Ted Killingsworth was born and raised in South Carolina. My father put himself through college at Clemson University and rose to the rank of Captain in the Air Force, serving as a civil engineer in Japan and the Philippines after World War Two.
Dad was a great man. Professionally, he practiced law for over 50 years; he even presented a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ted Killingsworth was an exemplary citizen and wonderful father. Not the warmest guy around (like so many men of his generation), he more than made up for it by being reliable and steady. My father proved to be a shining example of how to live well; he became my moral compass.
My father served the Illinios Bar as Treasurer. He chaired countless church and charitable committees. And he made sure that I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, paying out-of-state tuition for me along the way.
Always strong and self sufficient, it was difficult to watch cancer and Alzheimer’s slowly take away his independence. Dad resented needing a walker for balance. A lifelong golfer, he played until age 88, when he literally could no longer stand over a put. Part of a regular golfing foursome for almost 30 years, his friends literally had to carry him off the course one hot summer day. He never golfed again.
My mother–his first wife–was an alcoholic. She drank more and more as I grew older. Jeannie Killingsworth was a wonderful woman when sober, but she would become distraught and abusive when she drank. Anyone else would have dumped Mom after she started drinking heavily. Yet my father stuck with her–for the sake of me and my sister–for more than 20 years.
Eventually several therapists all agreed that if he didn’t threaten to take the kids away and leave her, she would never stop drinking. The ploy worked. My mother entered rehab for the third and final time when I was in high school. Dad then divorced her, sharing custody of the kids. Unfortunately, Mom developed lung cancer five years later. Even though it was no longer his responsibility, Dad helped me help her during her final days.
Ironically, my father then married another Jean. Her two children, John and Joan, were only a few years younger than I. We developed a bond that remains strong today. Pattie and I love their kids, too. Here’s a group picture of us at my father’s 91st birthday:
Left to right back row: My sister Joan’s son, Tim, Joan,
her husband Tim,Pat, Pattie and Jean
Left to right Bottom row: my brother John, Dad, Tim Jr’s twin brother, Ted,
and my youngest nephew, Grant
Thank God my stepmother was not a drinker. But Jean battled anxiety and OCD demons of her own. Once again, Dad stepped-up and shared what was sometimes a tumultuous life with her, sticking by her and helping to make our blended family work. Jean returned the favor, becoming his full-time caretaker for the past two or three years as his health steadily deteriorated.
I’m so proud of Jean. It wasn’t easy, dedicating every waking hour to my father’s care. I will be eternally grateful to her.
Dad often told us his goal was to live to be 80 years old; his father and mother had died very young. Yet despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer a dozen years ago, he outlived his two brothers, Alan and Leo, too. Dad blew by 80; my father was 91 years old when he died last month.
As his health began to steadily deteriorate, caring for my father became a 24/7 job for Jean, Joan and a host of dedicated in-home healthcare workers. I traveled up to Illinois to help on three different occasions over a ten week period; twice with Pattie.
Losing my father has left a gaping hole in so many people’s lives. But we aren’t alone. I’m sure many of you have lost one or both of your parents, too. And I always find it especially difficult when we lose a fellow member of the multiple myeloma community. My heart goes-out to each and every one of you.
Rest in peace, Dad. You were loved deeply. By any measure you lived a valued and successful life.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat