My Dad passed away on March 16th and this is the eulogy given by my wife at his funeral. See you on the other side Dad.
Hi. You might be wondering, “ what is this tall white woman doing giving the eulogy for Ulpiano Ranjo?” The short answer is, I’m married to his son, Jeff. The longer answer is, dad asked me to.
It was a privilege for me to call him dad, and I’m honored that he asked me to speak today.
I am a little worried about getting it right. But I’m sure if I don’t get it right, he’ll let me know. Anyone who knew dad knows he had strong opinions about how to do things. You could say he was a perfectionist. He might say he was taking pride in his work. He was good at what he did because he cared so much about getting it right.
All of us benefited from that, whether it was perfectly cut grapefruit at breakfast, the most perfectly steam-cleaned rug ever or a car that he fixed for his kids.
But let’s start at the beginning, because I’m sure that’s where he’d like me to start.
He was born in 1924, almost 83 years ago, in Il locos Norte to Clemente, the town police chief and Barbara Cariaga, a homemaker. He was the youngest, and most beloved boy, pampered in many ways. His family owned land and still hid Spanish doubloons in its rice silo, from the days of the Spanish occupation.
His father, Clemente was an accomplished horseman and gave dad his first horse when he was a young boy. He loved that horse and wanted a beautiful saddle for it. So he traded the horse for the saddle. Then he had a saddle but no horse. He got the horse back eventually, with the help of his dad, but that was just the beginning of his lifelong love affair with horses.
World War II broke out – and his whole world changed. The Japanese invaded the Philippines, and raided villages. Dad was rounded up with other men from his town into a prison camp, but escaped into the jungle. There he became a guerilla fighter, called a bolo-man – named after the type of sword he fought with, since he didn’t have a rifle. Being a guerilla fighter was dangerous, in more ways than one. He was constantly on the run, and living hand to mouth. He caught malaria and had a near death experience in the jungle.
Then the Americans decided to join the war and to fight part of it in the Philippines. And the Americans were recruiting. They wanted dad’s guerilla intelligence and he wanted steady pay, good weapons, and to help them defeat Japan. So he signed up. Then he realized that signing up meant he’d have to get on a big warship and sail away from his family and loved ones. So somewhere between signing up and showing up, he went AWOL. On his first official day in the navy, he was hiding in the jungle.
One of his uncles found him and talked him back into the idea of leaving the guerillas and fighting under the American flag. Military records were recorded by hand in those days, so when he came back, he simply pretended he’d never enlisted before and gave the navy a new birthday – dated three years after his real birthday.
Immediately, his commanding officers noticed that there was something special about “Ranjo” as he was called. He stood out because he was small, but also because he was tough – mentally and physically. Other men on ship learned quickly not to mess with him. But he also stood out because he was such a hard worker – and determined to do his job right. Commanders took notice and requested him as a personal mess steward.
They also rewarded him with special recognition. One of the things he was most proud was a medal and certificate he received from the pentagon for serving the secretary of defense. His commanding officers also rewarded him with kindness.
After he married mom, he was stationed in Washington D.C. for eight months. His admiral saw how lovesick he was and asked “Ranjo, what’s wrong?” Dad explained that the immigration process was very slow and he didn’t know when he’d see mom again because in those days it would have taken at least 6 months more –and a lot of money - to process paperwork to get her out of the Philippines. The admiral sent a special aide to the Philippines and within a week mom was in the United States with dad, beginning a marriage that lasted 54 years and resulted in 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren…so far!
Later, when he was getting ready to retire, his bosses at the pentagon asked him where he’d like to live after retirement. “San Diego,” he said, and he was transferred back to San Diego for his last assignment after 24 years in the navy.
By then he had a large but still young family to support. So he started another career as a janitor for the county. I’m sure that no one has ever waxed a floor so well. He took pride in his work. And after 16 years at that job, he retired again. He spent part of his retirement fishing with his son Larry and going back to the Philippines to see his friends and family there, especially his son Locricio.
Of course, he never retired from “his hobby” as he called it – horses. From the time he was very young, he’d dreamed of being a jockey and even when he was still in the navy he worked a side job riding horses for a horse trainer in Maryland. That’s probably where he discovered the joys of the track, where he could put all of his knowledge of horses into a bet.
For the rest of his life, he went to “school.” He had a whole system for studying and evaluating horses, which he followed rigorously. He had little patience for my school of betting, which was to pick the prettiest horse or the funniest name and bet on that. But whenever I tired of losing – usually about the 5th race -he was happy to give me pointers so that I could leave the track with a little money in my pocket.
He showed his love for his family by doing whatever we asked whenever we asked it. You could call dad at any time of the day and ask for help, and he would be there. Whenever a car broke down, he was there to fix it. He was great with his hands and could fix or build almost anything if he put his mind to it. And he was an amazing chef. Every breakfast, lunch, dinner and barbeque he made was filled with love. He knew what every child, every spouse and every grandchild liked to eat, and if you were at his house, he would make your favorite food specially for you. It was his way of showing his love. And he was happiest when we brought along friends, even if we brought them with no notice. Our friends were his friends. He loved us, so he loved them.
His massive stroke five years ago took many things from him. Up until he was 74, he did pull-ups every day. At 76, he was still riding his bike around the block. After his stroke, he couldn’t talk, move and was completely dependent. Mom took terrific care of him at home. I think he stayed here so long out of love for us all. Although he was sick, he was part of Christine and Rick’s weddings and saw his younger children complete their families.
Even when he was well, he was an emotional man. He would cry when he was happy and cry when he was sad. After he got sick and couldn’t talk, we’d know he could recognize us by his tears or his laughter. We knew he knew what was going on because he’d laugh at our jokes, follow us with his eyes and cry when we left. And he loved all the grand and great-grand babies – he loved the way they would kiss him and hug him, and when they were playing on the rug next to his bed, he would watch them with a smile.
Dad was small in stature, but large in so many other ways. He had a huge heart, passionate opinions, outsized generosity and the best smile. He cared so deeply for his family and friends. Your presence here today is a testament to the goodness of his life and the love he shared with all of us.