For those who requested, here is the eulogy from my grandfather's funeral. Colonel John F. Nuding 1923 - 2017
I’m one of Colonel John F. Nuding’s granddaughters. Rumor has it I was supposed to be a boy and was slated to be named John Francis Nuding, III. Fortunately, divine intervention made me Johanna instead.
I have an odd family. And, I guess that makes us normal because most of you probably think your tribe is odd, too. Growing up in a West Texas family, my grandfather, The Colonel, definitely stood out like a sore thumb. He was like a fish out of water on the ranch. Grandaddy Jack would arrive at the ranch house in his pristinely kept luxury sedan, perfectly dressed with not a single hair out of place, sporting his aviator sunglasses and bomber jacket. No matter the occasion, the man carried himself with the swagger of James Bond.
We are all uniquely different, and we each live our lives by a personal code – whether or not we even know to call it that. And that code becomes our character in this game of life. Things constantly happen, situations change, and obstacles come at us seemingly out of nowhere. And most people wake up every day and simply act and react to life that day – like they’re playing a game of checkers. Others plan and strategize and pivot because to them life isn’t a day-to-day activity – it’s a game of chess. And my Granddaddy Jack was a master at the long game.
The desire to win is bred in me so my entire life I’ve studied people. I’ll share with you five qualities I appreciated in Granddaddy Jack that I adopted into my own life and that I hope you’ll reflect in yours to honor his legacy.
1. Pragmatism – Over the course of his life, Jack faced life changing decisions on multiple occasions. While many of us struggle with eliminating bad habits for the betterment of our health, Jack knew no such struggle. When faced with his own mortality watching his father pass away from lung cancer at age 56 he had no problem dropping his own smoking habit cold turkey at age 30. One day I asked him the longest flight he’d ever piloted, and he said 28 hours – flying up and down the Mediterranean coast during the Cold War. “How did you stay awake that long?” I asked him. “A lot of coffee and a lot of cigarettes,” was his reply. I never knew him to smoke my entire life.
After a triple bypass surgery in his early 60’s Jack completely changed his diet and exercise routine and kept it up for as many years as his body was able. If someone could show him the benefits of making the change and it made sense, Jack was open and on board to evolve into a better version of himself.
2. Honesty – Just like Bunny, Grandaddy Jack had no problem telling you the truth. I don’t know if one of them brought this quality out in the other or if candor was inherent in them both. But, my whole life, I never wondered what they were thinking. And, in turn, you never have to wonder what I think if you’re brave enough to ask.
3. Grace – As I mentioned before, Jack was the Zsa Zsa Gabor of country living. Sweet tea? And with ice? These things shouldn’t be mixed in Jack’s world. Offer him anything chicken fried covered in white gravy, and he might tell you. “Thank you, but I can’t. It gives me hives.” He was a master of playfully declining food, customs, music, and conversations that didn’t interest him.
4. Culture – My Granddaddy Jack was a bad ass and had an amazing, adventurous life all over the world. He spoke three languages, played the piano, and appreciated his beer room temperature and of the German variety. He made the best bloody mary on the planet and our family holidays won’t be the same without them.
One of my favorite memories of Jack was getting into his car and listening to the big band tunes come to life as he turned the ignition. As a child, I loved waking up on the weekends with his music piping through the house. I love all kinds of music, but Jack had it right… Big band is still my go-to morning, mood music.
When I was a kid, Jack loved sharing family stories through impromptu slide shows of his and Bunny’s travels and military life with Daddy, Lyn, Doug, and Frank when they were growing up. Those images and the way he and my Bunny lived sparked my fascination with travel and culture.
5. Light-Heartedness – You rarely found the Colonel in a bad mood. He was always quick to tease or tell a joke. I heard this man tell the same jokes my whole life. When I was a teenager, I would roll my eyes and try to stop him. “I know Jack; you’ve told me this one a thousand times.” But he’d tell it anyway. The older I got and the less frequently I was able to spend time with him I grew fond of hearing those old jokes again. I share Jack’s ability to lighten a room, although I try to keep my material fresh so as not to annoy the rest of the family.
Granddaddy Jack led an amazing life with the beautiful bombshell he locked eyes with sitting at a stop light in Lubbock, Texas, 72 years ago. He lived honorably and gave of himself to his family, friends, church, community, and country. He specifically made time for himself, his hobbies, and his health, but always saved room for gin with bitter lemon and Haagen Diaz ice cream.
It doesn’t happen very often for someone to pass from this world with no regrets, but I’m confident The Colonel did just that. If there’s something you want to change about yourself or your life, it’s not too late. It’s never too late. Just channel your inner Colonel and play the long game.
More than anything, today instead of feeling loss and sadness, I encourage you to join me in celebrating a 94-year-old man who won the game of life.