My father, William H. (Bill) Satterlee, was 90 years old when he died last week. [January 13, 2013] He started having “spells” and was hospitalized just before Christmas in the southern Missouri town where one of my brothers and his clan live. Dad’s body and mind started shutting down and he never recovered.
I made a point of visiting him in the hospital that first week. It turned out that I was able to share some of his last lucid hours. I arrived in the early evening, shortly after the others had left for the day. I helped him finish eating his supper. We enjoyed several hours of sharing stories and catching up on news. The nurses made up a foldout chair and I stayed with him for the night. I fed Dad breakfast in the morning. He told me how to dilute his Cream of Wheat with milk just right so that I could hold it up while he drank it through a straw.
Bill worked hard and played hard too. He was a quiet and modest man, but his eyes could sparkle with mischief before pulling a surprise. He worked on a railroad bridge crew before going to prison in Fort Leavenworth during World War II as a conscientious objector.Dad married his parole officer’s oldest daughter when he was 30 and quietly devoted his life to our comfort and security. He worked on a Ford assembly line until he was 67 and his late “surprise baby,” our little sister, was married.
I remember watching Dad build our home in Kansas City in the 1950s. He arranged to demolish and remove two older houses and keep the materials. I have vivid memories of watching him pound nails straight and sort them into glass jars. He only owned a trim saw and would cut partway through a 2x4 and turn it over to finish the cut. When he installed hardwood floors in the upstairs bedrooms, he put three finish nails into each joist crossing and explained that, he meant it to last. The house is still the best on that block.
Despite having left school in 8th grade, Bill just seemed to know how to “do stuff” and was generous with his skills. I once overheard two Elders discussing assignments for construction of a new worship house. They wanted Brother Satterlee to do the trim because “when Bill cuts it, it fits.” Dad often took me with him to do volunteer fix-it work – especially for the needy in our congregation. But, while Dad lived a life of brotherhood and faithfulness, he preferred to exercise his spirituality more than to preach it.
Dad loved to travel. He bragged that he had driven on every highway in Colorado. Bill also drove in all 50 states and made twenty-three driving trips from Missouri to Los Angeles, where many relatives had settled. He would plan for two years, anticipating his next big vacation, and then indulge us in adventures such as whitewater rafting and deep-canyon camping.
Dad was never over-proud of his deeds nor over-embarrassed by his indulgences. I recently heard the story that, when Bill was young, his mother told him to eat all of his food before he could have his slice of cherry pie. He told her, “I want to hurry and grow up so that I can eat my pie first.” This explains a lot about his fondness for pie and why he sometimes ate dessert first. Dad made all of life as sweet as he could for himself, his family and anyone else he knew. My wife and I went out after his service and had cherry pie before supper in his honor.