Tue, 28 Oct 2003

Final Goodbye to Dad

On October 18, 2003 my father, Powell O. Mims, passed away after a long struggle with heart disease.

Dad was the brightest light in my life. He illuminated a fascinating world for me with his incredible intellect and zeal for life. He shared his fascination for math and science with me, lead me on many inward journeys of discovery, and helped shape my character and interests.

Dad achieved much in his life. He was an inventor, with at least two patents to his name. He served in the US Navy as a pilot. He worked for Martin-Marietta on the Titan missile system and other cold war era defense projects. He worked as a surveyor for PG&E in California before returning to Colorado to finish his education at the Colorado School of Mines, receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics.

In 1971, Dad moved us to Hotchkiss then Paonia, Colorado. He opened a self service gasoline station on Roger's Mesa (near Hotchkiss), then another in Paonia. The station in Paonia was also a fast food restaurant known, then, as the Huskyburger. Mom and Dad ran the businesses together. They became jobbers (distributors) for Husky Oil, then for Chevron Oil. They opened several more self service stations and supplied others. They had gasoline transport trucks and smaller farm delivery trucks. They provided many Western Colorado communities with fast, friendly service and low prices.

In 1977, Dad suffered a major heart attack. His doctors were not optimistic. They prepared us for the worst and performed bypass surgery in an effort to prolong Dad's life and improve its quality. He recovered from that first surgery remarkably fast, but continued to suffer from heart disease and several more heart attacks.

In 1982, Dad underwent another bypass surgery. His recovery from this one was anguishingly difficult. Heart disease continued to progress, and in 1991, he moved in with me and my family in Orem, Utah and was put on the waiting list for a donor heart at the University of Utah Medical Center.

Dad received a heart transplant in 1991. Unfortunately, the donor had Hepatitis C. That fact went unnoticed until 1994 when Dad was diagnosed with the disease and had already begun to suffer from some of the rarest and most brutal conditions associated with it.

Despite the difficulties, Dad spent many happy years with us — many more than his doctors predicted and many more than anyone with less determination, courage, and strength would have.

I am proud to have had not only a father-son relationship with this great man, but a strong, close friendship with him. Dad and I talked frequently on the phone, corresponded on-line, and spent as much time as we could together, even though it was much less time than either of us wished.

For about the last 18 or 20 months of his life, it was a struggle to just make it from one day to the next. Dad lost the ability to pursue many of the interest that had kept him so alive previously. He also lost most of his hearing. During the last weeks of his life, he was unable to converse on the phone, too frustrated with his inability to hear. I missed our normal telephone conversations terribly.

Jenny and I planned a vacation — our first two week vacation, ever. We traveled first to Colorado to visit with Mom and Dad, then to Arizona to spend time with Jenny's family. I spent some precious hours with Dad. He was tired and struggling, but he had not lost his whit, charm, and sense of humor. We parted with a warm hand shake and wave that I will remember forever.

On our return trip home from Arizona, we got word from my brother, Brian, that Dad had passed away. He died at home while Mom was away at work. Apparently, his heart finally failed. As much time as Dad had to endure in hospitals, I'm happy that he spent his last days at home with Mom instead of in a hospital bed.

Dad was absolutely devoted to my mother. Anyone of less courage and strength would not have been able to endure his daily routine. Dad fought through each day for the pleasure of spending one more day with the love of his life. She will miss him profoundly as will everyone that knew and loved him.

The world will be a much different place for me without the bright light that has guided and mentored me all these years. I will cherish his memory and hold dear the knowledge, skills, and love of life he gave me.

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