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In Memory of Daniel H. Callahan

Originally published 8 Feb 2014

My father-in-law, Daniel H. Callahan, passed away suddenly last week. He wasn't a descendant of Nicholas Robbins, but he was really good man, so I want to honor him here. His obituary and eulogy, written collaboratively by his children, follow. I'll let the content and prose speak for themselves.

From the Daily Times Obituaries, February 2, 2014

"Daniel H. Callahan, 90, died suddenly at his home in Yeadon, January 29, 2014. Born in Philadelphia to the late Robert A. and Louise Bunting Callahan, Dan was raised in Drexel Hill, spent several years in Lansdowne and eventually settled in Yeadon where he resided the past 60 years. He was a graduate of west Catholic H.S. for Boys, Class of 1941 and St. Joseph's College (now University), Class of 1950 with a degree in Political Science. Dan served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a ball turret gunner in the South Pacific and was part of the post war U.S. occupation in Japan. He was awarded the Purple Heart. He received the Good Conduct Medal, the China Offensive Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 7 Bronze Stars and the World War II Victory Medal. He was a 30 year member of American Legion Post 214 in Upper Darby. Dan was formerly employed by John Hancock Life Insurance Co. for 35 years and served as an officer in the Insurance Workers International Union. More recently he was a courier employed by the William Penn School District. He served in that capacity the past 25 years. Dan was predeceased by his wife the late Frances M. "Nancy" (nee Rosenberg ) Callahan who died in 2001 after 52 years of marriage; his brothers Robert T. and William J. Callahan. Survivors: His loving children Catherine E. (Earl) Pensyl, Daniel H. Callahan, Jr. ; Robert A. (Julie) Callahan, William Callahan, John J. (Joanne) Callahan, Sheila E. (Anthony) Kuders, 8 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren and his sister Winifred Callahan Duffy. Funeral Mass: Monday, 10 a.m., St. Louis Church, Cobbs Creek Pkwy., Yeadon. Visitation: Family and friends may visit Sunday, 2-4 p.m. and Monday 8:30-9:30 a.m., at DOYLE-STONELAKE FUNERAL HOME, 85 E. Baltimore Ave., Lansdowne, PA 19050. Int.: SS Peter & Paul Cemetery."


February 3, 2014

Saint Louis Church, Yeadon, Pennsylvania

"Cathy: I’m speaking here for six of us to tell you about our Dad, Dan Callahan.

He was the second of 4 children and was raised by his father and stepmother during the Great Depression. The family had little income. Dad told of coming home from school and finding out that his trumpet had been sold for dinner. He also told us about the time when he was a child, that the family dog brought home a fully cooked roast. If the dog hadn’t taken care of the family, they would have gone without dinner that night.

He graduated from Saint Andrews Elementary School in Drexel Hill, then went to West Catholic Boys High School and graduated in 1941. He ran with the track team, and participated in the Penn Relays. He did a daily relay from Drexel Hill to West Catholic at 49th and Chestnut Streets. He told of his choice of walking to school or having lunch. He couldn’t afford both, and he said that sometimes he liked to have lunch.

After high school he took a job at Sun Shipyard in Chester, working high up in the air on the riggings and masts.

The 9/11 of his generation was Pearl Harbor day. He remembered right where he was when he heard – playing pinball with some buddies.

He joined the Army Air Corps, rose to the rank of Sergeant, and served in the South Pacific as a ball-turret gunner, and at the end of the war, was an MP in the Japan Occupation. He told us about seeing Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the air, just a few days after the atomic bombs were dropped.

He attended St. Joseph’s College on the GI bill, and graduated with a degree in political science. While still in college, his brother needed an attorney. Dad and his brother Bill met at the lawyer’s home. After a few meetings, Dad asked the attorney if he could ask one of his six daughters out on a date. One thing led to another and he and Nancy married, had six children and were married for 53 years.

Dad had a career selling life insurance for John Hancock. He retired – for about six months. He started driving for William Penn School District; for several years he drove a van full of children enrolled in private schools, and then transferred to the Messenger job. He worked there for 25 years, tentatively planning to retire when he reached age 100.

Those are the bare facts of his day-to-day life. But what is most important to remember about Dad is the PERSON he was, and the legacy he left us through his example.

Dan: We’ll never know why his parents parted ways before he started school. We didn’t even know about his Mother until at least our teens, and that, we heard from our Mother. But we know that he visited her a few times as she aged; he maintained a relationship with her until she died.

He and Mother had a hard life – six children, two with disabilities, and an income that made ends meet but really left little extra. They worked hard together to get us “launched”. And in our Mother’s last years of her life, HE worked hard to take care of her. One of her favorite things to say about him was “he’s one of the good guys”.

He loved his family – all of them – and they loved him. When he took us to visit our cousins, there was a chorus of “Uncle Dan, Uncle Dan” without fail from his many nieces and nephews.

Bob: Honesty was a requirement in our home, and we never saw anything less. He always carried out his promises. He always did what he said he’d do. On time.

He always told us to do things the right way the first time. When he was working for John Hancock there was an investigation into unethical sales practices at his office, his name wasn’t even mentioned. All the agents who had followed his lead stayed out of trouble. He was one for crossing the t’s and dotting the I’s and then going back to make sure they stayed that way.

His colleagues at the school district have told us that Dan was as dependable as the sun – if the sun came up, Dad would be at work that day.

John: When our parents married, Dad joked that when you marry a twin you should get them both. Of course, he didn’t, but in the years since Mother died, he has continued to be a source of support for her twin sister, Eleanor. Dad visited her daily, took her a newspaper, did errands for/with her, took her out to dinner, and generally looked out for her. He became more of a brother to her than a brother-in-law.

He had a special bond with each of his children. He loved us intensely, helped when we needed it. Dad had a way of making each of us feel as though we were the favorite son/daughter.

Sheila: Anyone who knew Dad saw his sense of humor. He was funny but NEVER at the expense of others. He loved telling jokes and he really had a knack for coming up with his own on the spur of the moment. He loved to tell a tale, adding detail by detail, until suddenly you realized it was getting too outlandish to be possible. If you were sharp, you would realize that the truth ended a few sentences ago and the story had evolved into a joke. It was almost impossible to have a conversation with him without laughter being a part of it. He was so quick and he never lost that.

"Live every day and let tomorrow take care of itself, and tomorrow WILL take care of itself".

He said that he had no concerns about growing old. He said “I know it’s going to happen, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I believe in keeping active and interested in life. People are old when they “think” they are old; it’s all in their head, and when a person loses interest in daily life, they lose touch with current events, don’t bother reading newspapers or listening to the news, they’re officially OLD.”

When he had heart surgery at the age of 79, Cathy asked him if he wanted to spend a couple of weeks at a rehab to help him get back on his feet. – “I don’t want to go there with all those old people”.

Even though he was 90, by his own definition he wasn’t old. He was out every day to work; he followed current events and liked to discuss them. He was always engaged.

Cathy: It is still sinking in that he is gone. We hope to meet both our parents in heaven, when we reach eternity ourselves. We miss him already, and are very thankful for all the years we had him here. God blessed us abundantly when He gave us Dan Callahan."

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