Carl Hull (1922-2000)

My father, Carl Hull died on March 4, 2000. Here are a couple of notes for the benefit of those friends and family who were not able to attend the funeral.

I wrote the following note for the funeral program:

Carl Hull was born in southwest Kansas shortly before the Dust Bowl put that part of the country on (or all over) the map. He had an idyllic childhood of milking cows, distant one-room schoolhouses, and wheat mush three times a day, before moving to the big city and its noisy factories. He worked at Boeing until the very first day he could retire, but made a point never to fly. In 1948-49 he set the course for his life, gaining a wife, a house, and a car, all of which survive him.

Three children followed, and he dragged them all around the country in an endless quest to make sure that all his wife's relatives had properly installed dishwashers. He endlessly built things, or at least patched them up. He had a mechanical genius that amazes and amuses us to this day, but he also set a standard for generosity, honesty, and humbleness that inspires us as we go forward.

Mike Hull wrote and delivered the following eulogy, including some stories written by Kathy Hull:

I was asked to give a tribute to my grandpa, but it didn't look like the funeral home needed a shed out back, so I'm stuck with workds.

I don't think there's good enough words to use. Most of you knew him longer than I did, but I doubt anybody could sum up the effect of his life in these circumstances, in ten minutes.

He touched everybody here in a different way, there's just no way to tell all the stories. If I had to guess, I'd say everybody's favorite story about Carl ends with a laugh. He always smiled when he saw you and had a story or a joke or something positive. He loved to laugh and thinking about his smile is what makes me miss him the most. He had the most ornery smile I've seen.

The natural way to remember and celebrate a life is to tell stories. My grandma keeps talking about how much she enjoyed her marriage. She's told me many times the last couple of years how much grandpa helped her day to day in the house, how much she loved the coffee he made everyday before she got up. I don't think I've seen her do the dishes sine the 80's.

My sister Kirsten said "Grandpa was nice and funny and made everything fun." She also talked about learning to plant vegetables and flowers from grandpa.

Rachel talked about that too, her and I were remembering how we used to dig up potatoes and pick strawberries. His rows of grapevines and tall blackberry bushes.

Rachel also talked about playing pool inthe garage on his makeshift table that folded out of the wall. She remembers other things he made, like his apple picker and golf club scoop and the polished clocks with everybody's pictures in them. But the grand daddy of all his jerry rigged piecemeal inventions is the magic chair still in his room. It has the spring seat, the roped on get-up handle and the sliding trash can. It's not the most beautiful thing you'll ever see, but with the foot stool it works better than any La-Z-Boy and I think it's a fitting tribute.

What I remember most is his patience and generosity. I never saw him get mad at any of the grandkids. I never saw him say a bad word about anybody's food, as long as he got some.

My grandma told me a story recently about some contract work they had done on the house, and Carl refused to pay them until everything was how he wanted it, yelling until he got his way. A few months back he asked me to clean out the gutter around his house. It took 20 minutes to finish the job and get another piece of cake, but he gave me 20 dollars and refused to take it back. I twas comparing the twostories, and realized that that kind of generosity with family is one big lesson I learned from a man who "loaned" me money many times.

My dad told me Carl wasn't sure how he felt when he first heard my mom was pregnant with me. My mom said he didn't want to have anything to do with any of the kids when we were small and fragile, but that by the time we were able to crawl around on the floor we had a constant companion. He used to give Rachel and I little tasks and set us free on something for 2 hours that would take him 10 minutes. We'd inevitably mess it up and he'd give us another task while he fixed the last one.

My dad said he was always impressed with grandpa's ability to name any tree or flower on the block, and point out every bad construction technique on every house during the same walk.

But most of all, everybody talked about his patience.

At this point, I'd like to add some stories written by Kathy.

Dad was a great story teller, and always had a joke on hand. Kathy remembers that he always greeted a fresh snow fall with "If I were younger, it'd be a great day to go rabbit hunting!" Ram remembers a story from Dad's childhood about how one winter day he was walking home from school and saw some younger kids getting ready to go out and play on a frozen-over pond. Dad knew the ice was too thin, and to prove it he walked out on the ice over a shallow area and fell through, just up to his waste (he wasn't stupid). By the time he finished his long walk home, his pants were frozen stiff, so he took them off and stood them in a corner to thaw. What a picture!

Tom remembers trying to convince Dad to fly out east to visit, but he refused to repeatedly. When asked why he didn't trust airplanes, after working at Boeing all those years, he replied simply, "I feel pretty good about my part, but I'm not too sure about the rest of 'em." Still, Steve remembers Dad telling him that a rope is always stronger thana chain, for a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but a rope can have weak strands and still be strong, as all the strands work together to be strong. People are like that too, stronger when they work together and everyone contributes what they can.

Dad lived a life of continuous improvement. Reading did not come easy to him, but was a labor of love. He was held back in school more than once, and remembered with humor a college professor telling him he should go back to kindergarten. But Kathy remembers him sitting of an evening and reading the dictionary and the World Book encyclopedia from A to Z. He was interested in the world at large, and read the newspaper every day, and was a fan of National Geographic magazine. He always had his own opinions and interpretations of what he had read, and freely disagreed with authors on a number of occasions. He gave a lot of thought to the Bible's Book of Revelations, and made numerous sketches and diagrams of his understanding. Dad's father was also deeply moved by Revelations, but Dad had his own ideas, and often considered his father's interpretations to be wrong.

Dad's passion for continuous improvement really came out in his desire to make life better for his family. When Kathy was old enough to need her own bedroom, he build on to the back of the house an extra large room for Tom and Steve, a larger dining room, and a sewing room for Mom with a cedar closet for quilts. Later he converted part of the attic into another bedroom, which was a perfectly private haven for Tom and was later enjoyed by Kathy. He worked tirelessly for months on end helping Steve convert his attic into bedrooms for Mike and Rachel. And he was always working on improvements to Kathy's house, reorganizing the basement, rearranging the fences in the back yard, painting and cleaning. One of the few things he said in his last weeks was, "I'm sorry I can'thelp you out anymore."

For family was the most important part of Dad's life, we always came first. The last thing he said to Kathy was, "How's Ram?"

Tom remembers Dad as being the world's all-time champion at packing. No one could pack a trunk for vacation like Dad could. Tom recalls how on one fateful return from vacation, Mom insisted on stopping to dig up some cactus for a rock garden. The cacti were laid out evenly, by Mom, over the already full trunk contents. Afterwards we were all glad to be back on the road, until a tire blew out during the night. And the spare tire was at the bottom of the trunk, of course. Dad, as usual, insisted on unpacking the trunk, changing the tire and re-packing all by himself with no light. It was obvious later that Dad was angry and in pain from all the cactus sticks, but he never said a word about it.[1]

Kathy remembers Dad helping her move once shortly after Ram was born. She was sure it would take 6 or 7 trips, but with Dad's help it took only four. And the last trip had both her clothes washer and printing press in the back of the '49 Ford, packed neatly around with the last remaining small stuff. Kathy learned some important lessons that day about using straps and levers and how to move heavy objects without hurting yourself. The downside to having Dad's help with moving was that he would never go along with throwing anything away. Every time he helped Kathy move, he always went home with new treasures.

Dad's garage was his most special place. High on the walls, he built a double row of shelves to hold mementos from trips, calendar photos of breathtaking landscapes, and his ever changing collection of flower vases and handbags. The two things he most often bought at nearby garage sales were flower vases and handbags. Dad loved cut flowers from the yard, and would often give away vases full of flowers for special occasions. The handbags were used for tools, being easier to identify, carry and pack than tool boxes. Kathy remembers how delighted he was to find a very special brocade bag of just the right size and shape to put the wood carving tools in that she gave him for one of his birthdays.

Steve remembers Dad as an engineering genius, able to work with electrical wiring, carpentry and especially expert at sheet metal work. He carefully thought out every step from pencil drawings and cardboard patterns to finishing touches. He was a grand master at figuring out the best possible way for things to work, but often told us, "Consider this a prototype. If you can think of a way to make it better, we can modify it. Anything that can be worked can be reworked." Dad was so thorough in his planning that requests for modifications were extremely rare.

Steve remembers Dad as being able to fix just about anything, for friends and neighbors as well as family. His philosophy of repair work was simple: first you clean the thing up really well, then put it back together right and expect it to work. On the rare occasion of having to replace some thing, the old parts entered his collection of salvage materials as fuel for future projects. The old washing machine became a black walnut husker; the old TV cabinet became a writing desk; the neighbor's old window screens became a potting shed; the list goes on.

Finally, Ram is proud to have inherited his Grandpa's socks, because he never knew any other adult who enjoyed playing with his toes as much as Carl.

Carl was most depressed in his later years because he didn't feel like he was useful to the family anymore. He always told me, "I'm just no good any more, boy." The two best people I've ever met are my parents, and last night I heard my dad say he'd never be able to live up the example set by my grandfather. That's what Carl didn't realize: even as he got older and slowed down, even in the hospital and now as we lay him down, he is useful to every one of us for the example he set everyday of his life. Even my children, who he'll never meet, will benefit from his example as part of my personality and that of his whole family. There aren't enough good words to tell all the good in him, but I don't have to because you all knew him. You witnessed it first hand. You all know that the best way to pay tribute to Carl Hull is to be as honest and decent and generous a person as you can be.

Thank you Grandpa,
I love you.

[1] This was Kathy's recollection, but the story was garbled. It took place in southeast Colorado. Mom and Kathy collected the cactus, and put them into the trunk -- violating the cardinal rule that only Dad packs the trunk. After dusk, the tire blew, and Dad had to dig through the trunk to change the tire, inadvertently discovering the cactus. It is not true that he never said a word about it. I've always believed that had he packed the catcus himself, he wouldn't have had the problem.