I’ve been absent for quite a while. Life happens and honestly, I’ve been overwhelmed since Thanksgiving. Things keep stacking up and on Valentine’s Day one more issue came my way when my dad passed away. This was unexpectedly expected. He hadn’t been doing well for years but we did not expect it to happen now.
In truth, the circumstances of my father’s death, funeral, burial, and final good-bye are a difficult subject for me. From the moment I was told he was gone, my heart ached. So many things lost. So many opportunities missed with no further hope of reconciliation. The chasm life had created was now forever solidified. When I was told that I was not needed (or as I received it, welcomed) to help make the final arrangements for my own father’s funeral, I knew that I needed to do what I and my family needed to say good-bye on my own. It wouldn’t be what others did and it most likely wouldn’t be appreciated or acknowledged by those same people, but it would be meaningful to those I cared about.
We honored my father by showing up to his funeral, although I didn’t feel welcome. We sat through the funeral and the burial trying to be respectful of those who the service had been designed for. My heart hurt at the injustice, however, respect for my father kept the anger at bay and I remained silent. I did what we (my family) needed to do.
Part of that process included me writing a tribute to my dad’s life. I wanted his life shared, the good times, as well as the truthful reality of how my dad lived his life. It was important to me that not only his story be told, but accurate details be given for the future generations.
I have added my tribute to my dad below in hopes that if someone researches his history online they can find it. I don’t feel it is appropriate to submit it to the paper for printing since his current family had an obituary printed in the local paper. I will say that I referenced the official obituary, though I added more detail and consulted my extended family for their input as well.
In Memory of Daniel Jack Converse
Scottsbluff, Nebraska – Daniel Jack Converse, known by most simply as Dan, died at the age of 69 on Friday, February 14, 2020. He was born on October 6, 1950, in Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska to Jack and Dorothy (Sherman) Converse of rural Mitchell, Nebraska. Dan was the second oldest of five children. His mother often commented about how ornery he was as a child, saying that even though she made him sit down, she could tell he was still standing up on the inside. He was known to climb the tallest tree, swinging from its branches, and then yell for his mother to come see his stunts making her cringe with his antics. Dan and his brothers were also known for reinforcing old cars for daring stunts. Whether it was seeing how fast they could turn without rolling the car, driving it off the edge of the irrigation ditch near their house to see how many times it would roll, or daring how fast and how far they could drive in reverse, Dan had a zest for life. Dan attended school in Mitchell and was very active in sports, setting several school records. He drove a black Studebaker that he painted a red heart on the doors of and used black electrical tape to put his dates names in the heart. If the hearts were empty, everyone knew he was available. He graduated from Mitchell High School in 1969. After graduation, Dan left the family farm where he helped his father and brothers plant, harvest, and care for the animals and went to Denver, Colorado, where he attended Western Technical College to become a Certified Mechanic. Daniel Jack married Gloria Chaffin on March 27, 1970, in Holyoke, Colorado. To this union, two daughters (Roxanne and Melanie) were born. In 1972, Daniel Jack was drafted into the army. After basic training, he was sent directly to the Vietnam War as a helicopter crew chief, where he saw active combat. He was stationed for a time at Fort Bragg in North Carolina upon his return. He was awarded a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal, and a Vietnam Campaign Medal for his time of service. Dan was very proud of his service to his country and his part of the Converse legacy. That legacy included having one member of the family serve in each conflict from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. After two years of service, Dan returned to civilian life. Dan lived in many places during the course of his life and held many jobs including Hospital Maintenance, Ranch Hand, Irrigation Specialist, Lake Minatare Water Management, Enterprise Irrigation Ditch Manager, and County Grader Operator to name a few. Dan was very talented in many ways and could fix, wire, weld, and finagle anything into whatever he wanted it to be. He was known for saying, “I can fix anything but a broken heart, and that I can make feel better.” Dan loved his quotes and his stories. One could often hear him saying “I have a one-track mind, and it’s derailed most of the time.” “Be good and have fun, if you can’t do both, make sure you at least have fun.” Or, “No rest for the wicked, and the righteous don’t need any.” He was very proud of the fact that he had memorized the entire poem of “Two Dead Boys” by Tyler Rager, and apparently this was a family thing as many of his brothers remembered at least portions of this poem as well. After the end of his first marriage, Dan married Elaine Houser in 1989. Elaine had two older children (Dan and Brenda). After their marriage, Daniel Jack moved his family from Holyoke, Colorado, back to his roots near Mitchell, Nebraska. This marriage ended in 1994. Dan loved his horses. ‘Dancer Dan’ was his prize stallion, and his dream was to have registered breeding stock with the American Paint Horse Association. Other than being able to ‘jimmy rig’ anything he needed to, Dan also enjoyed stock car racing, motorcycles, softball, football, and camping. In his later years, his mobile home was a source of pride and enjoyment for him. Dan was a member of the Holyoke Lion’s Club, and eventually even served as president. He spent many summer nights at the ball fields either playing in a league or working the concessions stand. He was an EMT for several years and also served on the Enterprise Irrigation board in Scottsbluff. Dan was well known in each community he lived in and was always willing to lend a helping hand. He was generous, charismatic, and loyal. In April of 1997, Dan married Elsie Hendren. Elsie had two children (Dael and Jimmy) that Dan accepted as his own. In his later years, he enjoyed the small farm west of Scottsbluff, where he had many chickens, geese, ducks, kittens and rabbits. He enjoyed having his grandchildren visit. He loved to watch and take pictures of the birds from his big window. Grandpa Dan (Papa) is remembered for his cake and cookie decorating, golf cart rides and mini race track. Daniel Jack is survived by his first wife, Gloria Makey of Gothenburg, Ne; his second wife, Elaine Houser-Hart of Mitchell, Ne; and his current wife of almost 23 years, Elsie Hendren-Converse. Daughters: Roxanne Converse-Whiting of Gothenburg, Ne and Melanie (Marion) Schlatter of Lebanon, Ks; step-daughter Dael Hendren (James Nielsen) of Scottsbluff, Ne. Grandchildren: Kimberly (Alex) Jorgenson of Lincoln, Ne, AJ Whiting of Omaha, Ne, Tyler Whiting of Gothenburg, Ne; Abigail, Nathan, Jonathan, Ethan, Zachary, and Asher Schlatter of Lebanon, Ks; Elsianne and Conlan Nielsen of Scottsbluff, Ne. Brothers: David (Carrie) Converse and Daryl (Patti) Converse of Mitchell, Ne; Sister: Jeanette (Gary) Gorman of Scottsbluff, Ne.; as well as many cousins, nephews, nieces, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Dorothy; his younger brother, Dean Converse; his step-son, Jimmy Hendren; and a granddaughter, Sarah Grace Schlatter. A celebration of Daniel Jack’s life was held on February 28, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. at the St. Francis Episcopal Church in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, followed by the interment of his ashes at the Mitchell City Cemetery north of Mitchell, Nebraska. Dan received a full military burial with the Final Salute given by the Army National Guard and the Gering American Legion Post #36. Arrangements were handled by Bridgman Funeral Home in Scottsbluff and memorials went to the Wounded Warrior Project.
My dad was a good man. He had his flaws and he made mistakes. As do I. That is what humans do. Even with the hurt between us, I love him dearly, respect him as my father, and always wanted to be close to him. I choose to remember my dad in light of the protective caretaker that was so ingrained into him. I know in my heart that he never wanted the hurt that stood between us. Unfortunately, in this world, circumstances and pride often keep us from making the amends that we desperately need. I hope one day I see my dad again with forgiveness and love the only things between us. Until that day …