Eulogy by Beverly Wilkerson 02.06.11
Ed—my dad. A heck of a lover and one cool dude. During the beatnik era, through the hippie years, as a teen, I was never “mortified” by my dad. He was always a beat ahead of the younger generation. His intelligence was overpowering, sometimes even too much for himself. He swore by his Webster’s Collegiate and demanded the rest of the world get with his program. “You don’t know a word? Look it up. In the Webster’s. Or else.” He boasted that the English Language had the precise word for each particular situation, and my dad expected everyone to find that exact fit of a word.
Ed was a social animal. Having grown up with seven siblings, all singers, debaters, intellectuals, educators, humorists, health enthusiasts, musicians and dancers, he knew how to hold court at a party. Life was a party. Life was a sing-along. Life was an argument. Life was to be appreciated and enjoyed and relished. He found joy in eating and preparing food and made it a point to eat his favorite thing first, so therefore he was always eating his “favorite food.”
My father was a lover. He loved women. Thank goodness, because he was surrounded by them. And he never minded: his wife, three daughters, mostly female pets through the years, three granddaughters. There was never a cute waitress or checkout girl who missed his flirtations. But he loved my mother Marj more than the world itself. She was his pearl, his one-of-a-kind precious gem. When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he broke the news to me and broke down. He wept in spasms of tears like I had never seen in him before. When she died, he didn’t know what to do with himself. But he figured out a way.
Edward Phillip. He was always happy to point out that his middle name meant “a lover of horses.” He loved to ride horses as a youth, and when older, go to the racetrack and watch them run, sleek and gorgeous. He’d love to pick his favorites out, and recently told me in intricate detail about having seen Secretariat, live, prancing at the gate. He was convinced he could beat the odds, OTB, online bets. He had a system and up until the end, if only his fingers could have manipulated a computer, he would have finally beat the system. Oh those darn fat thumbs.
Golf. Oh that darn game. He so wanted to break 70. Sundays for me were often special. We had a semi-standing date. He’d take me to the driving range and teach me painstakingly the proper way to drive a ball, to bend my knees, keep my head down, swing my hips like a pendulum, he’s share the physics of the maneuver involved, he’d get scientific on me. I’d get frustrated by too much information, but every now and then, it would register. And I would hit, as he would say, a “beaut.” And he’d say “Wow. Not bad. Now do it again.” Then he would take me next door to Old McDonald’s farm, for a hotdog and root beer, and he’d let me pick out a bag of penny candy from the general store.
The world was my oyster and he was my Prince Charming. Speaking of oysters, he loved those too. Loved Cape Cod, the salt air, the ocean, fishing with his brother Tony, singing and playing "geetar" with his brothers, camping in the wilderness with them. Sunsets, sunrises, the woods, red cardinals on the blossoming dogwood branches, a dry martini, Kinga’s singing a Polish aria. He’d go wherever I was performing, Colorado, Atlantic City, Maine, Cape Cod, Lincoln Center. He devoured music. We grew up with the sounds of Dizzy Gillespie, Mahalia Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Tahitian music, going to live shows, the World’s Fair, Tahitian dancers, beads flying in my face, Tex Ritter, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, Alvin Ailey, he and Marjie piling us into the car in PJs to go to the drive-in to see…what else? Fellini’s 8 ½.
It was a rich life. And yet his favorite quote was, “If I’m so (damn) smart, why ain’t I rich?”My dad had dreams. He wanted to be considered rich, which to him meant he was leaving us a million-dollar home/estate. He wanted to transform his 3-½ acre land into a modified golf course. My daddy succeeded above and beyond his dreams in my eyes. He left me a million-dollar love, his million-dollar smile, eyes that sparkled like the richest of gems, an invaluable legacy of an appreciation of the arts, of the spoken and written word, of philosophy, politics, fire-y debate and discussion, an athleticism and joy of life. I have no doubt he’s already flown his B-25 up into the wild blue yonder, engineered heaven’s golf course, and is lining up his first drive off his tee, with Marjorie waiting for him at the 19th hole, holding out his martini, saying in her mellifluous voice, “Hey, Lover, where’ve ya been?”
OBITUARY from Stamford Advocate
EDWARD P. POLTRACK, 88, a lifelong resident of Stamford, died peacefully, surrounded by his loving daughters, on January 27, 2011, in New Bern, NC. Edward was the youngest child of Emilia and Anthony Poltrack. He was predeceased by his siblings, Adeline, Lillian Janis, Helene Romako, Mary, Henry, Anthony and Francis (who died in battle in Peleliu in WWII), and his wife of 49 years, Marjorie Thorpe Poltrack. Ed served in WWII, as a Captain in the Army Air Corps, flying B-25 Bombers in over 60 missions across the South Pacific. He wrote to his high school sweetheart, Marjorie, nearly every day and married her upon his return from the war. He earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from Yale in 1949 and worked as an engineer at Barnes Engineering and Norden. At Pitney-Bowes, he was involved in the infrared horizon stabilization program for the Mercury Space Capsule and was instrumental in instituting a change from an oil-based procedure to a more environmentally friendly steam-based process. In a brief departure from the engineering world, he and Marj ran a Chicken Delight store in Glenbrook. A lifetime devotee of the arts, Ed acted, directed and was a photographer for the North Country Players and Sterling Barn. This led to his role as the lead detective in Del Tenney's horror classic film, "The Horror of Party Beach," filmed in Stamford. He played the trumpet, guitar, harmonica and sang, was a lover of words, crossword puzzles, golf and horses, and tended to his natural menagerie in his backyard, keeping his birds (and squirrels) well stocked with suet and seed. Ed is survived by his daughters, Barbara Dworak of New Bern, NC, Carolyn Ferguson of Cambridge, MA, and Beverly Wilkerson of Sherman Oaks, CA; his granddaughters, Sarah and Katherine Dworak, and Meredith Wilkerson, and his stepgrandson, Jamie Ferguson. Family and friends may call at the Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home, 2900 Summer St., Stamford, CT, on Sunday, February 6, 2011, from 1-4pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Holy Name of Jesus Church, 4 Pulaski St., Monday, February 7, 2011 at 10am, followed by interment at Queen of Peace Cemetery.
Published in StamfordAdvocate on February 1, 2011