John T. HURST's Obituary on Press Democrat
Read the Obituary and view the Guest Book, leave condolences or send flowers. | HURST, John T. May, 27 1952 - January…
Below are the words I read at my father’s memorial service. I’ve written a few more thoughts and added some photos with captions to give you a better glimpse into his life and our life with him.
I’m so thankful for all the family and friends that joined us that day.
I have never seen so many cars parked at my parents’ home! Dad would have loved that. He would have told Tom and Ty how to direct everyone and where the best and worst places to park were, and he would have probably had signs prepared (with a misspelling or two) and he would have made lots of food and enjoyed all the wonderful dishes that were brought that day. It’s strange to think about that… he couldn’t have been there, I know… but he would have liked it. He would have loved everyone enjoying his home.
He loved his home, his property. To him Sebastopol had the best weather. His little part of the world, that he owned, was perfect. He loved it, highway, deer, tree-fluff, flooding and all.
He called us all “Babe”.
He called Mom, Teri and I “Babe” or “Babes”, the plural for the three of us. I know that word has a bad rap these days… but it always felt sincere, like “my child” or “my love”. He also called his granddaughters “Babe” and mistakenly, on occasion, a son-in-law… and even a burly guy at work.
He was honest, sometimes brutally honest. He wanted people to acknowledge the whole story — even if it wasn’t the thing they wanted to hear. He may have wanted to win the argument, but more importantly he wanted them to understand the idea from another perspective.
He loved movies and enjoyed critiquing them. He could always guess the twist and would sometimes whisper it (in the theater) just before it was obvious. He liked a wide variety of films like Westerns, Sci-Fi, adventure, musicals, and comedy. It took a lot to make him laugh. It had to be really crazy-funny. But sometimes during a funny scene, I’d look over at him and his face would be all red (and no sound would be coming out). He looked like he was about to explode with laughter. I’m not sure why laughing was such a secret, maybe from growing up in a household with 13 children? They must have had some hilarious times at the dinner table! Or it could be from all those years of practicing his prankster-poker-face.
My dad could play the harmonica by ear, and would often sing spontaneously when the lyrics matched the occasion. His music taste was mostly for 50s and 60s music, especially The Beach Boys. He had a special memory of his birth-mother singing “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”.
There are so many stories I have thought about since the memorial service. Stories I could have shared, funny stories, like the day he was rototilling the field with his tractor. We looked across the highway and several people, who had been enjoying a nice weekend BBQ, were now jumping up and down on their patio waving in a cloud of dust. Or the time my (young) parents went grocery shopping. They purchased 2 bags of groceries and a watermelon and later realized… they had brought the motorcycle.
Or one of Dad’s many driving stories. And I’m thinking of that wooden board he put behind the front seats of his delivery-van to act as a wall and bumper for the crates holding juice jugs. That silly old board with a notch broken off… the board that saved his life.
I wish I could tell you of all the inventions he had, all the little things he figured out how to fix, in unique ways, but there are too many to even recall and many more I’m sure he never mentioned. And, well, so many other inside jokes and bits and pieces of stories — that I suppose we all have about the people closest to us. Stories that become family-legend. So I’m writing this partly to celebrate Dad’s Birthday, the first that we celebrate without him, and partly so that his story is out there in the world for anyone who cares to read it.
Thanks for reading, thanks for caring, I hope you enjoy it.
Eulogy for John Hurst
(I read this on January 27, 2018 at The Lighthouse Church.)
My Dad was born in Santa Rosa to Betty and Joe Toney. They were a very young couple and after moving to Louisiana, they soon separated. My Dad traveled with his birth-mother and half-sister Debbie, they eventually made their way back to Sebastopol where his grandparents lived.
He remembered playing alone at the creek, walking the railroad tracks and exploring around town. When his birth-mother couldn’t raise her children anymore my Dad and Debbie were adopted by Darrel and Marge Hurst.
My dad was 8 years old when he entered a strange new world full of apples, church, work and lots of other children. My own daughter is 7 years old and this gives me a good idea of all the days, years, memories, and feelings my father would have had coming into this new environment. He was used to playing the role of the big-brother and living a mostly unsupervised childhood.
As the Hurst family was growing in size, my dad was learning all sorts of things like Apples, mostly apples… just kidding.
He learned to drive a tractor, prune trees, respect his elders, and many other moral values that had been lacking in his previous life.
He attended Hessel Church every Sunday with his family and acquired a great love for reading and remembering the Bible.
He went to many church functions and was there as they built Mt. Gilead Bible Camp. He was a camper the first year, they slept outside under the redwoods on hay bales.
If you knew my Dad at all… you know he liked to argue.
… But you’d be wrong.
He liked to: debate.
*Show of hands…. Who here has ever had an argument with my Dad?… Well, on behalf of him, I’d like the say “Thank you”. Because you joined him in his most favorite sport.*
He didn’t just like to debate. It was built-in, like a natural-born talent, weaved into his brain long before he could speak. He always said, “There are two sides to every story” and was convinced he could argue any side of any debate. He and I had countless arguments, but it wasn’t until I was older that I started to appreciate them for what they were:
Debate. Conversation. Passion. Confidence. Lightning-thoughts.
He spoke like he was running through a maze he knew he could win. He wasn’t always right. And it was my great pleasure to hear him say on rare… very rare occasions, with a little smirk on his face, “You know, you might be right about that”.
My dad learned 2 very important things from the Hurst Family. The 1st thing he learned from the Hurst Family was:
The importance of hard work.
He felt pride in working for Darrel. It gave him something to focus on and it also gave him time to:
He worked hard to take care of us through the years — that was always his main goal: to provide for his family. Even if it meant extra over-time and putting away dreams and ambitions. He wanted for us: not to worry about work — and to be able to have fun, go to birthday parties, movies, amusement parks, family vacations, and camp … and we did.
Although his mind was always racing with new ideas and inventions, he continued on each day working hard for us.
In the hospital, not long ago, the doctor asked him: “How do you feel?”. His response was: “I feel like I’m not getting much done”.
My Dad was hard worker.
The 2nd thing he learned from the Hurst Family was: forgiveness. All those days of church, prayer, and camp instilled in him forgiveness.
He never spoke ill of the parents who gave him up. And when I was a child we had several opportunities to visit my Dad’s birth-father in Louisiana. There he met Joe, 3 half-siblings and other relatives.
They welcomed us into their home with southern hospitality.We had great adventures with them. Adventures with alligators, snapping turtles, fishing; my parents rode on a tug boat on the Mississippi River! We ate grits, and frog legs — which they told me was chicken…
Our Dad will be remembered as:
A great debater
The Family Chef
A green thumb
A spider killer
A Bible scholar
A hard worker
My Dad liked poetry… well not all poetry… actually he only tolerated rhyming poems. He wrote poems when he was young, some for children, and one about a kite and one about a lad and one about a captain, one for my Nana, some based on Bible verses, some were about love and even one about how to write a poem. When we were young he wrote one called Grandpa’s Apples for Teri and I — and I think he also wrote it for all of us who walked the apple orchard and picked an apple from Grandpa’s apple trees.
by John T. Hurst
My Grandpa planted apple trees,
Upon a tall, tall hill.
And if you ever see these trees,
I’m sure you’ll get a thrill.
Cause on one side you’ll need a ladder,
As tall as tall can be.
But on the other side you can pick the tops,
Upon a bended knee.
Now if you ever come to Twin Hill Ranch.
I’m sure that you’ll agree.
That Grandpa’s trees go on forever,
As far as the eye can see.
Now Grandpa grows them juicy,
As crispy as can be.
But I like to think, that most of all,
He grows them just for me.
Growing up as a Hurst grandchild meant 2 things: Apples and Faith.
We were famous!
Okay, maybe just in Sebastopol… and maybe just at Hessel Church, but whoever it was always seemed to know about “The Ranch” and about the great faith of the Hurst family.
That great faith inspired our Dad to write this poem called The Ember.
by John T. Hurst
Once upon a midnight dream,
I traveled oh so far.
Through time and space, to a distance land,
Where the strangest creatures are.
Where unicorns and dragons,
Are common things to see!
And dinosaurs, they rule the land,
And serpents rule the sea.
Now in this land of new beginnings,
Where time itself begun.
There lives a glowing ember,
They call “The Living Sun”.
Now all that see this light,
Will marvel at the flame.
But not all that see this sight,
Will listen for their name.
For though it’s said, both far and wide,
The Ember calls to all.
Few and far between are they,
Upon their knees do fall.
But unto them that pray,
A little spark will go.
And inside the heart of them,
An ember there will grow.
Now if by chance,
Someday you see,
A living water,
Or a talking tree.
And if it’s deeds,
Be pure and true.
And you hear it,
Then open wide,
Your heart and mind.
Then Joy and peace,
I’m sure you’ll find.
At my father’s service we had a slideshow (below), we sang Blessed Assurance and Amazing Grace. My Dad’s Pastor, Kel Slater, spoke and after we had coffee and, a family favorite, apple bread (provided by my dad’s brother Ben). It was a beautiful day.
Thank you for reading and for sharing these moments with me.