Monday, April 25, 2011

Todd Dupont's Eulogy for Tody Dupont

For those of you unable to attend Tody Dupont's Memorial Service last week, you missed a very heartfelt and heartwarming eulogy given to him by his son, Todd.  Todd did an amazing job of saying goodbye to his father, law partner and friend.  I don't believe I could have done the same thing in his shoes, and I greatly admire him for his delivery of this eulogy:

Thank you all for coming.  And “thank you” First Baptist Church, for allowing us the privilege and honor of being able to formally remember Tody in a place he called home.  I am speaking on behalf of all of our family today. I have written many summations in my legal career.  But, having to prepare a eulogy, a summation, for our father’s–my law partner’s–incredible life has truly been daunting.

The truth of the matter is I have always, secretly, hoped to be able to have a lifetime to draft these words. Yet, God had something else in mind. As one can understand, either through imagination or, worse, experience, the loss of one’s father is traumatic–especially when the death is untimely. As I stand before you, please know that my family and I, like the rest of you here, are stunned by his early departure for Heaven.  We are deeply saddened. Most of all, we are profoundly heartbroken. If I could have but one wish, right now, my wish would be to have him back.

I would hastily arm-wrestle God for him.

Aeschylus wrote: “In our sleep pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” I sure wish I could rush that process.

My father was born on March 4, 1945, in a small Louisiana town, named Plaquemine.  When he was born, Roosevelt was President, Finland had just declared war on Nazi-Germany, and Bing Crosby played on the radio. Bread was 9¢ a loaf, milk 62¢ a gallon, and a gallon of gas cost 21¢–for those that had cars. Money was non-existent, Jim Crow laws were the norm in the deep South, and inequality was the standard operating procedure. There were little chances of success for most people, including my father.
As it was in my father’s case, if you were going to make it, you had to do it on your own.  With your own two hands.  In those times, in that setting, no one gave you anything, unless you earned it.

What the world didn’t really understand at that time, was that this is all the opportunity that a man named Thomas Barker Dupont would ever need. 

The rest is history.

Before I begin, I suspect many of you, like me, might be interested in understanding exactly WHY he was nicknamed Tody?  It’s such an unique, almost obscure, name.  I’ve never met another person named Tody.  Have you?  Many people, who first met him, would need for him to repeat himself, because it such an uncommon name. The true answer is, the jury is still out. Some of his siblings say it was because he was to be nicknamed “Tommy”, but they could only pronounce “Tody.”  Others say it was because, as a child, he had no aversion to picking up toad frogs, and carrying them around.  I’ve always heard he liked to bounce around a lot as a child.   Nevertheless, the name stuck; and as a human, Tody would prove to be as unique as this unusual nickname.

As a child, young adult, and even as a man, I have always remained curious and fascinated by my father.  As a child, I would sneak in to watch him shave.  As I grew older, in the places that I went in life, if someone knew Tody, I would stop what I was doing, and talk to them as long as I could, to fill in the blanks. I would venture to speculate that this phenomenon has happened to all of us here.  Tody had an aura that beamed from him, and that attracted you to him.  No matter your age.  Or gender.  Very few human beings have been blessed with this quality..but Tody was.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Tody had more than his fair share of quirks: he loved burnt bread (because that’s how his mama made it).  He loved to float in water, swim, and scuba dive.  Dad knew where every Ace was in a deck of cards. He was an voracious reader, and loved to go to the movies.  He was easy to buy a gift for because all he ever asked for was movie gift cards.  In fact, he loved to talk on his cell phone in the movie theater, while the movie was playing.  I would call, and he would answer while the movie was playing,  I would immediately hang up, being embarrassed for him! 
 But he didn’t care.  Blissful oblivion, I suppose.    

Tody loved to play Santa Claus, and bring joy to children.  He loved to make children happy.  This tickled his heart, in a way that only matter to him.  Tody loved to dress to the occasion.  You should have seen his closet.  Interestingly, he is largely responsible for my clothing habits–especially in the courtroom–though we do have different taste in shoes and ties.  Tody loved to eat good food, but he literally didn’t know how to boil water.  He never really needed to.  My dad personalized everything.  I have never encountered another man, like my father, who loved to personalize his personal effects.  This might help you understand where this “D” ring came from. 

Regardless, I am sure that my sisters would agree with me when I say that we have always been compelled to please our father.  We wanted his approval.  We wanted his acceptance.  We wanted his smile and nod when we did something that pleased him.
We went out of our way to please him. Yet, Tody also taught us many more important things about life.  Tody’s word, truly, was his bond, and he preferred, if at all possible, to operate on a handshake–even in the age of one-inch thick, small-typed contracts. Tody could be trusted. If he told you he was going to do something, he did it.  Conversely, If he told you he wouldn’t, he didn’t.  It was really that simple for him.  And that was both refreshing and reassuring for the rest of us.  Tody believed in the ballot box.  He fundamentally believed in the democratic process.  In his core.  I suspect he early-voted in every election he has voted in since he was able to vote. Tody was concerned about racism.  Prejudice.  Inequality.  Injustice.
Deep down, Tody was hardwired to fight for the disadvantaged and the weak.  The outnumbered.  This is where he found strength.  Resolve. This is what got him out of bed each morning.

Simply put, Tody loved being a lawyer.  To him, the words “Tody” and “lawyer” are synonymous.  Tody was his profession.  He worked 7 days and week.  He worked in his sleep.   Tody was 100% committed to profession of being a lawyer.  Serving his clients needs.  He was 100% committed to ethics.  Standards.  Professionalism.  In an age where competition in the law is fierce, Tody was old school, by even old school standards.  Dad didn’t know how to use a computer, nor did he really want to.  He hand wrote everything.  If he had it his way, we would all still be using IBM typewriters, white out, and legal-sized carbon paper.  And I still don’t know what this means to this day, and I have worked for the man since I was 15, but every motion or document that he has worked on, he had saved on “tape.”  Tody had a method.  HIS method.  A method that only HE understood, and the rest of us would bang our heads trying to decipher.
God forbid you moved anything in his office.

His office, literally, had stacks and stacks of paperwork...all over the place.  And he, and he alone, knew where it all went.  Tody did not believe in winning at all costs.  Tody believed in winning by outworking his adversary.  Believe me when I tell you, he has won his fair share of cases; and, he also lost many a case–and when he did, he would lose with dignity.  But if you did get lucky to beat dad, I would guarantee that he made you work for it.  Tody wanted to change people’s lives through the law.  He could read a newspaper, and find five different lawsuits waiting to happen, before most people have had their morning coffee.

He saw the world differently than most people.  He saw the world through the lens of a lawyer.  He dreamed bigger than the rest of us.  He thought longer than the rest of us. He fought harder than the rest of us. 

Tody taught me to fundamentally care about being a lawyer, and to pay close attention to the details.  Look for and see the things that are before you, but also look for and find the things that aren’t.  Those are the things that would make the difference. 

I am also proud to say that no matter where I went in life, if I met someone who knew my dad, they always had something nice to say about him.  I can’t count the number of times, after these encounters, that I would swell with pride, knowing I was this man’s son.  I am confident my sisters feel the same way. Even his adversaries liked him.  And he like them–especially if he respected them.

The only way I can attempt to describe what my father was like to us is by comparing him to a safety net.  There was simply no question that if we needed something, or even if we didn’t, he was there.  He was a constant in our lives.  Much like the sun.  Being faced with the fact that the sun will no longer be coming up in our sky is a concept that we can’t comprehend yet.

Even though we are all just at the beginning of the grieving process, my overriding fear is that this will be the one thing that we are all going to miss the most. The world is a better place for Tody Dupont having lived.  Tody Dupont was unique.  One-of-a-kind.  There will never be another like him...not in my life time, and probably not in yours.

Chris Sorenson wrote:  “No one ever really dies as long as they took the time to leave us with fond memories.” Some of you knew Tody personally.  Some in passing.  Other’s may have only heard folklore. Regardless, I think we could all agree that there will never be a human being who knew Tody who will be able to accuse him of failing to do this.
Whether intentional or otherwise, Dad, you planted those seeds in the depths of our subconsciousness when we weren’t even looking.

From this day, this hour, this minute forward, remember Tody the way HE would want you to remember him.
Remember the cases that he won or the cases that he lost, and his vigor to litigate his cases to juries in the courtroom.
Remember his love of politics, civil liberties, and community service.
Remember his compassion for justice, and his remarkable and unselfish generosity towards his fellow man.
Remember his zest for life.
When you leave here, and head back on the road of your own journey through life, and find yourself with a spare minute to think about Tody, pause to think about HIM thinking about his next big lawsuit...his disarrayed files, scribbled notes, newspaper clippings, and yellow legal pads scattered about.
 Think about his disarming charisma, and deceptive charm.
 Think about his affable Cajun accent, peppered throughout his lengthy legal narratives or majestic storytelling.
 Think about him blushing when you complimented him.
 Think about and his infectious laugh.
 Think about his smile.
 This is what he would want you to do for him. At the cost of all that you leave behind, dad, you have achieved immortality. We love you dearly; we will miss you sorely; and, thanks to you, we will never forget you.

Rest in eternal peace, dad.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen this?

Anonymous said...

I haven't ever read such eloquent words - but knowing Todd, I can't say I'm surprised. I never had the opportunity to meet Tody; but his son is a testament to his character.

I am truly sorry for the loss of the Dupont family. And hope that Todd knows that many of us, on both sides of the bar, are thinking about him during this difficult time.