Richard (Dick) Hassell – Funeral Mass, April 30, 2013 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Funeral Mass – April 30, 2013
Richard (Dick) Hassell has passed from among us, and we survivors cannot reclaim him. He has ceased his life, and both his sons and this parish lack the power to reclaim Dick.
Jeffrey Hassell with his wife Kelly and Garth Hassell have my sympathy, for the father of Jeff and Garth has gone to his eternal reward, and their father can no longer share Christmas or Easter or July Fourth or other important occasions with them. Dick’s younger brother and sister are both in care facilities in the East; neither can journey for the funeral of their brother.
Dick Hassell was born eighty-one years ago in New York. Both his mother and his father died when he was yet a child; an aunt decided that he should enroll at Mount Assumption Institute, a Catholic boarding school under the supervision of nuns. Dick always spoke well of his years in this school, and he appreciated the kindness of the Sisters who labored with the children. It was both a grammar school and a high school, located in Plattsburg, New York, not far from the Canadian Border. Years later, with his son Jeffrey, Dick visited this school that had by then ceased to have boarding children, but the institution retained pictures and rosters from earlier years.
Upon graduation from high school, Dick joined the U.S. Navy as a corpsman, and he was assigned to the Marine Corps. Before long, Dick was serving in the Korean War. There he suffered shrapnel wound in his leg. Even in later years, Dick laughed at himself. He recounted that in Korea, when laying communication wire, an enemy sniper fired at squad members. All of them dove for cover; Dick hit the ground hard, and his helmet crashed down on his head, breaking his nose.
After his war experience, Dick used the GI bill to pay tuition at St. John’s University, New York, where he earned at night a degree in Business Administration. Rather soon, Dick entered the world of advertising, and he worked at several offices before securing an executive position at one. Advertising brought him into close contact with TV shows. He maintained that all, emphasizing all, game shows were rigged.
Having retired from advertising, Dick eventually moved to Bremerton with his son Jeff and daughter-in-law Kelly; finally, he came to this parish, to Saint Cecilia.
Dick Hassell five years ago recounted his volunteer assignments. As Bulletin stuffer, he claimed, a person required the okay both from the pastor and from grandchildren. As part-time instructor at RCIA, he needed an Archdiocesan imprimatur. He claimed that his low vision, or blindness, enabled his luck with traffic as a crossing guard. Other activities paid as well: Confirmation, Head Eucharistic Minister, Altar Server, Sacristan, Usher, Baptismal instructor, attendant in the Parish office, and Eucharistic minister to Catholics at Island Health and Rehab. Besides, he unlocked and locked doors, turned lights off and on, and oversaw the Boy Scout meetings. This list, I believe, is incomplete!
For our Lord Jesus Christ, shortness of life with His disciples hovered over Him like a rain-bringing cloud. He warned Peter that Scribes and Pharisees before long would bring about His crucifixion (Mt. 16:21-23); at the Last Supper, Jesus foretold his death: “I will not be with you much longer”(Jn. 13:33) Even though His demise was ever on the horizon or nearer, how, we ask, did Christ arrange to die a good death? What did Jesus do so that we might term His ending a good death? Can death ever be termed “good”?
Several people, we judge, died a good death. Maximillian Kolbe (1894-1941), a Polish Franciscan, was imprisoned a t the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped, the camp’s Commandant randomly chose ten prisoners to face the firing squad. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a father of a family. So Kolbe died, not by accident nor as passive, but active and choosing.
Edith Stein was born in Poland in 1891 of a devout Jewish family. In her teen years, she lost her Jewish faith and developed an interest in philosophy which she studied under Edmund Husserl, the father of modern phenomenology. Edith Stein was baptized a Catholic on the first day of the year, 1922. She quit her position as Husserl’s learned assistant at the German university. In time, she entered the nunnery, taking the habit of a Carmelite, and expressed her desire to “offer [herself] to the Heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of propitiation for true peace….” She did not flee, even though she recognized the danger. Arrested by the Nazis, she died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz in 1941. Like Kolbe, she did not run from death, but knowingly offered herself as a sacrifice that there might be peace and not war.
These people heard Christ saying: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). No one, of course, seeks death, but neither were they cowardly when death confronted Kolbe or Stein.
I think that Dick Hassell probably knew his time had come, for his eyesight failed, and his hearing was slight, and his mobility was limited by a walker. Release from Vets Hospital required that he have nourishment from a bag and through a tube. Life had become burdensome.
He had a lifetime love of Benediction. He regularly prayed for an hour each week before the Blessed Sacrament. He hung around the Church because he wanted to be here where religion entered the warp and woof of his life. Near the end, I think he imitated the Lord: “Into thy hands, Father, I commend my spirit.” Amen.