My Dad

My Dad
Edmund T. Belton, Sr.
1918 - 2007

This is my eulogy for my father. It is a eulogy - Eu and Logy - Eu from the Greek, meaning good - and Logy from the Greek word Logos, meaning word.

So this is a good word - a good word about a good man.

Dad, 2005
My father, Ed Belton, was in some ways an enigma, perhaps hiding his own feelings very well behind his “few words” style and his non-judgmental ways, but one thing was very certain to all who knew him, one thing was always evident no matter where he was or what he was involved in: This was a “good” man. He cared about people, he cared about community, and he was willing to pull his weight to make good things happen, whether or not it benefited him directly.

He was a man of action - principled action - action that moved people or community or an organization forward - action that bettered the lives of those around him. One has only to look at all the good works he has been involved in since moving to Green Valley to know that this is true: the White Elephant, Kiwanis, the Garden Club, the Computer group here at La Posada. He involved himself in these organizations not because it brought him gain, but because it fulfilled that need inside him to belong to something bigger than himself, something that was making a difference in the lives of others.

Of course, this was no surprise to us - his kids - because this was simply a reflection of what we had grown up with. Our dad was an involved dad - in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, sailing, gardening, beekeeping. The list goes on. He has always been a man of action and involvement, positive action and positive involvement, for the good of others, for the good of community.

Dad, ca 1938
He was also loyal. He was never a quitter, and once he identified himself with an organization or someone, he stayed with them. He hung in there, working within to create change when it was needed, but always staying loyal to the organization or person.

He showed that toward the end of his wife Millie's life. As she became more and more frail, and began to fail mentally and physically, he stayed by her side, bringing her what comfort he could, doing all that he was able to ease her suffering. He was a devoted husband to her, throughout their life together, during the many good years they had together as well as through the few hard years when Millie was in decline. His was a loyal love toward her.

At one point in our lives, there was a ten year hiatus in our visitation. That is a long time for a son and a dad to miss seeing each other. Yet, throughout that time I never felt the absence of love between us. It was a given that his love was still there, unspoken perhaps - but that quiet, non-verbal way was just part of who he was - and the loyalty that I knew and respected, of him not being a quitter, carried the day. When we did resume our times together, we didn't miss a beat in caring for one another.

To him, character counted: Hence the loyalty, hence the principled action, and the “goodness” about him. He looked for it in others, and he embodied it in himself. He knew right from wrong, and lived like it mattered. Growing up he instilled it in each of his kids: Character matters. There is a right and a wrong. In our family, we do it this way.

Dad with boys, ca 1954
Those early years were important years - formative for each of us - and he poured himself into fathering in the best way he knew: by showing us by example the value of hard work and industry, of courage and pride in doing a good work, of being courteous and cheerful, of kindness. I remember the lessons we learned from sailing, from scouting, from gardening and beekeeping. He invited us to join him and modeled for us these wonderful attributes that we have managed to carry with us into adulthood. Those early lessons sunk deeply into each one of us - lessons of character, lessons of action, and lessons of respect for others.

He also taught me - all of us, really - the value of life long learning. I mean, how many 85 year olds do you know that are learning - and teaching - the computer!! That was just one of many hobbies or skills he learned and kept learning throughout his life. I remember as a kid thinking, “Dad can do anything!” When he wanted to learn Spanish, he came home with records and a book “Spanish Made Easy!” Whether it was Spanish, gardening, beekeeping, home repairs, sailing, computers, cooking - he was never afraid to tackle anything!

Dad with Steve, Lana, ca 1956
And speaking of fear, he was also fearless and brave. He showed this to us when we were kids in the way he faced things, and we saw it again toward the end of his life. He was not afraid of death. He accepted the diagnosis of a life threatening condition with his usual fearless aplomb, and then walked through every bit of it with courage and with dignity. He faced this part of his life with the same good character as he had shown throughout his life: He was brave, he remained loyal to his friends and the activities he had committed to, and he continued to show love toward us kids. He included us in the decisions he was faced with, but he was the captain of his ship. He remained steadfast to his inner principles that had carried him throughout life; he continued to play bridge, exercise, enjoy people's company even with the knowledge of this great unfair illness hanging over his head.

I will miss my dad - I will miss the periodic visits themselves; I'll miss the occasional phone calls or emails; I'll miss the anticipation of another visit being just around the corner.

But just as I felt his love throughout that ten year gap in our visits way back when, I am confident that I'll continue to feel his love now. The memories that I carry in my own self; the ways I see him in how I myself am in the world today; the ways I see him in my brothers and sisters: These all will be sweet ways in which he will still be with us, in our memories and in our actions.

His legacy, really, is in the people he touched. Many here in Green Valley; Doron and Duane and others during his New York years; but perhaps none more than the five of us Belton kids, each one touched at an early, formative stage, indelibly stamped with the good that was in him. My dad - even with the warts and imperfections that we all carry to one extent or another - was a great dad and a great man.

Dad with Marcy, ca 1958
I still carry today in my mind an image from my childhood - an iconic image, really, filled now with much more meaning and emotion than the image itself might deserve. It is an image that I am certain I will still carry with me as long as I have breath. It is based on a photo of my dad (not the one at right - that one is of dad and Marcy) which shows him, smiling, with his squared off crew cut and him wearing a heavy red flannel shirt, holding a baby - me, I've always thought - supporting the baby against his chest, with his hand - big and strong-looking - covering the baby's entire stomach and chest.

It is a great summation-type image for me of my dad - and one that has grown, I am sure, as the years have passed. It has reminded me through the years of his strength, of his love, of his care for me. His expression embodies a fearless confidence - in himself, in the future, in the kid he is holding - and the whole effect of the image is to make me smile inside and feel those warm fuzzies we too rarely feel in life.

I've held onto that image - in my mind at least, I don't even know if it still exists - I've held onto that image throughout the years, because of what it expressed for me: as a kid it expressed something of the "My big strong daddy!" variety, but as an adult it expressed something more, something along the lines of "My dad loves me still."

I wrote a poem as I thought about that image, and thought about the things I've said here today, and I'd like to share that poem with you now:


Dad with Steve, ca 1953
All These Long Years

Long years of unspoken love
Captured ages ago
On grainy film, now
Carried in my mind - still, and even more clearly -
Free to grow, O free to share -
Strength, courage,
Confidence: yes, there he still remains -
Strong, courageous, confident: still
After all these long years.

No, I can't erase - never wanting to, really -
That strong hand, that care, that smile -
Loving the kind brave love embodied there
Wordless as it was, truly it was,
Still, and time moves it forward, past becomes present
Becomes future, love passed on, yes, and now?
Even now, dad's strong hand calls forth, Godspeed, son,
Godspeed. Confidence! Courage! Love...

for my dad, Ed Belton
by Steve Belton


This message was delivered orally to a gathering of family and friends in the Madera Room at La Posada in Green Valley, Arizona on September 21, 2007. It was one of many wonderful, touching testimonies given in a memorial service which remembered and celebrated the life of this good man, Ed Belton. This message, though, had actually been written months earlier:

I had seen the movie Waking Ned Devine in which a person's memorial service is faked (for various comedic reasons) and during the eulogy the speaker said, "Wouldn't it be nice if the deceased could actually be present to hear all these wonderful things we are saying?" Of course, in that case in the movie, the deceased was present, sitting there in the congregation.

So this eulogy was sent to my dad several months ago - for him to share in the joy of knowing in a heartfelt way the impact he had had on family and others. He received it with his usual quiet, humble spirit, simply saying, "It is very touching and I thank you for it."


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