Monday, July 25, 2011


Eric's grandfather, Hugh, passed away in March; on Saturday evening there was a beautiful memorial service in his honor. Several people shared stories and memories, many of which made me smile. They talked about his patience, his generosity and his intelligence, and I smiled the entire time. I'm so lucky to have know him. I will remember him fondly, and we're both so grateful that he was with us on our wedding day.

April, Eric + Hugh -- photo by Carolyn Beaudreau
Below, you'll find the thoughts Eric shared at the service.

Hugh Schwarz was a great man. He was polite, patient, humble, generous, and caring. To me he was Grandpa, and he was most of all consistent and reliable.

For my entire life he lived on the Vineyard, wore the same pair of Nantucket reds patched with duct tape, used the same set of trusty binoculars, and always kept a pocket day planner.

When I would be arriving or leaving the Vineyard, Grandpa would be sure to ask me which ferry I was taking and jot it down in that day planner. In all my years of coming and going, even as recently at this past February, he never failed to bring me to or from my chosen ferry. That little day planner was his way of telling me that I was important to him and he would be there for me.

He also had a blue bag. The blue bag was a small duffle bag that contained everything he needed to go on a boat. Charts, flares, oar locks, and keys. Grandpa would put the oar locks and keys in one end of the bag, and then zip it up so that the zipper pull was on that end. That way when he went to dig out the oar locks and keys on his next outing the zipper pull would tell him which end they were on.

Some of my favorite memories involve that blue bag. I remember being about six and driving down to the harbor to go sailing on his boat, Fox. We had to row out to the mooring, and I remember he was a very efficient rower. He had great rhythm and poise and didn’t appear to exert much effort, but Grandpa and I and the blue bag would cruise through the water.

I grew close to him in college when I spent entire summers on the Vineyard and wrote my senior thesis with his help. I had fascinating conversations with him about his career. He would mention, matter-of-factly, that he helped build a processing plant during World War II that was put on a railroad car and shipped to the Russians. I learned about his work on the Manhattan Project and the process which led to the launch of Minute Maid.

We also talked about his personal life. About his first date with Nana when he had laryngitis and couldn’t say a word. He told me about their first apartment in a basement in Brookline with an illegal electric stove that they hid in a closet when the landlord stopped by.

It was through these interactions and conversations that I learned not only had Grandpa done cutting edge engineering under incredible circumstances, but also what a great man he truly was. He was incredibly accomplished yet humble. He was the smartest person I knew, but he didn’t take himself too seriously and was always willing to help others. He also impressed me with his knowledge of current events and the latest technology.

The funny thing was that he never liked to use the latest technology, because he didn’t trust it. He preferred his old Nantucket reds, his trusty binoculars, and his pocket day planner. Those items were consistent and reliable, just like Grandpa.

And there is something remarkably comfortable about those qualities. There were things I didn’t have to worry about, because Grandpa would handle it. And things I didn’t have to know, because Grandpa would know. I can arrive on island and go back in time. I can go back to my childhood by walking over to the garage and finding that same blue bag, with the same oar locks which are always on the side with the zipper pull like they were when I was six.

That’s why is difficult for me to accept that he’s gone. Even at the age of ninety-two, I expected that Grandpa would always be there. And I had that expectation, because for my entire life he always was.


lisatheisa said...

Just looking at your wedding pics yesterday & saw this beautiful capture, thanks for your thoughtful memorial service reflections. e your eloquent words help us to know your grandpa better- so delighted to have met him on your wedding weekend. Wish we had more time with him I know he is so missed by all.

docmay said...

pleased and honored to have met hugh. his finest qualities endure in you, eric, his real legacy.


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