By Dr. Randy Arrington –
Children of submarine sailors tell different stories than other kids do. None of our fathers can teach a history class, speculate on a stock, write a song, make Veal Parmesan, sink a hole-in-one, preach the gospel, cut hair, give a tetanus shot, analyze Marxist Theory, or describe the theme of a Hemingway novel.
We tell of fathers who go out on secret submarine patrol, remaining submerged for six months, during which the position of the ship is not known once it leaves the Naval Base. Our fathers sailed underneath the polar ice cap, launched Ballistic Missiles, fired torpedoes, dived down to a few feet above crush depth, and spied on enemy nations.
Your Dads coached football, sold cars, taught mathematics, prosecuted criminals, ran a barbershop, and were real estate tycoons. You don’t like war, or violence, or nuclear tipped torpedoes, or napalm, or depth charges, or cruise missiles.
We were raised by men who made America the most secure nation on earth. We grew up attending Memorial Services for submarine sailors who were lost at sea in ships like Thresher and Scorpion. Your fathers made local communities decent, prosperous, growing and functional. Our fathers made the world safe for democracy.
We have gathered here today to celebrate the remarkable and storied life of John Arrington, who was simply called “Jackie” by his Mother early on in his life that began about 84 years ago in Oklahoma.
Although this day is filled with sorrow, we can take great comfort in knowing that my Dad lived a wonderful life. Always at full speed ahead. Sometimes it seemed like he was running around as if his hair was on fire and his rear end was catching.
John Arrington didn’t know what temperance was, or mediocrity, or where you would go to find these things. As such, his self-esteem was absolutely indisputable, but he wasn’t arrogant or pompous. His was an assured self-confidence, and it was one of his most endearing qualities.
From the first day you met my Dad, you knew you were in the presence of greatness. You quickly realized that his contagious smile could immediately light up any room, rendering even the most stubborn people helpless to defend against his cheerful demeanor and positive attitude.
My Dad adored his wife and cherished his children. He wished everyone could be just like him, a strapping, dark haired, matinee idol. I would bet that he hadn’t spent more than a few thousand dollars in his whole life on a wardrobe, with the possible exception of a closet full of cowboy shirts and Lee jeans.
John Arrington is a true American Hero. His life was filled with the kinds or things that screen writers extol in their scripts, but movie directors can never adequately capture up on the big screen, precisely because it was reality not fantasy.
My Dad served with honor and great distinction for 20 years as a submarine Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy. As a member of our Greatest Generation, he protected America and kept us safe from the numerous threats to national security that existed in the mid 40’s through the mid 60’s. After his military retirement, he worked in the motion picture industry for over 30 years, helping to produce a variety of entertainment that we have all enjoyed on television and in movie theaters.
My remarks here today are intended to paint a snapshot of my Dad’s professional experience. The words have been choreographed so that all of us can derive a sense of what it was like to live the kind of life that he was privileged to lead.
John Arrington was a 20th Century Kerosene Cowboy, riding a bucking bronco in the rodeo of his two chosen professions. But his bronc wasn’t made of hair and hoof. It was made of metal and wires, carbon fiber and glass, torpedoes and missiles, generators and spotlights, cameras and sound stages. And my Dad always rode for the full 8 seconds, every time out of the chute, whether he was submerged in a submarine, or on a movie set in Hollywood.
My Dad was a Submarine Sailor at heart, but he also loved being a motion picture man, and he was exceptionally gifted at both. John Arrington was a man’s man. He lived a great life, always doing what he loved to do. Going out to sea, defending America. Working long hours at the movie studio to finish a film. Spending quality time with family. Joking with friends and coworkers. Every one of us should be so lucky.
Here is how my father appeared to me as a boy. He came from a race of giants, out of a mythical land known as Tulsa. He married the most beautiful girl ever to sashay out of Colombia, Mississippi. There were times when I thought we were being raised by Zeus and Athena.
After work and Happy Hour my father would race his car home to see his wife, children and puppy dog. He would get out of his car, a handsome, hulk of a man, and walk toward his house. His knuckles dragging along the ground, his shoes stepping on and killing small rodents as he ambled toward his home.
Some of the best times were when my Dad grabbed his catcher’s mitt and took my brother and I to the playground for a game of catch. Or when he took out his set of golf clubs, dusted them off then drove us to the local golf course to play 18 holes.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mother took me out to the New London Naval Base where we watched Dad’s submarine sail silently and majestically out of the channel into the dark water of the Atlantic Ocean. We stood not more than thirty feet from the spot where the submarine sailors had barbequed steaks and boiled corn on the cob for a family picnic the week before.
My Dad was always a protector, who would fight for those who couldn’t defend themselves against tyranny both foreign and domestic. I recall when he turned off all of the electricity at Hollywood General Studios until Francis Ford Coppola finally paid every member of the crew who were working on his latest film, and yet hadn’t received a paycheck in over four weeks for their work.
Dad also introduced a new dynamic to LA Dodgers baseball games. John Arrington and his family would always arrive early to Dodger Stadium, where we watched the entire game and then left the ballpark late to avoid freeway traffic.
My Dad’s wit was stunning; His intellect impressive; His humor infectious; His heart massive.
Mom, we all love you and we all love Dad. We will all miss him. We are all better people for having him touch our lives. And, we all look forward to being reunited with him in Heaven.
Dad, you were one helluva good man. I am so honored and proud to be your son.
Ladies and gentlemen please remember to Honor your Dad on Father’s Day. We only have them in our lives for a brief period of time.
Let Freedom Ring.
God Help Us.
Speak the Truth.
Endure the Consequences.
Randy Arrington, PhD
(Modeled after Eulogy for a Fighter Pilot by Pat Conroy)