Dale L. Fones

Fisherman

You will be missed.

October 17, 1922 – November 12, 2009

Predeceased by his wife, Betty Babcock Fones. He is survived by his sisters, Lorraine Walkenhorst, Ruth Heinman; brothers, Frank and Richard Fones; many nieces, nephews and friends. Dale served in WWII, 5th Army, 3rd Division in North Africa and Italy where he was wounded. He retired from Monroe Community College.

In my own way I wanted to make a small tribute to my late uncle who passed away this week. I’m traveling and won’t be able to attend the ceremony that I’m sure will celebrate his life and bring together all the people who’s hearts he touched.

Everyone who you talk to about Dale Fones will always have a story to tell. The one thing you can be sure of, is that it will put a smile on your face. That right there should tell you the kind of person he was. He always had a smile no matter how things were going, or the condition of his health, or whether the fishing was good or bad. It wasn’t painted on of course, but there was always a smile or a gentle joke at the right time, and it was infectious.

DaleI was too young to remember when I first met him, but my earliest memories were of fishing. When I was little, if you asked me who the fisherman in the family was, I would have immediately said “Unky Doo”.

He loved fishing and the outdoors. Most of the trips we took as a family to Upstate New York and Canada almost always included fishing with Uncle Dale. We’d often get together at my Uncle Roy’s cabin on Lake Crosby and those magical days were filled with fishing, card games and lots and lots of laughs. At other times I’d visit him myself at his cabin where we’d hunt and play pranks on each other, and I’d listen to stories of family and friends from years ago, or how to carve a whistle from a sapling branch. I learned a lot about fishing and the outdoors from him, but what I learned mostly was about love, family, citizenship, patriotism, a love of nature, and the real important things in life.

 

Tough as Nails

T.O.U.G.H.

Now, I should mention that he was also tough. In fact, he was one of the toughest men I’ve so far come to know. He wasn’t mean tough, but tough like the earth. Solid. Firm. He was certainly a gentle teddy bear of a man, ready with a joke or a hug, but he had an inner toughness, a constitution, that is rare. I’m sure it had to do with the way be was brought up, but no mater what life threw at him, and it laid a lot at his door, I never heard a word of self pity. After growing up through the Great Depression, serving during WWII in North Africa and Italy where he was shot an injured, being unable to have his own children, and many other of the typical curve balls life throws at all of us, he still had one of the biggest hearts ever found in any man…. and that’s not just me talkin’, anyone who knew him will tell you the same.

Uncle Dale and Mom

Dale and Mom

Early on I appreciated him for his abundant and ready hugs, advice on how to catch a really big bass, his capacity for fixing or making just about anything mechanical, and as I got older I began to learn more about his integrity. I was aware of at least one case where he filled the gap as a father figure when a father was absent in a young girls life. Later I learned that this was not an isolated case and that many people, who although they referred to him as “Uncle Dale”, thought of him as a father or father figure. And it was because of what fatherhood is really about; not giving orders, or telling you how to live your life, or who you should vote for, or just paying for things, but rather it was about being there when you needed a hug, some advice, love or just a reason to smile.

Uncle Dale loved my Aunt Betty. Together they made quite a couple of characters and they were really two halves of the same… well, bear-hug. I mean, you need two to hug right? “Two halves of the same heart” fits the description also. After working together for years at Kodak, in their retirement they enjoyed traveling together and visiting family around the country in their motor-home. When Aunt Betty suffered from strokes in her final years, which I’m sure were related to her work at Kodak, Uncle Dale wouldn’t have anything to do with putting her in a hospital or home to wither away. For years he fed her, dressed her, took her for daily drives, and even took her around the country as they had always done. He gave her a quality of life in her final years that she could never have had otherwise.

Dale_and_Betty

Dale & Betty

But that demanding commitment never got him down or kept him away from being close to his family and friends. I mean, I really don’t know where he got all the energy from, and I want some of whatever it was that gave him such momentum. It was that 4-in-the-morning courage that isn’t easy to muster. If life is a tough-man contest, this guy won his weight division… hands down.

Since we are now coming to the time of year for giving thanks, I know what will be on my mind throughout this season. I’m also glad that I was able to introduce my wife and kids to someone who made a really big impact on my life. Great role models are important in a persons life and in addition to great parents (which I have been fortunate to have) we all need an “Uncle Dale” to show us what unconditional love is all about, and to give us clues to what the meaning of life is and how to live it.

I’m looking forward to my next fishing trip, because I know that although I can’t attend the services for him, I’ll really feel closest to Uncle Dale the next time I’m on a river and feel a tug on my line. I’d like to think that the first tug might be him, telling me he’s there with me in my heart and sharing one more special moment… an appreciation of life.

Smile

Let's go fishing Uncle Dale

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