My dad was a man full of love. I would like to remember him as a man who loved his country (both of them); he loved his work; he loved life and lived it to its fullest; he loved his family devotedly; and he loved God. It may not be obvious to many of us how this Swiss immigrant loved, but I know that he did.
You see, it has been said that in a European heaven -
The French are the cooks,
The English are the police,
The Germans are the mechanics,
The Italians are the lovers and
The Swiss organize everything … on time.
but in a European Hell-
The English are the cooks,
The Germans are the police,
The French are the mechanics,
The Italians organize everything and
The Swiss are the lovers!
I once mustered up all that was within me and told my dad those three special words: “I love you”. He responded: “Thank you”.
How did he say those words “I love you” to his country, colleagues, friends, family, and God? He never said them. He DID them.
He loved and was very proud of Switzerland. If you had a conversation about education, Switzerland was bound to come up. Many sentences were prefaced by “Back in Switzerland …” we did it this way.
His first love for work would have been to be a pilot, but to be a pilot in the Swiss Air Force you needed to be an officer—and the Swiss Air Force did not think he was officer material. It may have been how he woke the troops: “Good morning! Are you feeling nice and chirpy this morning?”
So with no hope of becoming an officer or a pilot, he settled for medical school. And with a deal from a sponsor from Bern, Dad’s school was paid for with the promise that he would do the same for someone else in his lifetime. He never told us who he repaid the debt to, but we know that he helped many other students in hard times for their education.
His love for his work as a physician also brought him to the United States and here he developed a love for the U.S. Due to a lack of social status in his home country, he found a chance to be able to do surgery in the land of opportunity. Just after receiving his U.S. citizenship, he was drafted to work in a U.S. Army hospital in Germany during the Korean War – where he delivered 600 babies per year – and was, ironically, automatically granted the rank of officer. He apparently developed an unusual skill in playing chess and delivering babies in the 2 years he was there. He described how he cried as his ship went past the Statue of Liberty as he headed to that Army job in Europe. He truly loved his new country and you could hear it in his concern for her when talking about education or politics.
He said, “I love you” to his work here in Winona by showing his devotion and interest in medicine, the clinic, his colleagues and his patients. I don’t know all the details of his work, but growing up we boys used to hear strange phone conversations at the dinner table consisting of “how far apart are they?” or “how many centimeters is she?”
He was proud to have a great record at tubal reconstruction, or micro-surgery as he called it. I remember him practicing by sewing model airplane gas lines together using his special magnifying glasses. Sounds scary – but apparently it worked. This method made it possible for his grand-daughter Sarah to be here today.
While he delivered 10,000 babies here in Winona, he said “I love you, life!” by using his creative talents every chance he had. During his career he also managed to build a speed boat, design and build a cabin, get a pilots license, learn to play the flute, design and build a sailboat, build several kayaks, build 4 harpsichords, learn to windsurf at age 55, paint numerous oil paintings and water colors, sew many formal dresses, curtains and apholstery for the boat, plane and kitchen chairs.
You might wonder what he didn’t do? He didn’t watch any T.V. for 25 years. He also didn’t change his purple sweater all winter long.
Although he grew up relatively poor, he and his parents did not let their situation hamper their creativity. They allowed Dad and his brothers to build kayaks on their dining room table, melt bicycle tires on the kitchen stove, and sew home-made tents and sails on his mother’s sewing machine. He would then take his creations for weekend trips – sailing and paddling to various locations on Lake Geneva at a very young age – maybe 12?
Dad said “I love you” to his wife and family in many ways. I will always know that he loved my mom by how he called her “Tweet Tweet”. He told me how he had a dream one night that they agreed on a religion and how he wept with joy during the dream. More recently when he was at the Sterling House, he would ask “Where’s Mother?” and be so concerned and wanting to help her when he learned that she had not been well. Their love was not always an emotion, but a commitment – and they kept their family together through many challenging years. This is the best way Dad has said “I love Grandchildren!”
He said “I love you” to his children everyday:
He said, “I love you, Jon” when you took long vacations out west and he risked his life running across the prairies on that wild horse. When he forced you down those whitewater rapids by saying, “You can do it” and you just responded “Oui, Mai! Oui Mai! (Ya, but! Ya, but!). He would get that proud look in his eyes when he talked about your wind-tunnel science fair project and your musical or artistic talent. He loved you when you had to leave home – and he didn’t know where you were.
He said, “I love you, Carol” when he married Mom and YOU. He considers you his own. When he built you your harpsichord and helped pay for it when he realized your babysitting money was going to take you forever. When he grounded you for being 5 minutes late from a date. He bonded with your intelligence, music, and wit.
He said, “I Love you, David” when he marched you down to apologize to that little old lady on Johnson street after you and another 3 or 4 year-old buddy broke all her basement windows with rocks. He loved helping you with your model airplanes and compared you to his watchmaker father – who he respected as a mechanical genius.
He said “I love you, Paul” by allowing you to pursue new hobbies that he had no understanding of – hunting and HAM radios. He helped you, and all of us, with your Algebra by repeating himself over and over, only louder and louder. He loved you so much that he wanted you to have perfect pronunciation in French. Oui? What’s that mountain over there? Mount Blank – no, Mont Blanc!
We all can now remember the many ways that he said “I love you” – I know clearly now. He allowed me to convince him that skateboards weren’t that dangerous – and after that day when he took me to JCPenny’s to buy my first of many skateboards, my childhood was never the same! He accepted me when I came home from college breaks and announced that I didn’t want to go into medicine but rather engineering, then not engineering but rather teaching, then not teaching but art, then… he said “alright, that’s enough horsing around!”
And finally, Dr. Daniel Degallier, my dad, loved God.
Dad was very spiritually minded and sought earnestly for the Truth. When reality and church dogma did not match up, he wasn’t afraid to ask questions, search for answers, or abandon the church altogether. Even after becoming a leader in the Rosicrucian religion for 25 years – he still was open-minded enough to realize that it was not the answer after all.
The answer was much simpler. The simple act of a heavenly father’s love.
Dad loved to research this fact historically, philosophically, scientifically, legally, and in any other discipline.
It is said that our impression of God is directly affected by our experience with our fathers. I am glad to have been affected by my dad – who shaped my view of God. God, like my dad, is someone who loves truth and who’s truth matches reality. Someone who commands respect and requires justice – yet provides grace and mercy. Someone who loves to create and build. Someone who enjoys hard work and believes it is good.
Because I know my dad, I have just a glimpse of what our perfect heavenly Father is like: Someone who loved me so much that he would give his own life for me …
So, although you never may have SAID those words – we heard them in all that you did. You loved God, life, friends, and family – and I have some words for you, Dad: “Thank you”.