Farewell to My Dad, The Ultimate Upcycler

My father passed away in mid March, ripping a huge tear in the fabric of my life.

My dad was a true Renaissance man, a walking encyclopedia, utterly brilliant. He was also humble and modest to a fault, the most honest person I’ve ever met.

Most people knew him for his brain: his academic achievements and intellectual pursuits. His articles, publications, students and volunteer work could attest to that. We, who knew him up-close, were also awed by his hands. My father was extremely dexterous: he fixed, built, hammered, screwed, kneaded, cooked, sewed, planted, pruned, hugged. His capable hands could create wonders and fix anything, including broken hearts. 

My dad was an upcycler before upcycling was fashionable. He noticed the potential in everything around him, from a newborn baby to a tiny screw lying on the pavement. My father always picked up things that other people discarded, building himself a workshop stacked floor to ceiling with various kinds of treasures: nails, screws, cords, bulbs and what not. He had vast collections of scrap wood and other materials. When asked what for, he always said he might use them some day, and he often did. Whenever one of us needed anything, we would go to him first. He often had what we were looking for.

A master of improvisation, my dad thought outside the box and gave old objects a new life. On a desert trip when I was little, he dug into clay soil to create a makeshift oven in which we baked Challahs for Shabbat. Another year we were travelling during Hannukah and didn’t have a Menora. He built one out of snail shells. When the elastic on a fitted sheet tore and he didn’t have a needle, he used a hair pin to do the job. He cut tattered pants to give worn books new covers:

When my kids were little, they collected their broken toys in a special box. Whenever grandpa came to visit, he would fix them all. Better yet, he built them beautiful wooden toys from the wood he rescued:

In Hebrew, when a person is talented with their hands, we say he has “golden hands.” My dad had golden hands with a green thumb. He had a magic touch when it came to plants as well. He coerced them to grow from seed, could grow an entire tree from a tiny piece of plant cutting, and could graft. I learned to love nature and all of my gardening skills from him.

My dad is no longer here to fix the huge hole created by his passing, but in the few weeks since his death I became acutely aware of the permanent imprint he left. My father is gone, but his spirit lives on, in me, in my siblings, in our children. His guiding principles, taught by example, will keep showing us the way as we walk the path of life.


10 thoughts on “Farewell to My Dad, The Ultimate Upcycler”

  1. Dear Zwia,
    What a wonderful tribute to your father! He must have been a very special person with unique talents and a big heart! I am so sorry for your loss. Wishing you strength in this hard time, as you hold your memories and experiences with your father close to your heart. ❤️
    Much love, Anna

  2. Zwia, your father was clearly an incredible man. You must have felt so special and lucky to have him as a dad. I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through. Give yourself time, and allow yourself to cry a lot. The pain never truly goes away, but the first year is especially hard. I’m here, if you ever need to talk.

    – Adva

  3. Your father sounds like an extraordinary person. I had been emailing with him through 23andMe where we learned that we shared significant DNA. We have been unable to find the connection but it is clear that there is one. Hearing about him and you, I would like to be related. I live outside of Boston and am your Dad’s age. Do you know anything about his family research? My condolences on the loss of your wonderful father. It sounds like you are carrying on his tradition in your art work. Warm regards, Diane Becker

    1. Dear Diane, Thank you so much for your kind, warm words. They mean a lot. My father was, indeed, a very special person, and I miss him dearly. I knew he was conducting research about the history of our family, but I’m afraid I don’t know the details. He was planning to write things down, but didn’t have a chance to get to it. So much was lost when he passed 🙁 I’m trying my best to carry on his traditions, in more ways than one. I hope I’m doing him justice. Wishing you many more healthy and happy years! Zwia.

  4. Bless you and your family. I know what it is to lose such a person. I hold you and your family in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories of such a wonderful man.

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