A Renaissance Man For Our Family
By Andrew Lyke
March 2, 2023
My dear family and friends, it is bittersweet to be here today. Our hearts are heavy as we measure the tremendous loss of our loved-one, George. Our coming together brings us comfort. That’s what we do! We rally to each other and tell the stories of our life together and how our beloved deceased impacted our lives. Families are organic by nature. Collectively we are an organism. When one element changes the organism changes. That happens when someone enters through birth, or marriage, or adoption. And it happens when someone leaves through divorce, estrangement, or death. George’s death changes us. And we feel it. To assuage the pain of loss, we focus on the gifts and blessings we enjoy because he was among us for almost 87 years.
George is the 5th among the nine siblings to transition from this side of life to Eternity. It’s a sobering reality that his physical present is now absent from our midst. Though his leaving does not leave a vacuum. He lives on in us. So, it’s time to take stock of who he has been and who we are because he dwelt among us.
Mattie calls him a Renaissance Man, and appropriately so. He was an avid reader. He loved traveling, especially in the Caribbean. His culinary skills were chef-worthy. He could hold court on a wide variety of topics and be adept at socially connecting with people. George was a family man who love his children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. He invested himself fully in his work. As a letter carrier he got accolades in the newspaper for his engaging style in how he worked. An avid photographer, he spent 90% of his time behind the camera. We combed through hundreds of photos and could only find him in relatively few of them. George was an activist and an advocate for Black people. And he loved music—all kinds of music. But jazz was his favorite. He lived his life artfully and with passion, which has made him an icon in our family.
George made an impact on me in a few ways. George was an oldest son who had his father’s name, and so am I. He was a beacon that I watched that gave me direction at critical moments of transition in my life. Adolescence presented an opportunity to transform myself from a chubby nerd and bookworm who was bully-bait on the rough streets of Ida B. Wells projects to a socially adept revolutionary who appeared self-confidant and self-assured (You know visuals are everything). Going to a college prep seminary high school and being among white kids who didn’t act like Wally and Beaver was a culture shock for me. I had to adjust socially. I had to let go of my old persona to face the daily onslaught of racist microaggressions and blatant bigotry. It was 1966 and we were just starting to say it loud that we’re black and proud. I remade myself under the influence of culture changers, such as H. Rapp Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Malcom X, Fred Hampton, and Huey Newton. I also needed to change my own personal style. My Uncle George was a personal influencer for me. His style, his tastes in music and art, his savoir faire, his swagger, and his charm all set a bar to reach for. And the brother was good looking too. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a resemblance that boosted my confidence. As I have aged through the years, that reflection in the mirror began to look more and more like my jazzy, cool uncle.
But George mostly influenced me in his manner of being a father. My dad helped shaped my work ethic and helped me to be a man of integrity out in the world. He proved his love for me at critical moments, but not within a friendship. I observed George with his children and was always impressed with the warmth and companionship he had with Toni, Georgie, and Brett. They had a playfulness that I longed for. Terri and I were in our 7th year of marriage and the 12th year of our relationship before we had children. We were having so much fun in those early years that we call our D.I.N.K. days (that’s “Double-Income-No-Kids”), we weren’t in a rush to have kids because it seemed that all our friends and family around our age who were having kids weren’t having a good time. But when we turned that corner and chose to become parents, I was confident in how to bring home the bacon and I had changed plenty enough diapers with my younger siblings and cousins. But I wanted to be more than that. Uncle George, without ever offering me any instruction, was a model of hands-on fathering that I emulated.
Now, let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that he was perfect. None of us are. This is a eulogy not a canonization. Nonetheless, channeling George as a hands-on dad helped me to be one. Being a hands-on dad is a common characteristic of men in our family. It’s also common among “Morrison Men” to know their way around the kitchen and caring for a home. George has been an icon in that area. He helped sustain the high bar that his father set for us.