Today I lost my beloved curmudgeon of a father-in-law, Harold Newton Barr. He was as honest and decent a man as I have ever been fortunate enough to know.
He didn't make it to his 92nd birthday next March, but he did make it to his 64th wedding anniversary on Dec. 19th. My son was driving back home from D.C. that day so he stopped to have lunch with his grandparents in Baltimore and made them very happy.
Hal grew up in Brooklyn with his parents and older brother. He served in World War II, then attended Alfred University and studied ceramics engineering. Back home after graduating, he met Barbara Weiner at a skating rink, and they married in 1948 and moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where Barbara taught school and Hal worked on the secret government research project. They lived briefly in Chicago, where Alan was born; then in New Jersey, where Rick was born; then, by 1957 or so, settled in Baltimore, where Fred was born and where they stayed to this day. They worked, raised their boys, and developed a network of close friends with whom they took vacations and celebrated holidays. When the boys were in their late teens, Hal and Barbara began leaving them home and traveling internationally, and they didn't stop visiting other countries until they were in their 80's.
Hal and Barbara traveled with my family a lot too, within the U.S. We shared trips to Florida, Maine, West Virginia, Lake Tahoe, and Oregon, as well as many other places. Hal was a wonderful photographer, and preserved a lot of our family adventures on film. I think many of my kids' best childhood memories stem from those trips. Hal loved gadgets of all kinds, and in his later years, when he couldn't get out much, he got great pleasure from the ipad his kids and grandkids gave him.
Hal collapsed suddenly this morning at home and stopped breathing. No lengthy suffering, no dreaded move to a nursing home, no loss of mental acuity. He's been a huge part of my life for the past 20 years, and now so much has changed. My husband, the most devoted son I have ever seen, has lost his dad. My kids have lost their grandpa - and, make no mistake, he was Nate's grandpa, not his step-grandpa, right from Day One.
And I've lost one of my best champions. As cranky and temperamental as Hal could be, he never left any doubt as to how much he loved all of us. I hope we all did the same for him.