For A Silent Hero
A daughter's tribute to a man who can never be replaced
Peninsula Times Tribune

I feel like a Scrooge when it comes to the holidays. I really try to avoid them, but it's difficult to do this when ads and cards surround us with constant reminders. This so-called special occasion is not a celebration for me-though it used to be—but more like a day of mourning, a startling awareness that I'm fatherless.

Death is inevitable, and facing a loss of a loved one is like an open wound that never quite heals. A daughter losing a father, especially one that was adored, feels a loss of a male element that can never be replaced by spouse, son or a boyfriend.
  My dad, Irving Kenneth Bohack, died suddenly on Christmas evening last year at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. It was his 81st birthday, and I had just spoken to him hours before. When the news of my Dad's fatal stroke reached me over 3,000 miles away the following morning, I was in shock. All I could remember was our last words over the phone, "Happy Birthday. I love you Daddy." "I love you too, dear."

A card (which I still have sitting in my bureau drawer close to my bed) was sent to me just a week before when I was recovering from knee surgery. He had a mild stroke that same week, but had a miraculous recovery and wanted to assure me that all was well. He knew that if I saw his artistic penmanship I would be convinced of his excellent state before I went in for my surgery. The words, "Be strong. Be well. I am fine now. Love, Daddy" will remain with me forever.
 
 
I feel it was those very words that helped me define the character of this dear, gentle and selfless man who was my father. I began thinking how someone so quiet and soft-spoken could touch so many hearts and gain so much respect. I also realized what power his silence and patience fostered.

Though he would not be considered by society standards as famous or an active leader in the community, and never brought home any medals from his time served in the Navy during World War II, he was a rare human being-a silent hero.
 
  Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1909 and the youngest of 13 children, Irving Kenneth Bohack knew that life involved commitment and responsibility. He worked non-stop from age 13 to 62 during his life in New York as a waiter in a five-star restaurant on Wall Street. It was just a little more than 50 years ago that he met my mother and his wife Rena. The year of his death would have been their golden anniversary.

My dad added class to whatever he did, from his duties as a waiter to his artful preparation of a meal at home. I can still remember the time that I visited him at the restaurant and noticed how handsome he was dressed in a tuxedo and white gloves. I will never forget how he created the salads for my 13th birthday party with such loving care, and how carefully he addressed my wedding invitations with his artistic hand.

Women were charmed by him, especially on the dance floor. At a party, if there was a microphone, he would croon a tune "a la Bing Crosby." It used to amaze me how shy and reserved my dad would be normally but how he would come alive with music and a mike. Though I studied dance professionally and even taught dancing for years, my dad would always outshine me on the dance floor. Even in his 70's, I couldn't keep up with him.

My dad was a gentleman's gentleman. Not only were women enamored by his gentility, honesty and straightforwardness, but men would admire him. On my last visit to Florida, his cronies pulled me aside and said, "Your dad is some hell of a guy, besides being a great pool and shuffleboard player."

Whatever my dad did, he put all his heart into it. When he took up playing pool and shuffleboard at his condominium, he received first place accolades and even won a regional championship. The only way I ever found out about his achievements was when my mother sent me a clipping from a local paper. My dad would never talk about any of his accomplishments. It wasn't his style.

I am hanging on to every memory now. It's odd how some moments or gestures become more prevalent than others. It was his holding my hand as a little girl and walking with me to the park to watch me roller skate that seemed so important. Even now, I sense that feeling of pride and security-like a warm, glowing blanket snugly shaped around my torso. It was his soft smile and kind, grey eyes that gave me such comfort. But most of all, it was the hug and kiss goodnight and the "I love you" that lingers in my heart and mind.

 
  My only comfort now is the realization that my dad left my sister Amy and I and our children a long legacy of love, warmth, kindness and talents. I can only thank him for my precious gifts—a sense of inner strength, patience, and his unconditional love. I look at the faces and personalities of my children Ari and Jordana and see traces of my father in their features and abilities. It gives me great relief to know that death can not destroy genes and, most of all, the human spirit.
 
  The other day, I found my autograph book from my junior high graduation. Inside were poems and other messages signed by my peers, teachers, and parents. Right up front was a page that listed my favorite song, friend, and profession. The next item listed my hero: Irving Bohack.

My dad was not famous, but he was my hero, and he made an indelible print of graciousness and human kindness on the lives he touched.

I still feel a sense of anger and sadness as to why I can't celebrate Christmas like others. But then I remember this warm, deep place in my heart that is kindled with a powerful flame of my dad's ever-present love and that dull aching pain is transformed into one brilliant moment of joy.


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