Whoa! Didja get the numbers off that truck?!?


September 26, 2001 - 5:39 p.m.

Robert Louis Vallee

One year ago today, my father lost the fight to lymphoma, and died quietly in his own bed in his own house. He resigned himself to it, and decided heíd rather be at home in his last days.

When I found out he had lymphoma that August, I knew it would be over soon. Sons One and Two and I drove across country to see him one last time at his home in Arizona. Just before he died I wanted him to know what I felt, so I wrote this letter to him. He did get to hear it, and Iím glad for that. In memory of him, here it is again:


Dear Dad,

We should say these things more often, and sooner. Itís too bad it has to come to this, but weíre Vallees, we donít show ourselves to each other very often.

The last time I talked to me, you told me that you admired me. I want you to know, that meant more to me than anything youíve said to me in the last 43 years (I know Iím 44, but I had some difficulty with the English language that first year).

I admire you, Dad. Youíve done a lot and accomplished a lot in your long life, and you have some pretty impressive things to show for it; not the least of which are five fine children.

When I heard things were bad for you earlier this month, I wanted others that I know to know about you. As you know I belong to a mailing list, so I sat down and told them about you. I wanted them to know who you are, and what you are to me. Read on:

RLV has always been an active, creative guy. He lived his career on the road, as a "peddler" he would call it, the resume read "manufacturers representative". He was too independent; he learned by working for others in the 1940s, that he wanted to work for himself. He founded V Sales Company, whose office was based in my mom and dad's bedroom. Three days out of five he was on the road in his car covering a territory that spanned Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. He sold tools, table saws, drill presses, go-karts, folding ladders, saw blades, tablecloths, refrigerator magnets, water faucets, extension cords, camping tents... the list goes on and on. If a company were too small to have a sales staff, he'd take it on, straight commission.

RLV did well because he did what he said he'd do. It was the legacy I learned from him: If you say you're going to do it, then just DO it. No excuses. I don't know this from his business life personally, but I think that people could depend on him. When he took samples home for us to use, he always paid for them.

The early Seventies and Gerald Ford's later recession spelled the end of V Sales Company. Dad took an outside sales job selling packaging products for a company based in Cleveland, and finished off his career there. At home he was making beautiful furniture with the power tools he'd collected in his basement. Some of the tools he used were old samples from lines he'd repped. I think it was therapy for him, after dealing with sales calls and invoices all week, he'd retreat to the shop in the basement on weekends and create real and beautiful things. Those pieces line the walls of the place they live in today.

Mom and Dad moved from the Ohio home I grew up in 1986. They went off to AZ, to an area high enough to erase the memories of living in an Ohio flood plain; and a location dry enough, and mosquito free enough to live the golden years they expected. They traveled; they lived the life that retirees should live. They built a beautiful big house on the top of a peak; the one they always wanted and felt they deserved. And Dad's workshop was built on daylight grade, no longer in the basement. Room for everything.

After a full year of non-use, Dad sold his 50 year collection of power tools. They sold the Big House and moved to a retirement community. It must be tough to pick out the rooms you plan on dying in.

My father has lived a good life of honorable deeds. He did what he thought was best, he tried to instill honor and integrity in his kids. He wasn't perfect, but he was my dad and he gave me what he could. He gave me creative drive; he showed me that I could do things for myself. He showed me by action and deed that there was nothing that couldn't be fixed, anything could be figured out. It was satisfying to do these things yourself.

I'm passing that legacy on to my kids, I know they'll use it well.

Itís hard to distill my dad down to a few paragraphs. I know you feel like it was what was required, like you told me. You just go and do it. To me though, itís pretty amazing stuff.

There are some memories of you that will always live on. I remember the time we were both working on the lawnmower downstairs in the workshop. Normally that stuff took place in the garage, but this was a tough one and we got it closer to where the tools were. We had the engine completely torn apart and we were re-assembling it; trying to get the breaker points put back together under the magneto. You picked up a small screw and dropped it. Then I picked up the screw and dropped it too. You looked at me and said ďkinda tough having a bum mitt, huh?Ē I guess we shared that too, but I got mine the easy way. I learned because thatís all I had. You knew the difference.

I learned reliance from you. I always admired the way you would fix something just by taking it apart to see how it worked, and then getting all the pieces put back together again. I admired how you could take a couple of sheets of plywood and turn them into nightstands, or cabinets in the garage. One of my earliest memories is playing with my friends in the basement, and we were finding out what our dads did for a living. I remember saying that ďmy dad was a Wood Man.Ē You didnít sell stuff; you made things out of wood!

I know showing emotion is tough for you, Dad. There were so many things I wanted to tell you when we visited, but weíve never done that before. I never truly appreciated everything youíd done for me until I had Son1 and Son2. They always imitate you, the good and the bad stuff. But seeing them imitate the good stuff is rewarding. I hope you saw the good stuff in me.

I love you, Dad.

Your youngest,







the last one -*- the next one


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