I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father. I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.
Sunday started out like any other. We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church. It should have felt good but it didn’t. I didn’t feel right. I wasn’t happy to be there. It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off. I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church. He was concerned, but I told him I was okay. I just needed some time. I needed to be.
I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang. It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something. Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello. The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe. Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post. She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it. She said she was honored to have helped him. She talked of his hard work and his compassion. The more she talked the harder I cried. Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.
Donnie opened my eyes. I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked. Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need. If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how. My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine. My dad could fix anything.
On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church. He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw. As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood. “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked. Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed. The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help. Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.
Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him. Someone else donated titanium. Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti. The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.
While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy. I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.