Father’s Day 2014: A Tribute and Two Poems for my Dad

It’s been two years since my Dad went into the presence of the Lord on Father’s Day weekend 2012.  I can think of no better way to honor him this Father’s Day than to repost the tribute I wrote for his Memorial service together with two poems I wrote for him growing up. I hope they help you celebrate and cherish your Father today. 

by Gary David Stratton • Senior Editor

TRIBUTE

Warren Kenneth Stratton

Warren Kenneth Stratton, 78, of Bedford, NH, pioneering aerospace leader who retired to become a pastor to New England’s pastors, died June 15, 2012 after a brief illness.
 Warren was born in Boise, Idaho on December 5, 1933, and married the love of his life, Joan Baker in Richland, WA. They raised four children and have twelve grandchildren.

Warren served in the U.S. Army and graduated from the University of Washington School of Engineering, where he later taught as an adjunct faculty member.

After working on Boeing’s original pre-Sputnik space shuttle program (code-name, “X-20 Dyna-Soar”) in Seattle, WA, Warren moved to Boeing’s Vertol division in Philadelphia, PA. He became one of the world’s leading experts on field safe fiberglass helicopter rotor blade design, and project manager for the iconic twin-rotor Sea Knight Navy and Coast Guard rescue helicopters, responsible for the saving of countless lives.

Later, Joan and Warren moved to Westlake Village / Thousand Oaks, California, where Warren helped spear-head the creation of the Army’s famous Apache attack helicopters for Hughes Aircraft, and later became vice president of Northrop-Grumman’s Newbury Park division responsible for much of the Air Force’s cutting-edge stealth technology.

Clockwise from upper left: X20 'Dyno-Soar' Space Shuttle Prototype, CH46 'Sea Knight', AH64 'Apache,' B2 'Spirit' Stealth Bomber
Clockwise from upper left: X20 ‘Dyno-Soar’ Space Shuttle Prototype, CH46 ‘Sea Knight’ Naval Rescue Helicopter, AH64 ‘Apache Longbow,’ B2 ‘Spirit’ Stealth Bomber

Warren and Joan retired to Bedford, NH, where they became beloved pillars of the Bethany Covenant Church, serving the congregation in numerous capacities. In “retirement” Warren volunteered as a trustee and consultant to numerous churches and ministries. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia, past president of Vision New England and founder of Leadership Transformations at Gordon-Conwell seminary described Warren as “a minister to New England’s ministers.”

Warren will be remembered as a warm and loving husband, father, grandfather, leader, and friend who could always be relied upon for his compassionate listening, straight-shooting advice, and off-beat sense of humor.

 He loved golf, tennis, bridge, chess, photography, poetry, suspense novels, and hard-hitting non-fiction.

A romance of over 60 years

Other than his God, his wife, his family and friends, Warren’s greatest love was spending time at his cabin on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, where he could be found with a fishing pole in hand, a broad grin on his face, and a gentle admonition to always “be safe.”

He was dearly loved and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Family members include his wife of 59 years, Joan (Baker) Stratton of Bedford; two sons, Gary David Stratton and his wife Sue of Hollywood, CA, Scott Stratton and wife Kerstin of Bedford, NH; two daughters, Laurie Stratton Bruns and husband John of Lafayette, CA; Diane Stratton Dunkle of Bedford, NH; as well as his beloved grandchildren—Dan and Leslie Stratton and Christopher and Patrick Dunkle of Bedford; Alex Jones, Melissa, Jessica, and Tylor Bruns of Lafayette, CA and Ashley, Jordan, Joshua, Micaiah Stratton of Hollywood, CA; nephews, nieces, and cousins.

 

POETRY

My Dad loved poetry. Our family often spent Christmas Eve and other family gatherings reading poems aloud to one another. Inspiring and life-affirming poetry to be sure. But also and especially the droll verse and strange rhymes of Ogden Nash, who the New York Times once declared the “the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry” (e.g. ‘If called by a panther / don’t anther.’) ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon‘ was a family favorite, as was ‘The Termite,’ which I cite here in full to give you an idea of what an Ogden Nash (and Warren Stratton) sense of humor sounds like.

The Termite 
by Ogden Nash
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

Twice in my life I tried to capture both the serious and zany side of my Da’s love for verse in a poem of my own. They’ll never make The Norton Anthology of English Literature, but taken together, they make for a very accurate portrayal of my beloved Da. Enjoy!

.

GIANT

(Christmas, my freshman year in college)

If men were giants and giants men,

you would be the smallest of all;

and it would be obvious to all

how insignificant you are.

 

Thieves would be hills;

Murderers, mountains;

And lovers only sand.

The proud would be worlds unto themselves.

And God so small

Even His existence would be doubted.

 

But life is not so.

For the mountains, hills,

And even the sands

Proclaim the greatness of God.

 

So that in this world,

Where so many men try to run my life

by claiming to be great,

My life will never be the same,

because I’ve been touched by the love

of a true giant;

Who in his pretending to be small,

has not fooled me in the least.

 

 

ODE TO AN ENGINEER 

(Christmas, my first year as a father to my own son)

Some boys are raised on Whitman’s verse*

And some on Poe’s refrains.

Some even study Dickinson.

Their lives are “Not In Vain.”

.

Some lads are raised on Browning,**

Still more on Robert Frost.

They take ‘The Road Less Travelled

to keep from getting lost.

.

Some grow up on Kipling,

If‘ they make the grade;

Others aspire to Tennyson

and ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade.’

.

But then most boys are raised by Doctors,

Lawyers, Statesmen, PhD’s

They learn the great and classic works

upon their father’s knees.

.

Some are even raised by Plumbers

who quote Shakespeare in a flash…

.

My father was an Engineer.

He read me Ogden Nash!

.

.

* ‘O Captain! My Captain‘ was one of my Dad’s favorites. No wonder I fell in love with Dead Poets Society.

** Elizabeth Barrett Browning (more than Robert Browning), especially ‘How Do I Love Thee?