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Burying My Father Who Was One of My Biggest Fans

My dad is being buried today in a cemetery in Mishawaka, Indiana. He died from a heart attack in the middle of the night while he was sleeping on November 14. He was fifty-six years-old.

I’ll take a moment to celebrate him, Thomas Gosztola.

He was one of my biggest fans and a few weeks before he died he sent a donation to Firedoglake.

“I know my son Kevin is very appreciative of the opportunity you have given him. He is a relentless worker, and very
passionate about what he covers,” my dad wrote.

He never told me he made the donation. But it did not matter. On Friday, when a colleague, Zach Tomanelli, shared this with me, I felt warm inside.

My dad always asked where I would be traveling to next. He would ask why I was going to New York or DC. Recently, I had traveled to New York to speak on a panel titled, “Dissent Under Surveillance.” He was very glad to hear that I had the opportunity to participate.

He would always ask me how the writing was going, and I would usually tell him everything was going really good. He also would send me articles he found on the internet that related to what he knew I was writing about. For example, on August 22, former congressman Lee Hamilton wrote a column that was syndicated widely, “Why government transparency matters.” He recognized that I wrote about this issue a lot and that I might be able to use it somehow.

When I could make the trip from Chicago to see him where he lived in Elkhart, Indiana, he would sometimes try to understand what I was writing about. I remember a few months ago he asked me to explain to him what happened with Mike Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. I tried to rationalize it as best I could, and I could tell he was wrestling with what all people should wrestle with—the fact that the incident ended with Brown dead after being shot at least six times.

My dad was that kind of person. You could explain something to him that he had never heard about, and his reaction would always be genuine, exactly what he was feeling at the moment.

During my childhood, from the time I was a baby to even when I was ten years-old, he would lie down on the floor in the living room of my house and hold me when I was sick or when we were going to watch a movie.

It is my dad who is responsible for my habit of loving movies and having the urge to watch a movie every few days. By the time I was six or seven years-old, I had learned that I could take the newspaper with the movie times to my dad and convince him that we should go see a movie before the weekend was over. Or, I could always talk him into going to the video store on Friday nights to rent a movie and we would get Chinese food from OG’s restaurant. (He is probably why I love Chinese food.)

My dad loved golfing. One of his favorite movies of all time was Caddyshack, and he would do his best Carl Spackler impression (“He got all of that one!” and “It’s in the hole!”).

There are many business partners, family and friends, who have fond memories playing rounds of golf with him. He was always willing to teach and help others with their golf swing when they were struggling. And I was often trying to ignore the advice because no matter how I tried to parse or incorporate it into what I was doing it did not matter. I would drive the golf ball to the far right into the rough.

But my father taught me how to swing a golf club and I know, as I think of him, that was probably one of the brightest moments of his life.

He loved music, all the classic rock hits. I have all of his record albums, and he listened to some tacky soft rock/pop music from the 1970s. But he also listened to Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Elton John, The Eagles, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, REO Speedwagon, etc.

I made CDs with music on them and, when we would go on rides anywhere, I would try to introduce my dad to new music. I would also find rock music from the 1960s and 1970s that I had discovered and see if he knew the music I was playing.

My dad was also a person who would do just about anything for you if you asked him. I often left my saxophone at home while I was in junior high, which I needed for band class later in the afternoon. I would call him and ask him to bring it to me. Every time, he would leave his work at JPD Controls, where he was one of the owners, and interrupt what he was doing to make sure I had my instrument for class.

Numerous people who liked or loved my father have said they have no words for what happened. There may be no words they can come up with to express their pain and sorrow, but everyone impacted positively who filled the funeral home to pay their respects yesterday had fond memories of him — as a classmate, as a business partner, as a boss, as a neighbor and as a friend.

There was nothing better than standing or sitting at the funeral home and hearing about how my dad was willing to meet with his employees in his office when they needed help. He would talk them through their problems and see what he could do to help them get through their troubles—whether they needed emotional or financial support. He was a kind optimistic person any time you had problems.

My dad remarried nine years ago and had two children. One is six years-old and the other is two years-old. We’re all very sad that they have had to go through this.

Although I will certainly miss him, I had my dad in my life for twenty-six years. I intend to carry on his legacy of kindness and optimism as best I can.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."