashes will be interred alongside Gerry’s at Miramar National Cemetery.