My father, John Arnold LaPierre was born on September 24, 1951, and he passed away on May 2, 2021. This is the eulogy I shared at his Celebration of Life at Woodland Christian Church on May 15, 2021. If you’d like to watch the full service, you can do so here.
Table of Contents
- John LaPierre’s Obituary
- Notes for John LaPierre’s Eulogy
- Favorite memories about John LaPierre
- Things to give thanks for…
- Things I’m thankful I did for John LaPierre…
John LaPierre’s Obituary
John LaPierre was born in Plattsburgh, New York on September 24, 1951. He attended St. Joseph Catholic School through the 8th grade and then transferred to Dannemora High School where he graduated June 1969. John was active in sports, playing basketball, baseball, and soccer in high school. He attended Cortland State University for three years majoring in physical education. John and Donna were married on February 2, 1974 in Dannemora, New York. John started working for the Department of Corrections in Dannemora in 1973 until May 1979 when he, Donna, and Scott (born in 1978) moved to California. John continued working for the Department of Corrections until retiring in April 2007. John’s second son, Jason, was born in 1979. John enjoyed coaching and watching his sons participate in various sports. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping with his family, and then golf during retirement.
John became a Christian in 2008 and his son, Scott, baptized him soon after. When Scott took the pastorate of Woodland Christian Church in 2010, John and Donna followed him to Washington, where John also served as a deacon at his son’s church. Shortly after John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, it progressed slowly, so he was able to enjoy many years with family and friends. In January of 2017 John was diagnosed with throat and lymph node cancer. He went through 37 radiation treatments which successfully treated the cancer. Even when John couldn’t remember the names of his grandchildren they still brought him great joy whenever he saw them. They were certainly the light of his life. John was predeceased by his father, mother, and son, Jason.
Notes for John LaPierre’s Eulogy
I thought I would begin by sharing some of my favorite memories about my dad…
Favorite memories about John LaPierre
Treehouse and importance of family
I spent most of my young life in MacArthur, which is in the mountains of northern California. That’s also where Katie grew up, and where her parents still live. It’s very rural. We couldn’t see any of our neighbors through all the thick trees.
One day Dad took Jason and I into the woods behind our house. He said, “This is where I want to build you a treehouse.” It was pretty neat: completely enclosed with a nice roof, a trapdoor to enter it from the bottom after climbing up a ladder, and a sliding window.
After Dad finished it he wanted all of us ,Dad, Mom, Jason and Ito spend the night in it. The floor of the treehouse was plywood, and we slept in sleeping bags. This made for a long, uncomfortable night. The treehouse was good size, but with the four of us rolling over and bumping each other, I don’t think we slept very much.
But it was a nice, fun time that I still remember.
I also mention this memory because it reveals something about Dad that stands out in my mind: he really wanted us to spend time together as a family. I remember growing up knowing family was important, and there was little Dad and Mom wouldn’t do for us.
Most of you have seen how that pattern continue through my adulthood with my parents following us from Northern California down to central California, which is where we were before moving here, and then up to Woodland.
Working hard to care for our family
Something else I remember about Dad is he was very hard-working. People can show their love for others in many ways, and Dad has never talked much, but he showed his love and concern for his family by the way he provided for us.
When I grew up the phrase, “double shift,” was common. Dad was always working double shifts: two eight hour shifts back-to-back. He would drive home, sleep a few hours, and then head back to work.
I played sports throughout school, and Dad made it a point to watch all my events. Because we lived in such a rural area that meant driving all over Northern California, two or three hours to different games and tournaments.
Dad was such a hard worker that it seemed like even when he wasn’t at work, if he was home, he was working. Because we lived in the mountains there were always things to do around our house, and Dad always expected us to be out there with him on the weekends during the school year, and then during the week throughout the summer.
My parents grew up in upstate New York. I heard stories about my dad working on his uncle’s dairy farm, and how he thought it was the greatest thing. The summer after eighth grade I flew to New York and worked on that same dairy farm. Let’s just say I didn’t think it was the greatest thing.
Even though I hated it, there was something special about being someplace my dad had spent so much time when he was my age. I got to hear stories about my dad from people who knew him when he was young.
I would encourage all young people, if you have the opportunity, to visit places or people that were familiar to your parents. It will give you insight into their lives that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
A faithful, loving husband
Next thing worth sharing about Dad is he really cared for Mom. He was a faithful husband. I told you my parents grew up in New York, but we grew up in Northern California. So how do we get from New York to California? My Mom’s parents my Memere and Pepere – moved to California for a job in construction. Then my parents followed them.
I remember one time I asked Dad, “You and Mom had spent your lives in New York. All of your family and friends were there, except for Mom’s parents. Why did you leave everyone and everything to move out to be near Mom’s parents?”
I still remember Dad said, “Because I love your mom.”
If I had to say what I’m most thankful for about Dad it’s this…
He pointed me toward God as early as I can remember. I grew up knowing there was a God:
- He created me
- He loved me
- Someday I would stand before Him and give an account of my life
I remember many evenings as a family kneeling down in the living room to pray. I didn’t know what a spiritual leader was at the time, but I look back and recognize that’s what Dad was trying to be for our family.
One of my other favorite memories about Dad comes from the end of his life when things were the worst for him…
He would walk off regularly. It was common to see Mom and Dad walking past our house two or three times per day.
Dad would take three things with him: his toothbrush, his razor, and his Bible.
What more could a man need? 🙂
I feel blessed that Dad clearly saw his Bible as one of his essentials.
Things to give thanks for…
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Giving thanks in all circumstances isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when we unexpectedly lost a loved one, but it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.
As I tried to do this after Dad’s passing, I found there were many things to give thanks for, and I would like to share them with you…
Recently repeated many blessings with Dad
First, the weekend before Dad passed, we were in California. That alone is something to be thankful for: this didn’t happen when we were in California and I wasn’t able to be with Mom.
But the other thing I’m thankful for is this…
We were visiting our previous church that my parents had attended with us. There were many people who loved Dad and Mom, knew Dad had Alzheimer’s, and kept asking how he was doing.
I felt like God had been so good to us that it would almost be dishonorable to talk about Dad declining without also talking about the many blessings we received. So I wouldn’t answer people’s questions without first telling them about the ways God had blessed us, such as:
- My parents living near us
- My parents having so many wonderful friends in the church
- The church being so good to my parents
- My parents being around their grandchildren so often
I kept repeating these blessings to people every time they asked how Dad was doing, so they really became cemented in my mind.
I had no idea at that time that within a week Dad would pass away. But I had recited these blessings so many times they were memorized.
So interestingly when Dad passed away, I kept thinking about the blessings I had shared with others, but now I was sharing them with myself…and it was really causing me to be thankful and appreciate how much God had done for us.
Dad was able to pass with dignity
Second, when people have Alzheimer’s they can get pretty bad at the end. We were noticing things speeding up with Dad over the last few months, but before things got any worse, I feel like God let Dad go with dignity.
Jim and Vicki were with us the night Dad passed. They did a good job just being there not saying anything.
When we got the news that Dad didn’t make it, Jim gave Mom a hug, and he said, “He’s free.”
I thought that was a good way to describe what had taken place.
There is a verse that kept coming to mind for me. The context is there was a man who was heavily oppressed. Jesus delivered him, and then Mark 5:15 says…
They saw the man Jesus had delivered, sitting there, CLOTHED AND IN HIS RIGHT MIND.
Now Dad is free. He will be clothed in his glorified body and he is in his right mind.
We were given many good years with Dad
Third, my dad’s dad ,my Pepere ,had Alzheimer’s and he passed away within a few years of his diagnosis.
The average length people live with Alzheimer’s is 3 to 11 years. Dad was diagnosed in 2011 which put him at the very upper end, and God graciously allowed most of those years to be very good.
When Dad was diagnosed in 2011 we prayed for him many times as a family. I think most nights at least one of our kids prayed for him. If you attend evening service or a home fellowship with us, you know that Charis and Chloe have been very faithful to pray for Dad.
The prayer was that we would have a lot of good, quality time with Dad, versus lots of years of poor time with him. What we were really asking for was for things to be good as long as possible and then quick at the end. We feel like that’s what God allowed us to have.
Fourth, our last day with Dad was wonderful…
We went to church together in the morning. We were going to have someone over, but it didn’t work out, so Katie decided to have my parents over. We had a nice meal with them that included Dad being able to hold Lydia, something he hadn’t really been able to do, because we weren’t sure if it was a good idea. But we were at the table eating together and she crawled over to him and he got to hold her with all of us.
Then we went to evening service together.
It was really a perfect day with much of it being spent with my parents and in the house of the Lord. I couldn’t ask for a better final day with Dad.
We were blessed with a wonderful church family
Fifth, I feel like God really blessed us with a wonderful church family.
Thank you for loving my parents.
I have realized that one of the best gifts you can give people is to love the people they love. That’s a wonderful gift that so many of you gave me by loving my dad. I wouldn’t want to go through all of this with any other church family.
Here are just a few examples I think of:
- I think of Allan and Kandie Schmitz playing dominoes with my parents, and then no longer keeping score when it confused Dad.
- I think of Ben Sours walking up to my dad, shaking his hand, calling him by name, and simply asking him how he’s doing.
- I think of my parents’ Thursday night home fellowship that always involved Dad and was patient with him.
- Dad’s quietness was even more pronounced over the last couple years, but he still liked to be included. I think about Randy, Steve, Mike, and Ed looking at Dad, talking directly to him, and always trying to make him feel like part of the conversation.
- We didn’t want to put Dad in a home, but we knew Mom couldn’t take care of him by herself. I think of the way Kimberly cared for him.
Things I’m thankful I did for John LaPierre…
Finally, there are three things I did that I’m thankful for that I would like to share with you.
First, let me be clear I’m not a perfect son. I don’t share these things to get you to think more of me than you should. They are simply things that I’m glad I did that I want to pass along in the hope that some of you might do the same so you can have the same thankfulness later.
I took CPR training
First, I took the CPR class that Sterling taught. I have already used it once. Pastor Nathan, who took it with me, has used it twice.
Obviously, the CPR class did not allow me to save my dad, but it has given me peace that I would not have had otherwise. If I had arrived when Mom called and I didn’t know CPR, and Dad passed away I can’t imagine the guilt I might’ve experienced wondering if I could have done more.
I would highly encourage you to take CPR.
Also, that last night:
- Our neighbor across the street is Officer Keller and we consider him a family friend. Out of all the first responders God could have had on call that night he was able to come. He would see my parents regularly walk by his house and they would visit. He was so kind and caring and even checked in on Mom bringing her flowers a few days later.
- Pastor Nathan followed me to Mom’s and he was able to alternate performing CPR with me, he and was there to be my pastor that night. I am so thankful that God has brought Nathan AND Jill here for such a time as this.
I told my dad I loved him many times
Second, I told my dad many times that I loved him. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if he understood me or knew what I was saying, so I would tell him again.
Mom had surgery a few months ago. She spent the night in the hospital, so I stayed at their house to spend the night with Dad. I got to help him put on his pajamas and then get into bed. When he was lying down I got to take out his hearing aids, tuck him in, and give him a kiss good night like I get to do with my own children.
I looked him in the eyes and said, “Dad I love you so much. Do you know that I love you so much?”
I’m thankful that I can’t think of anything I wish I would’ve said to Dad that I didn’t say.
My encouragement to you is say the things to the people that you need to say to them while you still have time to do so. Don’t ever assume you will have another chance in the future because you might not.
I shared the gospel with Dad many times
Third, speaking of things that I’m thankful I said to my dad, more than anything, I’m thankful that I started sharing the Gospel with him almost 20 years ago. At first it pushed him away, because the gospel conflicted with the religious system he was in and because I didn’t share it as gently as I should have. But by God’s grace I kept sharing it with Dad, and he repented of his sins and put his faith in Christ.
When Dad became a Christian in his 50s I was able to watch the Gospel transform him. God gave him a new heart. He developed victory over sin that had plagued him throughout his life,
My encouragement to you is to share the gospel with those you love – or even those you don’t – and try not to become discouraged if they don’t respond right off.
Speaking of sharing the Gospel with others…
Earlier I said that I grew up in a religious home, but religion doesn’t save us. I grew up believing:
- I had to be good enough
- I had to do enough
- I had to keep the sacraments well enough
Then I would get to go to heaven.
But listen to this verse…
Galatians 2:21 (NIV) I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained [by being good enough] Christ died for nothing!”
Paul’s point is that if we could get to heaven in our own effort, then Christ died for no reason.
Being good enough to get to heaven is the opposite of the gospel…
Ephesians 2:8 By grace you have been saved through faith. And THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING; it is the gift of God, 9 NOT A RESULT OF WORKS, so that no one may boast.
We are saved by grace through faith and twice Paul says it has nothing to do with us:
- This is not your own doing
- This is not a result of works
If we could get to heaven through our own effort, Paul says what would happen: we would boast.
We would know we made it to heaven because of what we did.
Instead, for those of us who go to heaven, we will recognize it is only because of what Jesus has done for us.
We don’t like to think about death. Generally we try to make it one of the furthest things from our minds.
But funerals are the one time we are forced to think about death. We recognize that one day there will be a funeral for us.
I want to invite you to think about the end of your life. After you die you will stand before the God who created you. If you have been trusting in yourself you will find out that you were not good enough.
There will be only one way for you to get into heaven and it will be from repenting of your sins and putting your faith in Jesus.
If you sit here today and you have never looked to Christ to be your Savior, please don’t leave here today without making things right.
Please see myself, or our associate pastor, Nathan. Both of us would consider it a great privilege to be able to speak with you and answer any of your questions.