Fred Funk (1927-2009)

Fred Funk in Top Hat
Fred Funk

Fred was one of the eldest members of the Peoria Poetry Club, both in years and club seniority.  While he didn’t claim to be a poet, he shared his wife’s love of the craft and was the inspiration for, and the subject of, many of her writings.  He added a spark of humor to club meetings, and when members were challenged to record their thoughts on tolerance, Fred came up with the following poem:

(On Toler-ance)

Last month came the challenge, and everyone’s chance,
To write a new poem about taller ants.
Why the subject of ants and their size, I don’t know,
But I’ll give it my best shot, so here I go:

I’ll tell you the story about the night
When things seemed to be going just right,
Until ants invaded our living room
And all ended up meeting their doom.
There they came, marching across the floor,
Twenty or thirty—maybe more.
Out came the sweeper and the Terro, too;
The sweeper got most; the Terro, a few.

Only a few harmless ants, you say,
But they put up a fight every step of the way.
Though they weren’t all the same (some were much smaller ants),
The worst of the lot were the taller ants.

©  2007  Fred L. Funk

During World War II, Fred served aboard a U. S. Naval repair ship, in the Philippines.  Years later, after his war story appeared in the Tazewell County Veterans of World War II, (Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society, 2007), the following haiku surfaced:

sundown at sea
on watch alone
the sound of Taps

©  2008  Fred L. Funk

Next to gardening, Fred’s favorite hobby was world travel with his family: touring Europe in a rented VW; a three-month stint in India, working for Beckman Instruments; a four-month trip to Australia, with stopovers in Tahiti, New Zealand, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Hawaii; and another six-week trip to Australia, for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
A steamfitter by trade, Fred was actually a jack of all trades. While he claimed to have little talent for anything, he had a head full of knowledge and common sense that gave him an uncanny knack for figuring out how mechanical things worked, and he loved being faced with the challenge of identifying mysterious tools and gadgets.

In 2007, Fred’s foremost thoughts about his childhood during the Great Depression became the inspiration for a small book called Return to Erie Street. Following is an excerpt from his book:

“While Mom worked at keeping things together, Dad literally tore our 1923 Dodge Sedan apart—but not before it served as a “getaway” car. I was with Dad and Mom’s brother Tom…the night they backed the old Dodge down Erie Street to the railroad tracks, close to where the neighbor’s patch of navy beans lay ready for harvest. By light of the autumn moon, Dad and Uncle Tom jumped out of the car, pulled the beans—plants and all—and tossed them into the back seat with me. Then off we went, with me sitting on top of the heap.

Early the next morning, there was a knock at the door. It was the neighbor, come to tell Dad the distressing news. “Sam,” he said, “some dirty so-and-so stole every one of my beans last night.” If he detected the aroma of navy beans cooking at that very moment, he didn’t let on.”