Gary A. Baranyai
1948 – 2014
The following is my eulogy, which was read at my dad's memorial service by one of his best friends, Mike Phillips of the Goon Squad.
Smile • Love is all you need • Without any rain, there would be no rainbows • Nothing will ever replace hard work and perseverance • The toughest enemy we will ever face is ourself (self doubts, lies, untruths, others' opinions, negative self talk, etc) • Never let the fear of striking out keep you from swinging the bat (Babe Ruth) • Smile.
As I struggled with the task of how I would ever find the words to begin this, just like always, Dad was there to help. These are the words and phrases he had written on a single sheet of yellow paper that was sitting on his desk, and on the front and within the margins of one of his daily prayer booklets.
Dad had underlined the words, "Life does not always give us a reason to smile," then drawn an arrow and had handwritten the words, "But if given the opportunity, why not?"
That was Dad. When I close my eyes and think of Dad, hundreds and thousands of amazing memories flash. Every single one of them is GREAT. Every. Single. One. I have thought about so many of those specific memories throughout the past two weeks, but what I keep coming hack to is his awesome smile, and that one-of- a-kind, indescribable, infectious, wonderful Gary Baranyai laugh. I smile and laugh just thinking about his laugh. Dad would often get so tickled about something – often times it was his own silly jokes that no one had a clue what he was actually laughing about, but you couldn't help but get wrapped up in it and just start laughing with him. He's the only man I know who can draw more attention at a comedy show than the comedian on stage – dad would laugh so hard that everyone would look at him!
Life wasn't always easy for my dad, hut he CHOSE to smile and laugh often – AND to pass those smiles and laughter onto others. He ALWAYS gave a smile, a kind word, a hug or a handshake to EVERY ONE he ever met. He always brought joy to those around him. The world was a brighter – and better place – because he was in it. I know one thing for sure, and that is that the world could use a lot more Gary Baranyai's ... but there was only one – and he was perfect.
I watched my dad always work so very hard to give me, Kelly and mom a wonderful life – and that's exactly what it was. We were so lucky. His love for us was unmatched by anything in this world – and it was easy for others to see just how much he loved us. And it was so easy to love him – who didn't love dad? So many people have told me how much they loved him, but rest assured that I loved him the most. From the minute I was born there was such a specialness to our relationship, and a bond that was like no other. He was my best friend, my everything – my soul mate. It didn't matter what we were doing – dad and I always had a blast. But for as much as we both loved to play, dad was also the greatest when it came to the quieter, tougher moments in life. He always knew exactly what to say to make things better. Whenever I felt like life was getting to be too much, all it took was a simple phone call or a hug from dad to make everything right in the world again. He just had that special way about him. And he made everyone around him feel special.
He could also fix ANYTHING. Just give the guy a roll of duct tape and some liquid nails, right dad?!?! He spray painted our little green Volkswagon to save money, salvaged many a science project and constantly played Mr. Fix-It around all of the houses in the family. He was always trying to make things better – whether it be around the house, bandaging a skinned knee or mending a broken heart. Daddy did it all – and he did it in his own special way.
I had a lifetime of special moments with my dad, most recently when he ran me into the finish line at the St. Louis GO Marathon in April (2014). The last half of the marathon I was fighting and pushing through intense knee pain. When I saw dad along the course around mile 20 or 21, he grabbed my hand and said he would walk with me for a bit. When I was ready to run again, we started running together. He said, "I'll just go to the next stop light." But then he went to the next stop light, and the next, and the next! Even though he was always incredibly fit, he hadn't run in years, and the man was wearing blue jeans!! We were having a BLAST. We were running, and he was singing old Marine cadences and pumping his fist in the air shouting "Semper Fi!! Semper Fi!" We were smiling and laughing the whole time – I had long forgotten about any knee pain I was having. We talked about how Baranyai's NEVER give up, and that we may not be the smartest, fastest or beste at anything, but we are always trying our hardest. Dad ran me the entire rest of the way to the finish line, and as we were running, I thought to myself, "This is one of the best moments of my life." I could feel how amazing it was as it was happening. At the finish line, we threw our arms up high, hugged, high-fived and celebrated. It was an incredibly special moment.
He had more strength, determination and perseverance than anyone I know, and he worked so hard. He was one of the kindest, gentlest souls there ever was. He loved skydiving, dancing, collecting model trains, riding in his 1956 Thunderbird and spending time at his little place in the country, which he affectionately dubbed the "Skydance Ranch." Most of all, he just loved being with his family and friends – and we loved it, too.
There's so much more I want to say about dad, but I just don't have the words. Nothing I could write could ever do him justice, so I'll again let him help me speak the words I can't. In the cover of his paperback Bible I found many handwritten notes in my dad's signature scribble. One of them said: "Laughter can cancel a heavy heart!"
Daddy, you were the best dad in the whole world. I''ll love you forever, and I'll always be your little"Girlie Whirlie."
Love forever and always,