It is a privilege to stand here today on behalf of all of Grandpa’s grandchildren, Eve, Ariel, Sara, Corey, Randi, and Sam, and to speak to you about our grandfather. Eve and Sara wish they could have been here, but Eve is ill and Sara is in Israel. While we only knew grandpa for about the last third of his life, we all have many great memories of him, as I’m sure you all do.
We didn’t really know him as the great scientist and engineer that he was; the dashing young man who courted our grandma; or as the father who raised our parents, but we did know him as the caring, innovative and positive man he was. This is what I’ll always remember most about him, and I’m sure everyone here agrees.
Our grandfather had a very easygoing approach to life, but he was never careless. Whenever he undertook any kind of project he’d stick with it, always in his calm, understated, methodical way. At one point he took up yoga, and for many years he continued to stand on his head every day. In fact, one of our earliest memories is of grandpa standing on his head. He was also a swimmer. He was always in the pool, swimming long, calm strokes. Grandpa was always trying to stay active. Even within the last year of his life, he continued to take walks. With his walker in hand, he would walk the hallways of his apartment building. Staying active and fit was important to him.
Grandpa’s calm but rigorous approach to all his activities made him a terrific mentor. He had many students throughout the years, but I like to think, the most important students of all were our parents and us, his grandkids. He helped teach us to swim, dance and drive, did science experiments with us, and showed us the projects he was working on in his workroom. Grandpa was always there to lend an ear or helping hand.
Grandpa never boasted about his professional accomplishments, but we all knew about his work with epoxy. He even had a patent in 1962 for an epoxy resin composition. We, however, mostly remember how he used epoxy around the house, to do things like repairing furniture and fixing our sneakers when the soles tore. Epoxy was Grandpa’s duct tape. Thankfully, Grandpa’s skills with epoxy and tinkering with things will be carried on by Sam, who learned his love for science and innovation from Grandpa.
Grandpa was always eager to learn new things, and even later in life he embraced new technology. After surviving cancer at the age of 80, Corey helped Grandpa set up a website, which he used to share his story and reach out to others in similar situations. His website had thousands of hits, and hundreds of people e-mailed him with their own stories, thanking him for his positive attitude and for letting them know that it was possible to resume a normal life after treatment. One e-mailer who had been diagnosed with cancer wrote that he had been thinking of letting nature take its course, but after hearing Grandpa’s story he had decided to have surgery. Grandpa was eight decades old and he was using the Internet to share with strangers what he’d always shared with those he knew and loved: a wealth of compassion and an upbeat outlook on life even at his hardest.
Grandpa maintained this positive outlook to the very end of his 92 years. He often said, “It’s not easy getting old, but it’s better than the alternative.” He always told us how much he loved us, and according to Grandma, toward the end of his life, he mentioned his grandchildren every day. It’s a tremendous blessing to know that we meant so much to him. Grandpa had so much to give. He had a love for life. He taught his granddaughters how to dance, and always danced at family functions, making sure he had his special moments with all of us.
Grandpa had a huge heart. All of us, Corey, Randi, Sam, Eve, Ariel, and Sara, were lucky to have him as our grandfather, but he also opened his arms and heart as a surrogate grandfather to many others. Seven weeks ago, he became a great-grandfather for the first time, when Eve gave birth to Ayal. We are so happy that Grandpa had a chance to hold his great-grandson Ayal in his arms before he passed away. When he looked into Ayal’s face, Grandpa said, “He has my eyes.” We don’t know what color Ayal’s eyes will turn out to be, but if he inherits some of Grandpa’s many good qualities, we’ll all be proud.
Vincent Sussman Eulogy
March 13, 2012
September 19, 1919 - March 11, 2012
I am very proud to say that I am Vincent Sussman’s son. He was a terrific father grandfather and a new great-grandfather, a loving husband, a loyal friend, and an all-around great man. He was an accomplished scientist, a teacher, and a humanitarian – a true renaissance man. My father was a sailor, a gardener, a not-very-good golfer, a handy-man, a poet and an artist, but most of all he was a family man. He was my father and he is my role model.
My dad lived a long and good life. He liked to say that he was born on 9-19-1919. He lived for almost a century, through a period of great change in the world. When he was born shortly after World War I, cars and airplanes were in their infancy. He lived through two world wars, long periods of peace and prosperity, the rise of terrorism, the Great Depression, the recent Great Recession, and the technological revolution that brought us space travel, personal computers and the internet. Throughout it all, he adapted and grew, and at all times, he remained true to his core principles.
Dad was an accomplished scientist. My kids know that he was a chemist who worked with epoxy plastics. After his retirement, he fixed everything with epoxy. During his career, however, he invented several new uses for this plastic for which he received patents. He was an expert on plastics, with several patents, long before the line in The Graduate – that there was one word for success – Plastics. He also did some of the earliest research on lightweight concrete made with polystyrene resin and epoxy. His work was famous with some scientists inIndia, who saw this material as an inexpensive way to build housing. I remember that he once received a phone call from an Indian scientist who wanted to call the product “Sussman Lightweight Concrete.”
I remember my dad as a teacher. Not only did he teach college courses in Plastics after he retired, but he taught people throughout his life. He taught me to respect other people and be tolerant of others with different opinions, beliefs or backgrounds. He taught me to listen to others to understand their points of view, and to find ways to resolve misunderstandings. He encouraged me to learn as much as I can, and to continue to learn throughout life. When I was a teenager, my dad took a popular course from Dale Carnegie called “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I’ll never forget one of the sayings from that course that my father repeated over and over to me: “Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.” His lesson was that if you have a positive attitude, you can accomplish anything. I believe that this was one of his core beliefs.
Dad was good-natured, easy-going, tolerant, wise, respectful, honest, loyal, loving, caring, considerate, and creative. He wrote poems for almost every important occasion. I’ll never forget the poem that he wrote in honor of Corey’s briss: "Welcome to this World Dear Corey." He wrote, among other things, that the “Ceremony was performed in skillful bliss, but you knew something was amiss, and then the Moyle carved off your sis.” My dad had a great sense of humor.
My dad got along with everyone. He was kind, thoughtful and considerate and treated everyone with respect. Everybody that met and got to know Dad loved and admired him. He was sincerely interested in people and what they had to say. My daughter, Randi, observed just a few days ago that she does not remember him ever raising his voice or arguing with anyone.
My father was a man of his word; he believed people should be responsible and live up to their promises. As far as I know, he never broke a promise to me, except perhaps for one. In the early 1970’s, he promised that he would give me our 1966 Corvair as my first car. He finally sold it when the engine started smoking, so I don’t blame him for not giving it to me.
He was also very brave. When he was eighty, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Instead of giving up, he faced the challenge and wrote a journal of his experiences from the day that he learned that he had cancer through the operation and his recovery. Corey made a website for him and it has been visited by people from as far away as Australia, England and Greece.
As most of you know, the last few years of Dad’s life were difficult both for him and mom. After his stroke, he became weaker and his memory faded. But he never lost his sense of humor or his appreciation of friends and family. He frequently thanked family members for visiting, saying that he loved them. He liked to tell me that when he looked at me, he felt like he was looking in a mirror. I know that he only meant that I looked like he used to look, but in my heart, I want to believe that some of his character and goodness rubbed off on me.