William Glastris

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Bill's Kids: What Kind of Father Was He?

George Glastris
Involved to say the least, but not a hoverer. He was the Dad who made sure we had something to do. If a bunch of families or relatives got together, it was Dad who organized the kids' activities, either a game, or an excursion, just to make sure we had fun.
Paul Glastris

Bill Glastris Sr. and sons at Bill Glastris Jr.'s wedding--known within the family as "the Godfather photo."

May 1, 2016

Paul Glastris
Here's my best answer to this question--written with the help of my brothers more than a decade ago:

Eulogy for William V. Glastris, July 15, 2005, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, St. Louis, MO.

Over the last few days many of you have generously shared with us your thoughts and memories of Dad. It’s been a great comfort, and quite interesting to see the qualities about him that keep coming up. His generosity, his creativity, his good cheer, of course his humor. But if there’s one thing that almost everyone says about Dad is that he was an original--he was one of a kind.

Of course, every human being is unique. But some of us are more unique than others. William V. Glastris, it’s safe to say, was squarely in that “more unique” category.

He had, first of all, a unique kind of humor, a wit that was quick and cutting but never said with meanness. Some people, on first encountering him, were rather taken aback, until they learned that if he kidded you, you knew he loved you, and that the cutting humor was in fact an expression of a deep, almost bottomless kindness.

Dad was kind in his own unique way, too. When out with his friends at “executive lunches” he loved to pick up the check, though he pretended otherwise. He loved to give money to those in need, and when he didn’t have any, he’d give out Courtesy Checks, the trade coupons of his business, which explains why so many of our friends and family wore leather coats from the Leather Coat Warehouse. And he loved to give of his time. To the church, to his community, to the many young people he mentored through internships at his office.

One notable aspect of his generosity was his desire to include people. In any social situation, he would seek out those who were new to the group. As a young man, he didn’t much like to dance, but if he saw a girl whom nobody was dancing with, he’d ask her to dance. He could not bear to see others not included. That sensibility informed not just his personal life, but his politics. Which explains perhaps why he and Mike Fandos, when they were with the Missouri Restaurant Association in 1960, convinced the board to accept racial integration of all the state’s eating establishments.

Like his immigrant parents, he had an adventurous spirit. He served in the South Pacific during World War II, worked at MGM Studios in Hollywood after the war. And like every Greek since Odysseus, the only thing he liked more than traveling was going home.

For Dad, St. Louis was the best possible city, Bess, the greatest wife he could hope for, Greek, the heritage everyone would choose if they could.

The great ancient Greek comic writer Menander, said “he only lives, who in living enjoys life.” Well, Dad really lived. He had a tremendous capacity to extract pleasure out of everything, big and small. He enjoyed a good meal, and in Bess’s home he never got anything else. He enjoyed his children, and especially his grandchildren, who would climb like puppies onto his lap into his big brown chair in the family room, bringing a smile to his face. “Ti hara,” he used to say: “this is joy.”

He was naturally gregarious and loved to work a crowd. He treasured time with his friends, and never knew a stranger.

At the annual Greek festival here at church, he gave himself the job of emptying trash cans--because it needed doing, no one else wanted to do it, and it gave him a chance to move around and socialize. Very Dad.

Part of what made Dad unique was that he didn’t enjoy doing what others had done, or doing what others told him to do. He wanted to carve his own path, be his own boss, create his own thing. It wasn’t enough to teach Sunday school; he had to start with Pete Varvaras a new class, a rap session for teenagers. It wasn’t enough to be in charge of the Greek Independence Day picnic; he had to organize a kid’s kazoo march to the park, and Olympic Games featuring sack races and the three-legged race. It wasn’t enough to be president of his subdivision; he had to organize block parties and a neighborhood golf tournament—events that continue to this day.

Dad was not afraid to try his hand at things he knew nothing about. He was an energetic if unproductive fisherman. He took great joy in speaking bad Greek. He efforts at household repairs were ambitious and wide-ranging, if not always pretty. He liked to do things his way, and he never let the task of reading of directions get in the way of getting the job done. Like his ancient Greek forefathers, Dad believed that the road to the good life was not so much to perfect your human talents but to use as many of them as possible.

Which is not to say that Dad didn’t do a few things very well. For one thing, he was great at his job. He wrote award-winning commercials. He put on the first boat races on the riverfront, the first home and garden show down at Kiel Auditorium, started one of the country’s first barter advertising firms. He liked to make money but that’s not what motivated him.

It was the joy of the job, of doing something new, and doing it right, with integrity. He worked hard for his clients, but had a limited capacity to take much guff from them, and walked away from more than one when asked to do something he thought was wrong. Some might say he was honest to a fault. Maybe. All I know is that we had a father who always told the truth.

He was not afraid to take creative risks, and accepted defeats and mistakes as simply the price of trying something new. His failures never really slowed him down, and his successes were an immense source of satisfaction to him.

But he was great at more than his job. He was great husband, a wonderful uncle, and the greatest father you could ever want. He gave his sons all the love, all the support, all the time, all the freedom, and all the values they needed.

He wasn’t one to lecture. He wouldn’t say “boys, in life you must be honest.” He would just be honest. He wouldn’t say “be generous,” he would just be generous.

He was the most giving man I have ever known. But not the most giving person. That honor goes to my mother, for what she did for my father. Every one of Dad’s doctors has said the same thing. Without her focused, intelligent, loving, and relentless care, we would have lost him a long time ago. Mom, because of you, every one of your grandchildren know their Papou. That’s an immense achievement. If Dad was Odysseus, you are Odysseus’s heroically devoted wife Penelope, and moral guide to us all.

The one thing that both our parents, but especially Dad, did tell us, again and again, was to do in life what you want to do. Choose the work you love, he would say, and your success will follow from that because your real success is happiness. Dad used to say my job is not like a job, but a fun responsibility, like I’m chairman of the senior prom.

And that, perhaps, was his greatest skill of all. He knew how to be happy. So many of us struggle to find happiness. We work at following the advice of the great sages, who tell us that to achieve happiness, we must be kind to others, reach out to those in need, not focus too much on material things, and give love. Dad did not have to push himself to do these things. It’s what he did naturally, and happiness came to him easily. And in his boundless, natural happiness, he made others happy.

Dad was proud not only of being Greek, but of being Corinthian. In church, a smirk of satisfaction would cross his face whenever the epistle reading was from St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. In Paul’s second letter, there’s a famous line: “God loves a cheerful giver.”

That was Dad. A cheerful giver. God will always love him. And so will we. May his memory be eternal.