A Derby Winner in Life

Editor’s Note:  My wife Candice wrote and delivered the following eulogy for her father at his funeral at the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord in Dania Beach, Florida on December 30, 2008.

Dr. Andrew C. ColandoMy father – Andrew Charles Colando, Sr. – was born in 1922 in Lodi, NJ to Joseph and Esther Colando.  Pop was the middle son, with Steve his older brother and Joe his younger one.  He was named Andrew after his maternal grandfather as was customary for a second son in an Italian family.  His parents were hard working and he carried with him a love and respect for them throughout his life.

While in high school Pop began to race trotters at Yonker’s Raceway in New York on the weekends and his love affair with horseracing began.  He moved on to thoroughbred racing when his father bought some race horses.

In 1950 he married Irene Holsey and his 58-year love affair with my mother began.  A few years later they moved their young family to Florida seeking a warmer climate, for this young veterinarian didn’t like the cold and did most of his work outside.  This began what our family called “The Great Migration” – Monmouth Park and the Jersey shore in the summers and Gulfstream, Tropical, and Hialeah Parks and Florida in the winters.  It was a good life.

Pop practiced veterinarian medicine through the early 1980s.  Along with my mother, they became serious travelers in his retirement and took off for Europe and South America.  But Pop always had in the back of his mind that he wanted to return to training horses.

So he bought some trotters and began racing at Pompano Park and the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  After just a few years he returned to thoroughbreds, this time as an owner, trainer, and breeder.  This gave him the opportunity to go to the race track each morning and be among friends – some of whom are here today.

These are the facts of Pop’s life.  But there’s so much more.  What I remember as his daughter are the stories and lessons he told over and over again.  I’d like to share just a few of those with you.

Number 1:  Get a good education.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Pop was an Ivy Leaguer.  He was the first in his family to graduate from college and he wanted all three of his children to do the same.  We did, and he was very proud of that. 

 

Second:  Take good care of yourself.  Eat well and don’t skimp on food. 

In his earlier years Pop was a runner and took martial arts classes.  Way before it was fashionable he was a big drinker of water and orange juice, which he called “nature’s medicine.”  He always took exceptional care of his eyes and teeth.  Pop liked good food and was a meat eater.  I can remember as a child getting to the point I didn’t like steak, we had it so often for dinner.  He was not much for sweets, and when he caught me or one of my brothers eating candy he use to tell us “that stuff softens your brain.”

Third:  Work for yourself.  Be your own boss.
While all three of us have owned our own businesses, my brother Andy is the only one who still follows this advice, as a criminal attorney with his own firm.  Pop prided himself on the veterinary practice he had built.  He drew inspiration from his father who ran his own businesses.

Fourth:  Part your hair on the left side.

That was pretty straightforward, and we know of at least one election where that influenced my father’s vote.

 

Fifth:  Look out for those friends you’ve known for a long time and give them a break when they are down on their luck.

Pop taught this lesson more by action than word.  He was fiercely loyal to his race track family, many of whom he had known from the 1950s.  He often was generous with those who needed some money, a mount, or a job.

 

Sixth:  You learn more by listening than speaking.  Speak the truth

Pop would listen and take things in, and then offer his opinion.  Perhaps opinion isn’t quite the right word here.  There were times when we’d say, “You can’t say that!” and he’d say, “Why not?  It’s the truth.”

Finally, Never give up, no matter what.
He used to tell the story about his first day in veterinary school.  The professor said, “Look at the student on your left.  Now, look at the student on your right.  They won’t be here by the end of the semester.”  Pop was determined to make it, and he did, graduating in 1948.  This lesson he taught through his life on the track as well.  In 1950, he trained his father’s horse Uncle Miltie.  He had been the favorite in the months leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  However, after winning the Champagne Stakes he was injured and was never entered in the Derby.  Life magazine had done a big spread on Uncle Miltie, but it was never published.

When Pop went back to racing thoroughbreds in the 1990s, he always was looking towards another Derby contender with each horse he brought up to the track.  He came close a time or two but that didn’t happen for him, although he never quit trying.  If you were at the wake, you might have noticed a blanket of roses over my father’s casket.  That blanket is now here on the front steps.

Pop, you were a derby winner in life.  We love you and we’ll miss you always.

 

Pop with "The Andrews" - Andy Jr., Andrew Brown, and Andy III

Pop with “The Andrews” – Andy Jr., Andrew Brown, and Andy III

The Last Sunday in the Year…A Ritual

In our household (even transplanted to South Florida) there’s a ritual that is as sure as opening presents on Christmas Day:  Andrew and I will read, laugh loudly, and quote liberally for the rest of the day from Dave Barry’s Year in Review.   This ritual drives Claire and Candice up the wall.  Claire just stormed away from the breakfast table as Andrew read,

In non-economic news, a Las Vegas jury convicts O.J. Simpson on 12 counts of being an unbelievable idiot.  He faces more than 60 years in jail, which could end his relentless quest to find the killer of the people he stabbed to death in 1994.

“Stop it,” she cries.  “Dad’s already read it and I don’t care!” but he continues on with,

Meanwhile John McCain, still searching for the perfect running mate, tells his top aides in a conference call that he wants “someone who is capable of filling my shoes.”  Unfortunately, he is speaking into the wrong end of his cellular phone, and his aides think he said “someone who is capable of killing a moose.”  Shortly thereafter McCain stuns the world, and possibly himself, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a no-nonsense hockey mom with roughly 114 children named after random nouns such as “Hamper.”

I understand her pain, but in my family having the father and son read loudly from the newspaper – while cackling at the jokes – is a family tradition.  (Thanks, Dad.)  Candice and Claire  just have the burden of living with two more in the Brown male line.

Laugh out loud today.

More to come…

DJB

A Full Life

My father-in-law, Dr. Andrew Colando, passed away last evening.  All members of his immediate family were with him on the day he died, and he went peacefully after a short illness.

His obituary details the key milestones of his life:  a proud graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; a founding board member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners; a 71-year association with the horse racing business as veterinarian, breeder, trainer, and owner.  He began racing trotters at Yonkers Raceway on the weekends while still in high school and trained Uncle Miltie among other horses in his father’s stable before beginning his equine veterinary practice.

I first met Dr. Colando after he retired from his practice and had returned to the training he loved with his own stable of horses.  Being the first in-law in a New Jersey Italian-Irish family was full of new experiences for a Southern-bred fellow.   I didn’t have the years of experience with family banter that made the dinner table discussions so exciting.  The closest I’d been to riding a horse was on the carousel at the county fair.   But I loved Dr. Colando’s daughter and the family’s love was returned.

Our children – when they came along ten years after we were married – connected to their grandfather in wonderful ways.  Claire has a love for all animals, but with a special affection for horses.  When I’d pick her up from her riding lessons, she would ask for the cell phone and immediately call Pop-Pop to give him a blow-by-blow of her day at the stable.  Andrew loves verbal jousting, and he and his grandparents would go toe-to-toe on political topics and other subjects of the day.  We knew he was a true Colando when earlier this week he came out with a line so skillfully delivered that it made us all roll over with laughter until our eyes watered.

Dr. Colando lived a full life in his 86 years.  He loved his family, his horses, his life-long friends, his cars and his travel to new and interesting places around the world.  We all miss him.

More to come…

DJB

Hope for Passenger Trains?

I love riding trains.  On my business trips between Washington and New York, the train is always my preferred mode of transportation.   So I’m glad to see the pundits like Neal Peirce commenting on the train ride that Obama and Biden are taking to Washington for the Inauguration as a positive metaphor for passenger rail.

Rail enthusiasts, for decades spurned by presidents of both parties, were elated by the news that Barack Obama will travel to Washington for his inauguration by train from Philadelphia.

“The symbolism is magnificent and the message very positive for all of us who for so many years have labored to create a more balanced American transportation system,” said James RePass, president-founder of the National Corridors Initiative that’s pressed since 1989 for upgraded rail passenger service in America.

Rail service is wonderful.  Compared to air travel, getting on a train is about a simple as stepping in  your car.  On a train you can plug in a laptop and work uninterrupted and with sufficient space.   From the first second to the last you can wander the aisles, stretch, or spend the entire trip in the cafe car.  If you want to be quiet you go to the quiet car.   You can look out the window at the right time and you’re likely to see the sunrise or sunset over a river or bay.   And different trains have different personalities.  The Acela is the business persons’ train.   Men and women in suits, lots of corporate conversation, and fast, with only a little bit of difference in time door-to-door when compared with the airline shuttles.  The Metroliner, on the other hand, is slower, sleepier, and more democratic.  I still remember a ride earlier this year when I watched four older African American women, decked out in their Sunday finest including their big hats, having a delightful ride to Philadelphia.  The way they talked and showed affection for one another reminded me of my Grandmother and an earlier era.

Passenger service in this country is in poor shape, however, due to a half-century of disinvestment and outright hostility on the part of policy makers.  I still remember a train ride to Chicago in the 1980s that forced us to endure the summer heat for over 24 hours without air conditioning.  It was hell.  But the return ride, when a local historian joined the train in West Virginia and narrated a fascinating trip through the wild and beautiful New River Valley, was magical and heavenly.

Today’s airline travel is antiseptic at best and de-humanizing at worst.  I can think of one, maybe two, great memories on a plane.  But my first long train trip included a stunning sunset on Lake Ponchartrain, and I have had dozens of wonderful experiences in the 30 years since then.  I hope we are beginning to see a renaissance in train travel in the U.S.  It is about time we became more civilized.

More to come…

DJB

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from More to Come… to all our regular readers and to those who find us by accident on that great information highway.  We’re with family this year, which is always a bonus since we don’ t have immediate family in the Washington area.  The presents are out, the calls from all parts of the country have already started, and we’re working on a great Christmas morning breakfast.

As a Christmas gift, here’s a video of Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe singing one of our favorite seasonal hymns, In the Bleak Midwinter.  Enjoy, and best wishes for the holiday season.

More to come…

DJB

Hot Stove League (Continued)

In an earlier post I got it half right.  Despite a good effort by the Nationals and their owners the Lerners, the big free agent catch Mark Teixeira got away…but to the Evil Empire (a.k.a. New York Yankees) instead of the Boston Red Sox.  With that signing, the Yankees now have the four highest paid players IN BASEBALL HISTORY on their team at one time.  What recession?  Jeez…

But I’m going to take the positive view about this from the Nats perspective.   At least they finally decided to play in the big leagues of free agency, and they went after the right player this time as well.  I think in my heart of hearts I knew the Nats were on the margins in the Teixeira chase even with their strong offers.  But they can’t stop here.  A career 48-59 pitcher with a 5.05 ERA for the Orioles can’t be the big news out of the Hot Stove League for our Nationals.  Fans deserve more than a Triple-A team playing in a major league ballpark.  That’s my Christmas wish (at least as far as baseball is concerned).

More to come…

DJB

16 Wonderful Years

A Saratoga SummerTime passes too quickly.  Sixteen years ago our twins were born and life in our family changed forever.  I have been enriched by their beauty, inquisitiveness, talent, laughter, tears, art, openness, and love.  Having just spent yesterday afternoon with the two of them, I was reminded of why the last 16 years have been such a joy.  I posted three of my favorite pictures from when they were young.

But the day was also a reminder of why we strive to live in the moment.  Long-time friends spent the weekend with us.  We shared stories, jokes, and laughter and made new memories.  We talked about the upcoming birth of their first grandchild.  But as they were leaving, they received news of the death of a dear friend.  At about the same time, an email from work told me that a colleague’s sister had taken a turn for the worse and was very ill.  We also had a lovely visit with a classmate of Andrew and Claire’s who stopped by with her Mom to surprise the twins with 16th birthday presents.  It was a joy to see them, but we learned that their family was suffering from the loss of a job in this economy.  Joy, sorrow, birth, death, perseverance, pain: all are a part of life.  Working to see the good can be difficult.

Remember to live.

More to come…

DJB

P.S. – A true post script.  After writing this, I attended the Forum at the National Cathedral this morning, where actor Martin Rayner (currently starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge in Ford Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol) and John Glavin (a playwright and professor of English at Georgetown University) were speaking on the topic of Exploring Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  To the question of what Dickens’ play had to tell us in 2008, Glavin offered that what Scrooge discovered was that we had to live in the past, present, AND future.  And he is, of course, right.  Living in the present moment doesn’t mean that the past doesn’t have resonance and that the future doesn’t matter.  Too often today we act as if we are all that matters.  But living correctly in the present recognizes that we have a three-dimensional life.

Kanuga Trail 1995

 

Andrew's First Haircut