The following eulogy was given by Catherine Laden during the funeral of her father Clay Mathile.
Everyone knows Dad loved a good quote, so I feel it is only appropriate to begin with one of his that he used often behind a podium. “A speech should have a good opening and a good closing, and I’ll try to keep them close together”.
I will sincerely try, Dad, but you gave me so much material to work with, it is not an easy task!
My dad personified the Great American dream, and he was so proud of that fact. Born into a family of farmers, his life became an abundant harvest beyond even his greatest dream. And as we all know, he had no little dream!
At heart, though, my dad was a simple man with simple pleasures.
He loved a good book, and if he really loved one, you would ultimately get a copy of it.
He loved meeting for breakfast at Bob Evans. How many of us over the years made that early trek to start the day with a lively discussion over eggs and bacon?
Dad loved to fish. His annual fishing trip to Alaska with “the boys” was always a highlight of his year and stories from those trips remain in the hearts and minds of those who attended.
Dad loved a good basketball game! Some of my fondest memories are watching the NCAA tournament games with him in Florida during spring breaks.
He was an avid Flyers fan and donning his red sweater, was a regular at the home games when he was in town.
And most of all, Dad loved his family. From our family vacations and family reunion weekends to Christmas at the house, birthday parties galore, and Easters in Florida, he was never happier than when he was surrounded by his family.
My father had many great qualities, and one of his greatest was his insatiable curiosity. He was a voracious reader and had a reverence for learning. He never ceased to amaze me with the depth and breadth of his knowledge on a variety of subjects. He would have made a fantastic professor.
But he wasn’t a know it all, even though he may know more about the topic than you did. If he didn’t, he would listen and ask questions, and the next time he saw you, he had done his homework. He loved a good dialogue.
Dad often led with his brilliant mind, but he also had a magnanimous heart that came from his unwavering belief in God. He didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, but rather wove it into the fabric of his life. Dad let his actions speak for themselves.
His generosity goes without saying. Dad willingly gave his time, treasure, talent, and wisdom without expectations of gratitude. Whether it was his countless mentorships or his quest to make Dayton the most livable city in the region, he gave 100% to whatever opportunity came his way.
If you spent enough time with Dad, you would inevitably encounter his “fiery” side. Although he mellowed tremendously over the years, in his younger days, he had been known to slam a few doors and throw a few clubs while playing what we lovingly called “helicopter golf”.
And heaven-forbid he would have to fix something around the house…all of us kids would take cover because none of us wanted to be his “helper”. He would say, “I hope to make enough money one day so I can call someone else to do this!”
After Iams was sold, he intentionally dedicated the next 20 years of his life to strengthening relationships with each of his children, including the “married ins”, who he always treated as his own. He spent countless hours sharing stories, probing our thoughts, supporting our successes and failures, and repairing our hearts. He taught us all that it is never too late.
With his grandchildren, he was gentle and loving. As the kids got older, each of them looked forward to their individual “power lunches” with Pa. No matter how many kids were around, he made it a point to have one on one time with each of them during our family gatherings.
As they grew into adults, he would have ongoing debates with them about current events, challenging them to defend their beliefs while they challenged him to do the same. He told me those conversations made him so proud because even if they always didn’t agree, he respected their thought process and loved their ability to voice their truth.
I need to take a minute and say something about the love of his life, because Mom was Dad’s everything. He not only loved her with all his heart, but Dad also truly respected and admired her. She was the rock that grounded him.
They loved to dance, and I will never forget watching my parents dance for the last time at their 60th anniversary, just one year ago, whispering to each other with tears in their eyes. They looked so happy. United for over 65 years, they were a perfect match, and together, they created magic.
In the final months of his life, we learned so much more about the impact Dad had on individuals he met along his journey. Most surprising were the stories of people who had taken what they learned from him and integrated them into their next jobs, their community work, and their family lives. In one of my last true exchanges with Dad, I told him how proud I was to hear these inspiring stories that recalled his simple acts of kindness. In labored breath, he said, “Now it’s your turn to carry that mantle”. I believe these words are his true legacy to his children and grandchildren.
I’m going to end with some heartfelt quotes that I believe sum up the essence of Clay Mathile.
Tom Rowe, an early Iams employee, recently said, “Never has a man done so much for so many and expected so little in return.”
Another of Dad’s favorite quotes, from philosopher Baruch Spinoza, was, ”All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare”.
Dad, you were excellent, sometimes difficult … and always rare.
While in the hospital in May, Dad said, ”Mary, it’s been a beautiful ride.”
And finally, from my notes on Dad, and I know I’m reflecting the sentiments of all my siblings, I wrote, ”My dad was my hero, not for what he did, but for who he was.”
My father was not a perfect man, but he was a great man, and I am honored and blessed to forever be his daughter.