LeRoy Clyde DuBois was a kind and multifaceted soul. He never met a stranger, yielded the floor only when he asked a question, lived intensely and died unwillingly. After all, he informed everyone who’d listen, “I’ve got a party to get ready for!” He was bigger than life and we, his family, thought he would live forever . . . well, at least until June 7th in order to see his 90th birthday and his and Mom’s 70th anniversary on the same day. We planned a weekend of events to honor the man—husband, lover, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, mentor, communicator, salesman, trainer, writer, speaker, man of faith, poet, tender of roses and storyteller extraordinaire.

Family was everything to him. At each visit, he’d want to know the latest on my whole clan. He was happiest when his children, even as adults, were able to experience and enjoy nice things. He loved to hear about our trips, see a photo, or watch a video of our lives. He especially loved children with their special magic. My daughter, Shannon, is saddened to realize Grandpa won’t get to welcome their second child and his 12th great grandchild coming in August. Dad asked our son-in-law, Andrés, about his mother in Mexico every time he saw him, wondering when they had last spoken.

Dad sat outside with his pipe as much as possible. At the end we asked the doctor to limit his smoking to two pipes a day. With his fading memory, he became quite a smokestack, enjoying his guilty pleasure on an hourly basis. (He’d be quick to tell you, though, that he never inhaled.) I’d enter the courtyard leading to their apartment and see him outdoors on his small patio in every kind of weather—heat, cold, even rain—with headset on and pipe in hand, listening to the television while watching through the outer glass door.

One of the best things we ever did was move him and Mom to the lovely retirement facility at Somerby. For years they had been isolated in a small garden home, but at Somerby he could engage others anytime he desired. He was known for his early breakfast runs, his lively conversations, his kindness, his loud complaints when something wasn’t tended to correctly, and for holding Mom’s hand everywhere they went until both needed walkers.

In the last decade it was painful to watch Dad lose capabilities— especially his hearing and memory. Gone was the joy of listening to classical music piped in as loud as possible, the ability to comment articulately in conversations without state-of-the-art hearing aids, and the freedom to walk down steps to bait a hook, cast a line, and reel in a big one. In spite of it all, he was strong and determined to make life the best it could be for as long as possible. To him, it was truly more than half full—it was brimming over. In joy or sorrow, his life was one BOLD exclamation point.

I’ve struggled deeply over the timing of his death eleven days before the planned birthday/anniversary celebration. Family was coming from around the country—from New York to California—to honor his 90th decade. He intensely followed the doctor's instructions so mind and body would be as sharp as possible for the event. In fact, the fall on concrete that precipitated his death happened because he had gone for a second walk at the heat of noon. We worked so hard to get him well and strong for his special day.

The only thing that helps is to realize he IS celebrating with his family, only in heaven instead of on earth with us. He’s reunited with all those who died in faith and were precious to him—parents, brothers, sisters and close friends. His is a celestial party of proportions we could never replicate. While we still celebrate without his presence, he is rejoicing with angels and retelling his stories to any who will listen. And when he asks, “Have I ever told you the story about…?” well, that will be the only place they’ll be hearing it for the first time!

Sorry heaven, we’ve released a lively one this time.

To say he will be missed is an understatement of grand proportions. We have enough memories to share and re-share for the rest of our lives. And somehow, I know he’s smiling about that.