A Life Well Lived – A Tribute to My Dad

On Tuesday, after a five year battle with cancer, my dad passed away.

He was one of the best people I know so I wanted his obituary to reflect how he lived – with a touch of Kelly humor thrown in because there’s nothing my dad liked more than a good laugh (and a stiff martini).

A touching and humorous obituary written by a daughter for her dad

Jose “Joe” Perez Lerena 

April 22, 1929 – February 10, 2015

In 1961, with only a single suitcase and a $50 bill in his pocket, Joe Lerena arrived in the US from Havana, Cuba.  His legacy is a life well lived and family that will never forget him.

He loved politics, his 1965 Mustang, single malt scotch, a good martini (under $5 – or he would complain for months that they had clipped him), CNBC and Fox News, the stock market (as long as the Dow was up), his dog and hunting companion Rex, collecting stuff including duck prints and $2 bills, music and dancing, and telling stories and inappropriate jokes.  He tried never to miss a class reunion at his alma mater, the Belen High School and was a proud graduate of Colegio de Belen in Havana, Cuba.  He was actively involved in his community where he was a member of the Knights of Columbus and St. Frances Cabrini parish for over 40 years.

He immensely disliked pretentious people, golf (after using his left handed clubs only twice, they collected dust in the garage for the next 40 years), Laverne and Shirley (his girls would quickly turn the channel when he entered the room) and cold weather.

The women in his life were loved and he leaves behind his wife of 47 years, Mary Lerena, a red-headed Irish girl (the Lucy to his Desi), his two daughters, Colleen Blair (whom he once threatened to disown if she voted Democrat) and Kelly Lerena-Elko (who inherited his charm and stubbornness) and his twin granddaughters, Olivia and Vanessa Elko (both 15) who loved their Papa with all of their hearts.  He also leaves behind his sister, Carmelina Viadero and will soon be reuniting at the pearly gates with his beloved mother Carmen Astiasaran (deceased).

A man’s man, Joe loved nothing better than a round of poker with his buddies in the bar car on the train ride home from Manhattan where he worked as a Vice President at Merrill Lynch for 32 years. He hated mowing the lawn on Saturday mornings but finished quickly so he could rush to have a cold beer with a side of shuffleboard at Puss n Boots. He loved donning his camouflage hunting gear and heading deep into the woods so he could bring home pheasant, deer and other animals that his family refused to eat. He loved his father, Francisco Perez Lerena, (deceased) his big brother, Rev. Francisco Perez Lerena, S.J., his sons-in-law Steve Elko and Jim Blair and his two grandsons, Ryan (17) and Kevin (15) Blair who also loved their Papa with all of their hearts.

Here’s to celebrating life – with a stiff martini.

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  1. Oh Kelly, I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a fantastic tribute to a guy who sounds larger than life. May all your wonderful memories comfort you during this difficult time of grieving. Hugs, Jen

  2. I’m glad you had such a good relationship with your dad! You are blessed to have the memories. He will be well remembered. I’m sorry for your lost.

  3. Kelly, so many things can be said, but I know words can’t touch it. I love the way you celebrate his life and continue to carry on with what he gave you. Remember that with the smile and love you share. My thoughts are with you and your family. Sending (((U))) (that would be a hug) for a time when you need just a little help.

  4. Oh Kelly, so sorry for your loss. Your tribute to your dad was wonderful. He sounds like a great guy and was dearly loved.

  5. Sending you my prayers over the passing of your father. It sounds like he lived life to its fullest – who could ask for more! Your tribute is a testament to how much he was loved and appreciated.
    Pieced Pastimes

  6. So sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved father, Kelly. He sounds like a wonderful man.

    Eternal rest grant unto Jose, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

  7. Oh Kelly, what a great tribute to your father. I’m terribably sorry for you aching heart. It sounds like he had a full and wonderful life. Thank you for sharing your personal story and may you find comfort with all the memories you’ve made.

  8. Hi Kelly: I was moved by your tribute. I too lost my father from cancer. He didn’t quite make a year, and he fought valiantly, but the disease won over the treatment. I am so sad for your loss, yet, so happy you had the love and joy of your Dad your entire life. I know in my heart, as time softens the loss and pain, the beautiful memories take over and you will feel his love & smile and remember the beautiful moments and life he gave to you. Blessings and prayers to you and your family ~ leelee

  9. My sincere condolences. Such and endearing tribute. May the healing slowly begin so you can find peace. My Dad crossed over more than two years ago. There’s not an hour that goes by that he’s not on my mind and he always in my heart.

  10. Kelly, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your Dad with us! My deepest sympathy to you and your family as you grieve the loss of your father.

  11. Kelly, I know your dad would have loved your tribute to him. You made him real with your words and that is a gift. I am so sorry for your loss.

  12. Kelly- so sorry for your loss. Having been there myself, I know first hand the pain and sorrow of losing a beloved parent. But it sounds like you had many years of happiness and created a lifetime of wonderful memories. For that, you can be so grateful.
    Best to you and your family,

  13. What a wonderful tribute you’ve written Kelly to honor and celebrate your father’s well lived and experience rich life. Cheers! to your dad, Jose “Joe” Perez Lerena. Hold all those great memories made with your dad closely, so sorry for your loss. Robin

  14. Aaaaaaaaaaaw, that was an awesome tribute to your Dad– I would have liked to have known him…, and perhaps shared a Martini or two 🙂

  15. Kelly,
    My heart breaks for you, I’m so sorry for your loss. I love your written tribute, it’s beautiful. However, I do believe that You being the wonderful person you are may be the best tribute of all to your father. He had to have been an outstanding dad to have raised such a fabuous daughter and family. Keep his memories close, they last forever.

  16. Kelly, sorry for your loss, My dad died several years ago and every once in a while I still get teared up missing him. It;s great he was so well loved and had a great family who can share all the wonderful memories.

  17. I, too, was well loved by my Daddy. His father arrived in the USA on a boat from Sweden in the late 1890s, fathered 9 great kids, and I loved his English with the Swedish accent. He was also a determined character, lived purposefully, genuinely patriotic. I miss those 2 men and my uncles. I sense that vitality in the description of your dad. I tell that story to say, we experienced men who arrived here, and had an uncommon hope for a better life…uncommon as compared to Americans who never have realized their good fortune to live in the USA. Here is to being well loved by strong men! What a blessing it was. You are a good storyteller, I feel like I know your father.

  18. I’m so sorry for your loss. What a great tribute to your dad and what great memories you have of him. He sounds like he was a wonderful family man. My dad has been gone for over ten years and I miss him every single day. All your memories will get you through. Take care.

  19. Love your tribute, K!!! Thanks for sharing it. Joe sounded like a trooper….a fighter with a point of view. Other than their 12 children (including me), my parents came to this country with very little. I have always admired people like Joe and my parents – determined, strong and passionate. I’m sorry for your loss.

  20. I am so sorry for your loss, Daddy’s and their Daughter’s, there is no closer bond in my own experience, I lost my Dad 4 years ago (Jan. 1, 2011), he also collected $2 bills, loved music (played guitar and sang) and loved dancing, the last time he danced was with me at my wedding (he took his oxygen off to get that short dance in), and would tell stories to anybody who would listen.
    Your Dad will always be with you, and around you, he will come to you in your dreams and in your thoughts, you have not lost him, I promise you.

  21. I’m so terribly saddened to hear this. My heart breaks for you. Having lost my mother a year ago- I know all too well the pain & the hole it leaves. Cancer is a disgusting thing no matter how slowly or swiftly it takes over. I pray for your strength through this & please know you are not alone. We who know the emptiness all too well are here for you – whenever you need it. As I experienced – when people ask if there is anything they can do- not only is it okay to take them up on it, but it helps more than you ever thought. Hugs!

  22. A big hug to you Kelly. I know despite the smile on this obituary, tears are still a big part of it. He will definitely be missed, but a glimpse into his meaningful and happy life makes me envy all that he was and all that he is to his family.

  23. I am so sorry for your loss Kelly. This is a wonderful tribute to your Dad…beautifully wtitten…he truly lived a very full life! 😉

  24. I am truly sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a great and loving man and wonderful father,i know you will miss him.Will be thinking of you today and praying for the family.

  25. kelly, so sorry for the loss of your father, so happy you had a good relationship with him, those memories you will have forever, both my parents are gone as well. im thankful for being able to care for them both at home for their passing my father in march of 1997 an mother in feb of 2013 , i had a wonderful childhood , your father sounds as a great father also hard working ,devoted to his family ,he seems to of been one heck of a good man,you take care of yourself an your family,god bless you

  26. Kelly,

    My deepest condolences. I lost my Dad 4 years ago in January and the hole in my heart that was left will be there always. The memories put a smile on my face daily. When my oldest grandson smiles at me with the same curve of the smile as my Dad, I smile even bigger. Or when he tells a joke, with the same delivery as my Dad (my dad was also a lover of jokes) I know my Dad is still around. May you see your Dad in all the little things and smile.

    Warmest thoughts to you and yours,

  27. Wow Kelly! He was the American Dream, from $50 to VP of Merrill Lynch! I know his family is very proud of him. What a magnificent legacy he leaves to you all! I am sorry for your loss, I know it will be hard for all of you. I have lost both my parents so you have my deepest sympathy and all of you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  28. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved father. What a man! He sounds just wonderful! I am jealous of your long and wonderful relationship, you and yours are lucky people to have been blessed with him.

  29. Kelly, I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing person. What a great tribute to him. Those memories are what will keep you strong. Prayers for you and your family.

  30. Kelly, I read your blog faithfully and enjoy it so much. Your tribute to your father is special. I can tell it gave you joy at this difficult time to tell your readers about him and about how much he loved his family and was loved in return. I am sorry for your loss.

  31. What a beautiful tribute to you dad.

    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord,
    and let perpetual light shine upon him.
    May the souls of the faithful departed,
    through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


  32. What a man! And what a loss. He’s left behind a well-rounded family with some very strong foundations. Long may be rule the school beyond those pearly gates! Hasta la vista, Jose! mwah, heather au xo

  33. What an awesome man and what an awesome life he lived. So much to celebrate – and having him for a father was the biggest blessing you will ever have. You will miss him terribly because you cannot have so much life around you and not feel a big hole when it is gone. Embrace every minute…..savor all those precious minutes you spent with you dad…..try and capture some of that wonderful life he shared with you and pass it on to others in your life…….how better a way to memorialize you father. Drink a martini in his memory and remember dad every time you do- it sounds as tho your father would have wanted you to really lie your life as he did! With gusto and joy and passion. I am glad you had such an outstanding life with your father. Hold him in your heart forever- we girls know that we will always be daddys girls!

  34. I’m so sorry Kelly. Big,big hugs to you and your family.. Doesn’t matter how old we are. What the circumstances.We are never prepared for the loss of a parent. Beautiful,beautiful tribute. I was my Daddy’s “little pumpkin” until the day he passed from cancer a few years ago. Sending you warm thoughts and prayers.

  35. What a awesome tribute to your dad! It sounds like things were never boring around him, what a great man! Prayers for you and your family.

  36. So sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was quite a character ! Those are lovely words you speak of him ! Makes me wish I could have met him a time or two.

  37. Oh Kelly, What a wonderful way to celebrate and commemorate your Dad’s life. You are a wonderful writer and now you will have a guiding light, watching over you and your family. I buried my Dad almost 11 years ago and all the memories are more precious than ever. You are in my prayers. Lots of hugs, Laura

  38. Kelly you were so lucky to have had such a wonderful father. I had the best parents and both are now gone. Whenever it gets too difficult, I remember a quote I saw on a sign. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it ever was”. Much blessing to you. Sending healing energy to all that feel his loss.

  39. Kelly I am very sorry for your loss – he sounds like the life of the party and someone that will be missed deeply. I love the way you write about it him – makes me wish I had known him. (side note I did not know you had twins, I do too 🙂
    Hugs from Texas…

  40. Kelly, What a beautiful photo of you and your dad! He sounds like he had your sense of humor and love of family! This is a beautiful tribute to him. So sorry to hear about your loss.

  41. So sorry for the loss of your dad, he did seem to have a great life and was lucky enough to do the things he enjoyed. Blessings to you and your family, take care, Paula

  42. Kelly- I am so sorry for the loss of your father, this beautiful light from all your lives. This type of loss is so impossible (I can never think of a better word than that). Just take your time, there is no schedule for grief and don’t let anyone put you on a schedule. Be gentle with yourself. My deepest condolences. Sounds like it truly was a life well lived; we should all be so lucky! Take care.

  43. Beautiful obit and tribute.
    As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I write this note to you, from my heart …
    I send my sincerest condolences for your family’s loss.
    It is wonderful that you have many decades of good memories and stories to share with family & friends.
    Celebrate his life now and every chance you get.


  44. So well said Kelly, I never met him, but I feel I know him a little bit, from your lovely description…what a full life he led, and what wonderful legacies he has left and memories that will forever be in your hearts.

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