Let me open with a confession…on behalf of my dad. While hardly lucid toward the end, I sensed an important message breaking through. He wanted everyone to know…that this service would NOT be the first time his eyes would be closed during church.
His power naps, to be sure, were legendary, and gave special meaning to the term "Blackshaw Nod."
But this was a logical tradeoff of nature. When his eyes were open, no amount of energy, compassion, attention, love and warmth could possibly rival that which emanated from Bill Blackshaw - our father, your friend, Gods humble servant. That's why the website - williamblackshaw.com - is still overflowing with heart-felt testimonials. That's why we're here.
My father was born in 1924 in a town known for its "turning point" role in the American Revolutionary War as well as the slogan "Trenton Makes, the World Takes."
Seen through this lens of industriousness and historical inflection points, his Trentonial character has shined throughout every chapter in his life, and crossed every river of opportunity.
A Catholic in a largely Protestant neighborhood where age-old religious tensions dating back to Martin Luther still simmered, even in his own household, my father quickly developed skills in findings ways to connect and relate to everyone - and always with strong judgment in reserve.
My father was never poor, but like millions of others, the Depression disrupted his world and family in ways he didn't fully concede or admit until his later years.
When the War rolled around, he saw opportunity and upgrade - the ultimate ticket to adventure -- but it came with obvious consequence.
As he told us many times, nearly 10% of his Trenton Catholic classmates, and many neighborhood friends, perished in that "war to end all wars." Till his death he talked reverently of Turk Nolan and other friends from that greatest generation.
From World War II and the highlands of India - where his Air Corp squadron serviced B-25's headed over the so-called "Hump" to China -- came the GI bill and St. Johns University, which opened up a new world to my father: one he embraced with relish, entrepreneurial zeal, and unrivaled creativity.
He rose fast as an "outsider" in a largely insulated, wealth-credentialed, mostly-Protestant advertising industry, powered and insulated by his gift for managing relationships, connecting with everyone, and setting new standards of trust and loyalty.
He abhorred elitism, and he was fond of saying "Never trust a man whose first name sounds like his last."
Of course, lest we over-romanticize his early years, his post-war chapter also came with tradeoffs and excesses…all of which he addressed - with humility and "one day at a time" resolve - in later years.
On this point, it hardly needs to be said that many of us are the beneficiaries of the wisdom, counsel, advice, listening and even occasional hand-holding my father fine tuned in managing his own challenges. In his own imperfections, he was both perfect and infinitely more accessible to us.
As a somewhat overwhelmed father of two - with one more on the way - I still marvel at how my father assumed the near-overnight role of father of four and husband to my beautiful mother. By today's standard, what he accomplished, in partnership with my mother, made flying over the "Hump" seem like a walk to Starbucks. Indeed, I feel selfish and self-absorbed just thinking about it.
Never content with orthodoxy, his practices often bordered on the counter-intuitive. He pushed us to take photographs in the sun - always to breathtaking effect, I might add - and he often tossed early drafts of school essays until we nailed a more provocative and engaging opening hook.
Attention and engagement, he reminded us, is not merely a scarce commodity in advertising, but something we must earn in every pursuit.
On this particular point, my father was not only smart, but he had uncanny emotional intelligence. He penetrated the deeper layers of arrogance, hubris, elitism, even personal insecurity to understand the core emotional drivers of human behavior.
But let's not overstate his expertise. Before the first drop of sweat would break over a question he couldn't answer, he'd punt us to his dearest friend Jim Knowles…or to a friend or colleague in his agency.
The mark of a great man, I believe, is the eagerness with which his friends await their turn to help out. Dad built the world's largest favor bank. That too shines from the website testimonials and letters:
Finally, let me say a word on this beautiful final resting place. We are right smack in the center of the Bill Blackshaw trail, which dad traveled almost daily for nearly 20 years en route to work in Hollywood. All of us relished those great trips to the office, as well as dad's always fascinating - ever engaging -- narratives along the way.
It's also fitting that my father will overlook the temples of creative genius in our world, from Disney's animation studios to Warner Brothers. Or maybe we should put it this way: the studios are in great company, and have a new underground power supply.
And so William Blackshaw makes…the World Takes.
Dad gave us simple, yet timeless, values. He was our rock, our foundation, our listening post, our tear collection agency, our humble chauffeur, and occasionally our pillow.
And oh what a comfortable pillow!
Sleep and dream eternally, Dad. May your beautiful soul bring the same vitality, life, and compassion to heaven that you have blessed us with here!
November 3, 2007