Funeral Service for Franklin Lewis Perlmutter
Officiated by Rev. Bryan Sirchio (email@example.com; 608-577-8716)
June 8, 2016
Bryan’s Opening Words:
On behalf of the Perlmutter family, I want to welcome all of you to this gathering to honor, remember, and celebrate the life of Franklin Lewis Perlmutter. My name is Bryan Sirchio, and Fran and I first met when we were both students at the Pingry School in New Jersey. We were 14 years old. Initially, it was our mutual love of sports and music that brought us together. But we quickly became close friends, spent enormous amounts of time together doing most of the things that teenagers tend to do, and started a rock band together—Frank was a good guitarist-- which pretty much took over the Perlmutter basement for a few years. The entire Perlmutter family embraced me with a degree of openness and generosity and hospitality that in retrospect is almost embarrassing—I mean I was probably there way too much—but they never made me feel that way.
I’ll have a bit more to say further on in this service, but just so you understand why I am here in this capacity today, to both Franklin’s and my surprise, I experienced a profound spiritual awakening fo sorts when I was 17—the summer after junior year in high-school. Now Frank never dreamed that his buddy “Sirch” (as he called me) would get all religious on him. But true to Franklin’s form and character, even as a teenager, when I attempted to explain some of my new-found spirituality to him, al he said—in his own words and in his own way—was, “I don’t care what your beliefs are. You’re Sirch to me. You be you. I’ll be me. Don’t try to push anything on me—but hey, I’m happy for you. Good for you.”
Simple, immediate respect and acceptance, even at age 17. That’s who Frank was, even then. And the subject of my religious commitment never came up again… until a few years later. We had both graduated from college. I was in my last semester at Princeton Theological Seminary. Frank was managing a supermarket in Madison , WI of all places. Out of the blue he calls me up and says, “Sirch…I’ve me the one. I’m in love and I’m getting married. Her name is Liz. You’re gonna love her. She’s gorgeous (he actually was a bit more graphic but I’ll spare you that!). But it’s a little bit complicated. He said, “You know my family. I’m a N.J. kid from a strong Jewish family and culture and she’s from a Christian family in a little town way up in northern Wisconsin called Rhinelander. I don’t even know if there’s a Jewish person in that town. And we don’t care—we love each other—that’s all that matters. We’ll work things out. But we were talking—how are we going to find someone to marry us who will understand the complexity and cultural nuances of this situation. And I told Liz, you know what? I know a guy…”
So I was the guy. And 33 years ago—June 18—it was m honor and privilege to officiate at Frank and Liz’s wedding in Rhinelander, WI. And it is my honor and privilege—though admittedly a sad one—to officiate at this service in honor of my dear friend, your friend, your colleague, your boss, your cousin, your uncle, brother-in-law, son-in-law, your brother, your dad, your beloved husband… Franklin Lewis Perlmutter.
Prayer: Out of respect for Franklin, this is not going to be an overtly religious service, because that’s not who Frankline was. But he would want those of us who find strength and meaning in prayer to connect with our deepest Source of comfort—each in our own way. So for those of us who are so inclined, let us pray.
God of all traditions—Source of Love, Truth, beauty, goodness and consolation—we give thanks for the life of Franklin Perlmutter. His kind heart, gentle strength, infectious laughter, brilliance, wisdom, creativity, vision, intelligence, loyalty, generosity of spirit…were blessing to us all. We ask that your Spirit of grace and comfort would be among us now in ways that are heaing and tender and sustaining, especially for those who were closest to Franklin, who were loved most deeply and personally by him, and who are feeling his absence most painfully right now. Be a cool breeze and a breath of fresh air as we celebrate and remember Franklin’s life together now. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Micah 6:8:
God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Those of you who knew Frank well or who read his obituary know how accomplished and successful Frank was. But the text we just heard from the prophet Micah underscores a truth that virtually every major religious or ethical gradation affirms, and that is that when all is said and done, the true measure of a person’s life actually has very little to do with accolades and achievements, or possessions, prestige, and portfolios. Rather, the true measure of a person has more to do with the essence of the person’s character—who the person was. It’s less about whether or not one succeeded in business, and more about how one went about one’s business.
I chose the text from Micah because it’s such a concise and beautiful summary of what life is ultimately about. That test, as Franklin himself often did, cuts through the… you know what.
What’s life about?
Justice; kindness; humility.
Justice has many definitions and can be approached from many different angles. But another word for justice might be “fairness.” Treat people fairly. Don’t always be looking for a self-centered angle or upper hand, or some way to get over on someone else. You can do good—be good—and also do well. Justice means not cutting corners in ways that you know lack integrity. It means delivering on promises. In fact going beyond what’s expected or required. And what happens when you live that way is that people trust you. They will entrust important matters to you—because they know you’ll get the job done, you’ll do what you say you’re going to do, and you’ll do it right—with integrity and dignity and class. And when you live that way you don’t have to spend your life looking over your shoulder or worrying about who or what is going to catch up with you. You’re free. You’ve got nothing to hide.
Frank Perlmutter was a just man. A fair man. Not a perfect man. In fact those of you who really knew him knew that he was delightfully imperfect. But he was a fair man.
And he was a kind man. When someone is grounded and strong and has a healthy sense of self, there’s no need to go around barking all the time and playing tough. You don’t need to waste your energy pushing people around. You can be firm, no nonsense, yet gentle, approachable, understanding, willing to forgive, not hold things against people even when you know you have every right to—you can give people another chance, let people learn from their mistakes.
Ironically, Frank died because of “bad heart” physically. But in this deeper, metaphorical sense, Frank Perlmutter had one of the best hearts I’ve ever known.
And then there’s humility. Humility is not about playing it small. It’s understanding that true greatness is less about looking good, and more about serving the common good. Author C.S. Lewis once wrote, “humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself—less.”
Frank made a lot of things happen. He was no shrinking violet. But he never made them about himself. He didn’t need that. He got more joy our of starting the band and bringing the musicians together than showing off on stage. He brought people together for purposes that were bigger than any one person or group or business. And that’s why people followed his leadership—because his greatest joy was figuring out a way for everyone to make a contribution to something that really mattered.
And I have no doubt that Frank was deeply honored and proud that there’s a “Perlmutter Place.” But I guarantee you that that was not what motivated him to do what he did for this school and this community, with Liz right there with him—they were a team—and also Michael and Andrew and Julia—and so many of you here today.
So in conclusion from me, I once heard it said that if you want to know who someone really is—or was—then look into the eyes and listen to the words of those who knew that person best. And so that’s what we’re going to do for the rest of this service, beginning with Frank’s brother and sister, and then his 3 beloved children. Liz’s sister Jessica will share a reading from Psalm 23, and then a couple of Frank’s closest friends in business and in life will speak.
Bryan’s Benediction: As another great champion who also just passed, Muhammed Ali, once said, “Don’t count the years. Make the years count.”
Thank you Franklin, for making your years count. Our lives have been forever blessed because of the way in which you lived yours. Go in Peace. This service has ended. Amen.
When she went into labor, her husband Frank sent in the sweetest note written in Michaels voice, explaining that he was about to be a big brother and his grandma would pick him up that afternoon. That was my very first interaction with Frank and I will never forget it. His intense excitement and joy over meeting his second child was felt even by the self involved 16 yr old I was at the time. Gramma Harriet picked him up that afternoon and soon there after pulled me in as their babysitter for the next 8 years or so.
I had the true privilege of being a family member. I wasn't really another child, but more like a younger cousin that Frank protected in his own unique, easy going, loving way. I had the experience of witnessing the amazing love Frank had for Liz, and as a teenager going through my own dramas, 😉Frank was always there with a smile, eye roll and "Stephanie he's not worthy of you" And he lived that example with his true love, life partner and wife Liz.
One of Franks favorite stories, with me, that he loved to tell almost every time we were all together was the time I flew over to the vineyard about 48 hrs after meeting my husband in a bar, and I proclaimed emphatically that "I met the man I was going to marry." Frank promptly asked his last name, which I did not know, and in true Frank fashion he laughed hysterically. 5 years later, at our wedding, he said to me with his huge grin, "you were right! You didn't know his last name but you did know you were going to marry him!"
I could write pages on what Frank, Liz, Michael, Andrew and Julia have meant to me and my life.
Franks life, here, was cut way too short suddenly, last Friday, and I have been living in disbelief since.
I have never heard a more beautiful and magnificent tribute to a parent as Michael, Andrew and Julia gave this afternoon. I pray, when you all feel that you can not sleep, can not eat, can not move, cannot breathe, that you feel the loving embrace of your husband, father, brother, son, cousin, uncle, friend and continue on in true Frank fashion of passion, dedication and love for life.
I will forever be grateful to have had Frank in my life. Tomorrow morning, as I turn 41, I will blast 'Hey Nineteen' as he did for me as I pulled up to his house on June 9th, 1994, (my 19th birthday) and smile, knowing his incredible spirit will live on eternally.