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Two Things about my Father

Here are two eulogies about Donald E. Nagle, Yankee-born lawyer who lived (and died) in Houston, Texas. Part One is by son Robert Nagle; part two is by daughter Kathy Nagle Johnson.

For more information about Donald E. Nagle, see  this photo-tribute.

Two Things About My Father  By Robert Nagle (son)

Two things about my father who died recently

First thing. He was future-oriented.

Imagine that a man would leave his hometown, neighborhood friends and family to travel to faraway Texas, a place with losing baseball teams — no subways — and no decent pizza. For my dad, doing that must have required a tremendous leap of faith.

Some people are death-deniers. Dad, on the other hand, had been preparing us kids about his death for decades. He read the death notices every day — purely for entertainment. How strange is that?

Recently my mom and I came across a some legal document related to Dad’s retirement. Years earlier, Dad had handwritten a note, “Make sure to read the back!”, and sure enough the back of the sheet contained a crucial detail we would have otherwise missed. It was as though my dad had already anticipated we would need to consult this document and had predicted –accurately as it turned out — that we would overlook the back.

Second thing. He went the extra mile.

My dad always did what was above and beyond, whether it be hand-holding a client, driving kids to swim meets or helping friends with legal troubles. As a lawyer who practiced law alone, he went against big law firms who had armies of paralegals and secretaries. Dad was always outgunned and outmatched, but what he lacked in manpower he made up with street smarts and yes, perseverance.

In one case my dad had actually made a mistake. Not a legal mistake — my dad knew the law pretty well — but a tactical mistake. He represented one of two people in a criminal case. Both were pleading guilty, and my dad represented the accomplice. For various reasons, my dad chose to separate the 2 cases rather than try them together. As it turns out, the other man — the ringleader — went to trial first and got a light sentence. My dad’s client had been minimally involved in the crime but had already accepted a plea bargain with more jail time than the ringleader. My dad was distraught. It wasn’t fair, and he had to beg the judge to reconsider the original plea bargain. He went to the judge’s chamber during lunchtime. The judge was eating his lunch and watching ESPN on a little TV.

“What are you watching?”  My dad asked.

“A boxing match,” the judge said.

“Boxing?”

Actually I’m not sure it was boxing; it might have been horseracing or basketball; it doesn’t matter. The two of them spent the next 10 minutes talking about the intricacies of the sport and swapping memories about athletes they’d seen . Finally, my dad said, “Look, I made a mistake about this boy’s case. I should have waited for the other boy’s sentencing before plea bargaining. Now we need to correct this situation fast.”

“Let me think about it,” the judge said.

Later during the sentencing, the judge not only reduced the sentence but went out of his way to compliment Dad’s perseverance and professionalism.

Overjoyed at the outcome, the defendant’s family gathered in a corner of the courtroom. They were holding hands and praying. The father was a Baptist minister. He was saying, “Oh, lord, we pray that our son — like all of us — will learn to avoid the path of sin. We thank You for showing compassion and justice. And Lord, let us give special thanks for Mr. Nagle, who was more than willing to go the extra mile for all of us.”

Like the Baptist minister at the courtroom that day, I’d ask you to remember all the times Dad went the extra mile — tirelessly — for each of us.

Eulogy by Kathy Nagle (daughter)

Do all the Good you can ….. To all the people you can …. In everyway you can.. as long as you can.. to as many people you can …. as often as you can.

My grandfather wrote this to my dad on June 24, 1945.  He was 14 years old.

I know my dad lived that everyday of his life and I can honestly say that because as I look out here I see many lives my dad has touched in this room today.

I want to thank my family who has traveled from the East coast and all of our friends and family who have traveled from out of town to be here today to celebrate my dad’s life this morning.

I am very humbled and honored for the privilege of sharing with you so special memories and thoughts I have of my dad.

Keep the Faith……. Get your education. Help others…. Save your money.. Be honest….Everything happens for a reason. Go to church….Family is most important… Do something you love to do… You can be anything you want…. I will say a prayer for you.

These are the things I always heard my dad say throughout my life that showed the kind of person my dad was. It has helped me become the person I am today.

Helping a stranger in need, picking up a hitchhiker, Not charging a client for his legal services. surprise phone calls…., visiting people in nursing home or hospitals , inviting a client or neighbor to his home… opening up his family to his friends. sending cards to friends and family… hand writing letters to his children, and loved ones.

These are things my dad did for other people that showed the kind of person he was….

My dad was a man of great integrity , dedication and kindness, He loved his family more than anything else. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and always made people laugh. He loved to tell stories and was famous for telling great jokes and sharing funny stories about himself. He was that person that everyone wanted to be around.

My dad was a great husband, brother, son, uncle, neighbor, friend ….

And if you asked Abby and Dylan, he was the Worlds’ Best Grandpa.

Just the other day we were talking about their favorite memories of grandpa…

Orange popsicles….. birthday parties, cards in the mail with dollars in it…. funny faces.. naming Abby’s first doll Stacy.. movies , bowling, and sea world. Dance recitals, McDonalds, school performances. Babysitting …. Nickname for him was Sylvester and Mr. Popsicle Man…

But above all. He was a great dad. My dad’s love for all his children was evident in everything he did for us. Whether it was driving us to school, or practice, cheering at our swim meets, or taking us to church. My dad was always there for all us. In good times and in hard times. He always believed in all of us. My dad was great at treating each one of us different and making us feel special in our own little way. He knew each one of us was very different and loved us differently.

My dad was my hero in many ways. I can’t tell you how many times he lifted me up and encouraged me when things sometimes didn’t go my way. My dad always had a way of making you feel better, and he always would tell chin up and to just :” Keep the faith” That is the one thing he said to everyone … Many of you have heard him say those 3 uplifting words to you..

It was very common for my dad to end a conversation or letter with those encouraging words… Keep the Faith.

My dad and I were extremely close, and we had a special daddy daughter relationship. He called me often and I always looked forward to our Saturday morning phone calls over coffee together. When I would visit my parents my dad and I would often stay up all night sharing and laughing. I lost many hours of sleep talking with my dad but I learned so much. We were alike in many ways. We loved to have fun… We loved people, and we loved to Help people..

Even in the deepest darkest moment in the end of his life. My dad was always more concerned about his family and the people he loved the most. He worried about me or my sister when we would come in to town to take care of him. And always asked me how I was doing. It was common for him to hold my hand and say “How are you dear?” He didn’t want anyone to worry about him or be a burden… He knew how hard it was on all of us especially my mom.. He continued to give us those moments that helped us smile. Laugh, or glimmer of hope….. He helped us to be strong and definitely helped us “ keep the faith.”

One thing that was so beautiful for me to see was my dad’s love for my mom. His eyes would light up when she walked into the room or returned from a short errand. When my dad would get confused my mom would be the calm in his storm.. She made him feel like nobody else could. There were many “I love you’s “ and laughter with my mom and dad. I am so blessed to have witnessed that unselfish unconditional love from both my mom and dad.

Mom, thank you from the bottom of all of our hearts for taking such excellent care of Dad. You were so unselfish and so giving. We know the sacrifices you made for dad and we are so proud of how strong and loving you were to dad…. For this we are eternally grateful.

When I think about my dad the last 3 years..The thing that I will most remember is the thing that brought him the most peace. Prayer… Bringing Christ into the center changed our father daughter relationship. It also brought us closer together as a family.

Prayer was the center of my dad’s day toward the end. When my dad went to his room to lay down we would pray with dad. Sometimes it was just me and dad; sometimes it was mom and dad, or sometimes it was all of us. My fondest memory is gathering around my dad’s bed holding hands and making the sign of the cross with holy water on his forehead after we recited the Our Father. He was peaceful and happy when all of us kids and grandchildren prayed with him.

It was amazing that even though my dad could hardly speak he could always pray with us the Our father from start to finish.

In April, my husband Billy and I found out we were expecting a baby after a nine year wait. My dad cried and laughed the entire day after my mom told him. God blessed us with new life … a gift from heaven.

The circle of life….As you know when our Lord gives a life he takes a life…

A month later the Lord gave my dad eternal life a gift from heaven… I do believe things happen for a reason, and I do believe my dad is smiling down on us right now. He is happy and he is in peace finally. I am not sad he is gone because I know he is in a better place. I am sad because I will miss him..

However, We are so blessed to have our most precious Guardian angel watching over all of us.

Dad. We will meet again soon…. So I leave you with these 3 words..

Keep the Faith

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