The Eulogy for Gordon Donald Routhier

11
Oct

Gordon Donald Routhier was born October 21, 1952 in Manhatten, NY the fourth child of Charles Catherine  (nee Swarthout) Routhier.   He was preceded in birth by Dorinda, Joe, Anne and Johnny – all born several years before Gordon came along, and then Gordon was followed in relatively quick succession by his sister Andree and brother Jeffrey.  They were raised in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens.  Summers were a particularly happy time growing up because Gordon’s Mom would take the kids upstate to a small town called Bloomington near New Paltz, New York where his parents owned a bungalow.  Gordon and his siblings enjoyed a carefree time roaming about freely along the countryside entertaining themselves playing games and fishing.

Gordon’s family was strongly Roman Catholic, and Gordon was baptized and had his first mass at the local Catholic church, where he served as an altar boy and attended Catholic school.  Throughout his life Gordon had a lively mind with lots of questions, which lead to a disconnect between Gordon and the particular form of Catholicism he was exposed to at the time.   For instance, “Why,” Gordon would ask the priest, “do we ring the bell three times?” which would seem a reasonable question for a boy with an inquisitive mind.  But the priest would answer, “Don’t ask foolish questions!” So as Gordon aged, he had little use for the Catholic Church and the God they seemed to represent.

These were turbulent times in our country and Gordon absorbed something of the spirit of rebellion in relationship to authority that was common among those of us growing up in that era.  At the age of 16 Gordon and his brother tried to go to the Woodstock Music Festival which was being held only a half hour away from their summer bungalow, but ended up just spending a day on the outer fringes because the immense crowd of youthful free spirits that had descended on Yasgar’s Farm made it impossible to get any closer.

Growing up in the diversity of the city life of Queens Gordon had ample opportunity to interact with all kinds of people and so with his gentle nature acceptance of others regardless of religion or race just came naturally to him.  Gordon graduated from high school, and fortunately he got lucky with the number he drew for the draft so he avoided getting sent to Vietnam to fight in the war he strongly opposed.  Gordon said that if they had drafted him, his plan was to move to Canada.

Gordon was devastated at the age of 18, when his father died suddenly of a heart attack.  His father had always been busy supporting his family and wasn’t able to share in the leisurely summers the rest of the family enjoyed up in north country at the family bungalow.  Gordon would carry some sadness throughout his life that he didn’t get more time to get to know his Dad better.

Gordon spent a couple of years at the College of New Paltz before dropping out.  Back in Queens he worked as a cab driver and at a Baskin Robbins ice cream store, before studying to be a draftsman and tool and dye maker.  He found work as a draftsman at L&G Metal in New York City – work he would do for the next thirty years of his life.

Gordon’s real passion, however was for cooking, a love he had absorbed from his family that appreciated a well cooked meal. He taught himself the finer points of the art of the chef by watching Julia Childs on TV.

With his somewhat shy personality Gordon was slow to discover the full power of the realm of romance, but when he found it he found it big time.   At the age of 28 Gordon was at an engagement party for a cousin when his eyes met a pretty young woman named Linda, and it was for both of them “love at first sight” for both of them.  They came from distinctly different backgrounds – Linda grew up in a small town and was a Navy veteran; Gordon grew up in the city and had been dead set against getting drafted – but something just clicked. They began dating immediately after the party, which involved Gordon driving two hours north on Fridays to spend the weekend with Linda in the small town where she lived.  He always brought flowers and shrimp.  At the wedding of the couple at whose engagement party they had met, Linda caught the bouquet, and Gordon caught the garter.  Nine months after meeting they got engaged on Christmas Eve, and they were married the following October.

They took an apartment together in Astoria, Queens, a bit of culture shock for Linda who had to master the intricacies of commuting into Manhattan where she worked for a company in the garment district doing computer consulting.  There was a pizza parlor directly across the street from their apartment, and sometimes all Gordon needed to do when suppertime rolled around was open his window and shout across the street, “Hey, Geno, have pie ready for us!”

Gordon was allergic to dogs and cats so for pets Gordon set up an aquarium in their little apartment with a top tank that held “Oscars” – which I understand are a fairly sizeable fish — and in a lower tank he kept gold fish, which were in essence, the Oscars’ supper.  I guess Gordon just liked being around fish, because in the winter time he and Linda would go up to Lake Champlain with friends to go ice fishing, keeping warm in a little shanty with a fire going where they sat, dropping their lines down a hole hoping to snag a hungry fish, drinking beer, and listening to the sound of ice cracking.

(Slide of Gordon holding baby Bart.)

Gordon himself told me that the happiest day of his life was when his son Bart was born five years after Linda and Gordon had got married.  The new family moved to a larger apartment.

(Second picture of Gordon holding baby Bart.)  Gordon loved being a Dad to Bart.  He would read books to him and sing songs like “Polly Wolly Doodle All Day” to his son to get him to fall asleep.  When Bart was five the family travelled to Florida to do Disney World, and in the years to come there were frequent trips back to Florida to see Linda’s relatives who lived there.

When Bart was about to enter first grade the family moved here to Parsippany to the house on Allentown Road.  As a draftsman, Gordon was able to do most of his work from home, while Linda endured the daily grind of a commute into New York, so a lot of the day to day hands on parenting fell to Gordon.  When Bart became a cub scout, Gordon became for the next four years the only male den leader in town.

Although Bart was an only child, he had lots of cousins with whom much time was spent, including the gatherings held at Gordon’s sister Andree’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, where Andree and Gordon would share the cooking.   Gordon was always in charge of the gravy.  There were happy trips that Gordon and Bart took with Gordon’s brother Jeff and his son Billy to camp together by Lake Champlain.

Gordon was never much into sports, but to support his son Gordon learned the basics of soccer and became his coach for two years.  He spent five years coaching Bart in little league baseball.  (Picture of Routhiers with Kellers and others.)  It was through these sports involvements that Gordon and Linda met Bob and Connie Keller, whose son Jonathan is the same age as Bart.  Spending Easter together became a tradition, with Gordon, of course doing the cooking.

The Kellers were deeply involved in this church, but from his less than enthusiastic experience of Church as a child Gordon had become skeptical of religion and identified himself as an agnostic, if not an outright atheist.  Gordon had a keen intellect and was an avid reader with a particular interest for history, and his knowledge of the history of the many horrible things done in the name of God made it easy for him to discount this whole faith business.   He was, however also a passionate fan of the “Lord of the Rings” stories, which he read and reread and then watched the movies as well, and JRR Tolkein, the author of these stories was a Christian and these stories of his are writ through with spiritual meaning, so it seems clear something inside Gordon was longing for a connection with God.

“PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.
GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.”

 

“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

“Pippin glanced in some wonder at the face now close beside his own, for the sound of that laugh had been gay and merry. Yet in the wizard’s face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.”

This is why Tolkien can present such powerful depictions of good and evil, showing that the best of us can be tempted to fall into sin, and the worst of us have the potential to be redeemed. This is why his characters are capable of both great joy and great melancholy, sometimes at the same time. They rejoice in their victories, but still feel a sense of longing for the way the world used to be before the fall and the loss of innocence.

 

It was through Bart that Gordon gradually made his way into the life of our church.  The Kellers’ son Jonathan invited Bart to youth group, and eventually he became a part of the confirmation class, and so Gordon followed his son’s leading.

(Picture of Gordon in the kitchen.)  And there was a place in the life of our church uniquely suited for Gordon’s gifts, and that was in the kitchen, and so soon Gordon was working beside Al Booth and Tom Albert and Justin Cogan to cook our Roast Beef and Ham Dinners.   After a while he joined the choir.

(Picture of Gordon and Linda with Bart in fatigues.)   When Bart graduated high school he enlisted in the Navy to serve with the SeaBees, which gave Gordon and Linda both a great sense of pride and some bit of trepidation, particularly as Bart served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, as well as one in Africa.   But for the majority of his five years in the Navy Bart was stationed in Mississippi, and Gordon and Linda would fly down to visit their son, during one such trip they visited New Orleans.   Gordon got in the habit of driving with Bart when he had to make to long trip from New Jersey to Mississippi.  Lots of father and son time.

Both of the companies Gordon and Linda closed leaving them without jobs, and so about five years ago they decided to move to Florida to be closer to Linda’s family.  After 18 happy years here it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to this community.  Along with the Kellers they had made other close friends here at the church.   Gordon and Linda were, as Bob said, “the ultimate hosts who made everyone feel welcome.”  Gordon loved to cook for his guests, Bob and Connie, Dave and Darryl, Susan and Greg and their daughter Rachel over for dinner.  Gordon even got Rachel – unusually a vegetarian – to try his ribs.  She liked them.  Anita Baldwin remembers her first visit to Gordon and Linda’s house.  She hadn’t known them very well when she arrived, but by the end of the evening they made her feel like she had known them forever.

There were other very good friendships that Gordon and Linda had made here in Parsippany, including the Grawhers who they’d spend July 4th and many a Friday or Saturday night, and the Hallbacks, with whom they shared New Year’s Eve and the Super Bowl.

So it wasn’t easy, but they sold the house and made the move, buying a mobile home in Hobe Sound.   Initially it was pretty tough for Gordon:  as hard as he tried, he couldn’t find work.   The economy had left behind the role of draftsmen, but Gordon was willing to do anything, but he couldn’t find anything.  He was getting pretty discouraged.

And then finally after six months Gordon and Linda spotted an ad in the local newspaper that a local United Methodist Church was looking for – of all things – a chef.   “Go ahead,” said Linda.  “Head down there and apply.”  He met Pastor Susan.  Gordon’s application was on top of a great pile of applications.  She was impressed that he had previously served in the kitchen of a United Methodist Church, and was taken by Gordon’s gentle, calm demeanor.   She offered him the job on the spot.

It made the world of difference for Gordon about how he felt about the move to Florida.  His job was to run the church’s kitchen and prepare a weekly dinner that raised money for the church’s outreach to the homeless of their community.  In addition, Gordon did some custodial work for the church and got to know the staff of the rather larger church.  They grew very fond of Gordon, the gentle giant. He felt connected, involved.  His life had a sense of purpose.  (Gordon and Bart.)

Things went well until 26 months ago, a week before Christmas, Gordon started coughing up blood.   In shorter order, Gordon was diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus, lungs and liver.  Gordon began radiation and a regimen of chemo every third week.  He was able to continue his work at the church for a year and a half before Gordon became just too tired to go on.

It was a rough time – the chemo, his only medical hope for survival, took its toll on Gordon.  Finally Petscan on November 29th indicated that Gordon wasn’t going to be beat the cancer.  He had, at most six months to live.  Gratefully, the chemo was brought to an end.

Gordon had something – or rather someone – to hang on for.  His daughter-in-law, Natasha had given birth to his grandchild, Charlotte on June 24th.  He’d gotten to Skype with Charlotte, but Gordon had been too sick to make the trip up to New Jersey with Linda to see the little sweetness in person. (Picture of Gordon holding Charlotte.)  In December Bart, Natasha, and Charlotte were able to make the trip down to visit.  What joy it gave Gordon to hold his granddaughter.

There was one more thing to hold on for, and that was to make one last trip north, (Picture of Gordon and Linda in congregation)  to be present for Charlotte’s baptism here in this sanctuary on January 8th, which he did.  He spent a good week up here just enjoying being in the company of Bart, Natasha and Charlotte – the opportunity to spend some time with Natasha’s parents.   He got to spend time with his sister Andree and her husband Joe, as well as with his brother Jeffrey. He got to see Bob and Connie and other old friends; He saw his one remaining living aunt.

It was my privilege to go out for lunch alone with Gordon just before he flew back.  He was calm, grateful for the life he had been given to live.  (Picture of Gordon with Bart.)  He was so very proud of Bart – of the man, husband, father he had grown up to be.  (Picture of Gordon and Linda) His felt so fortunate to have been given 34 years with the love of his life, Linda.  (Funny picture of Gordon and Linda.)  They’d had so many good times over the years, with so man good friends.

(Picture of younger Gordon.)

He wasn’t afraid of dying; just concerned for his loved ones.

Having made this last trip, it seemed Gordon was ready to depart this world.  He deteriorated rapidly, living only another five weeks.

Linda and Gordon talked things they had avoided because it was too painful.  Gordon took comfort in the fact that years earlier he had had the foresight to take out a good life insurance policy, so he could feel with some confidence that Linda would be provided for.  She assured him she would be okay; he didn’t have to worry about her.  When Linda asked Gordon what kind of service he wanted, he said he didn’t care – that was up to her – he just wanted you all to have a good party.  That was his one request.

Bart, Natasha and Charlotte were able to hop on a plane to be by Gordon’s bedside at the end.  To bless him on his journey.

There were angels along the way for which Linda expressed gratitude.  A young Asian-American oncologist named Dr. Tso who had moved down from Scotch Plains to practice medicine in Florida who always took his time with Gordon and Linda, never making them feel rushed, nor holding anything back. He always looked directly into their eyes expressing so much compassion.  He called Linda the day Gordon died to express his sadness.  Gordon had put up a great fight he said.  She so appreciated his taking the time to call her.

There was the Hospice team that was all so kind and conscientious.

I mentioned earlier the place Gordon found in our church working in the kitchen with the other cooks.  He became particularly close to Al Booth with whom he shared a similar rye sense of humor.  Sadly, Al preceded Gordon in death, succumbing to cancer the year before Gordon and Linda moved to Florida.

By a peculiar coincidence, Gordon died exactly six years to the day that Al departed from this world.  Here at the church, we like to think of Gordon and Al up there in God’s kitchen whipping up something very tasty.

Wedding feasts were Jesus’ favorite image for the kingdom of heaven.

 

Gordon became particularly close to Al, with whom he shared a similar sense of humor.  Sadly, Al died six years ago February 16th, the exact same day that Gordon died.  We like to imagine the two of them cooking up something delicious God’s kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gordon liked music, from the oldies up until, but not including, the 80’s. Among his favorites were Van Morrison, the Beatles, Roy Orbison. Gordon sang, too. 5 Gordon D. Routhier AGE: 64 • Hobe Sound, FL Gordon D. Routhier, 64, of Hobe Sound, Florida passed away Thursday, February 16, 2017 at Treasure Coast Hospice in Stuart, Florida. Born October 21, 1952 in Manhattan, New York he was the son of Charles Albert and Catherine Marie (nee Swarthout) Routhier. He has resided in Hobe Sound for five years coming from Parsippany, New Jersey. Gordon retired as a draftsman after 30 years with L & G Metal in New City, New York. He had attended Parsippany United Methodist Church. Gordon was an avid reader and enjoyed cooking. In Florida he worked for First United Methodist Church of Stuart as a chef. Gordon was preceded in death by his parents; brother, John Routhier; sister, Dorinda Hagstrom and brother-in-law, Bruce Michaloski. Survivors include his beloved wife of 34 years, Linda Routhier; loving son, Bart Routhier and wife, Natasha; cherished granddaughter, Charlotte Rose Routhier; brothers, Joseph Routhier and wife, Elizabeth, Jeffrey Routhier; sisters, Ann Russnow and husband, Art, Andree Guido and husband, Joseph; brothers-in-law, Gary Hagstrom, Joseph Michaloski and wife Tammi, Robert Michaloski and wife Beth; sister-in-law, Lois Eckhardt and husband, Tim; aunt, Mary McNamara; many nieces, nephews and cousins.