We’re here today to honor the life of Julie Hyatt, beloved father, brother, grandfather, great-grandfather, veteran, businessman, a founder of this community, collector of the most golf balls in world history, a terrific talker, an astonishing remember-er of every detail of his life, cherished friend, and really good guy.
I usually start a eulogy by saying that we are here to mourn the passing of the person, but I’m trying not to see this as a time for mourning. Julie made the decision to go. It was a long time in coming, but he saw this as his time to go, and so should we. We weren’t happy with his decision, but eventually, I think everyone close to him realized that since it was the right thing to him, it must be the right thing for him. A person has their integrity as a person, and I do not mean honesty but their sense of self. And everything in Julie told him that it was time, and we should respect this.
As one of the last holdouts, I went to see him the day before his last dialysis treatment. And I tried to argue that if he stopped then, he would be going before Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. How could he do that to the family? You will notice, ladies and gentlemen, that, against all the medical odds, he waited until after Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to go. You cannot make these things up. That same day I asked him for one last favor, that he should come to my granddaughter’s baby-naming that Sunday and come up on this bima one last time, one last hurrah. And thanks to his wonderful family, he did that. That was a way for our shul to honor this man who for all the years of its existence, has been a mainstay who literally helped to build this building.
A couple of weeks ago I realized that he was the member of our congregation who had been a member the longest. And he remembered eight guys getting together at the Pepper Pot Restaurant to plan the founding of a Jewish Center in Hamden. And then he went around the table in his mind and told me who the eight were and where they were sitting that day. And how now, they’re all gone.
But this shul isn’t gone, and as a matter of fact we’re doing pretty well, even during some hard times for synagogues. And what he built will keep going into the future.
Among the things that he literally built was the Sukkah. Every year for 63 years, he helped build the Sukkah, even if in the last few years he was just supervising. And so from now on, the Sukkah will be the Julie Hyatt Sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary structure; the permanent structure he built will long endure. He often showed me every nook and cranny of this building that he had had a hand in.
One of the most famous lines in Shakespeare is, “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Today I say: We have come to bury Julius Caesar Hyatt, and to praise him.” And there’s a lot to praise.
Julie was born on June 26, 1919 in Clinton, the son of Morris and Dora, brother of Eve, George, Hy and Helen. We remember Eve, George and Hy today, as well as Jack and Harriet. And we mourn with Helen and Julie’s brother-in-law Shelly and sister-in-law Dorothy and we wish them only the best.
He graduated from Commercial High School in 1937. I don’t know that much about Julie as a teenager, but I have learned one thing. When he moved to Tower One, he told me that he had dated just about every female resident there in his younger days. I doubted this until I spoke recently at the Towers and all these women were lining up to ask me how Julie was.
Julius was so proud to have served his country as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II. When he would tell me stories about being in the service, I would realize, over and over again, how important his time in the military was to him. He was an active and proud member of the Jewish War Veterans in the New Haven, CT area. Julius was also an active member of the Masons, Hiram 1 Lodge, for more than 60 years.
Julie began his career as a cattle dealer in Madison, CT. He later was an owner/operator of the Hy-Dee meat business in New Haven, CT. He enjoyed watching sporting events, and was the member of a tiny but prestigious minority, Redskins fans of Connecticut.
Julie lived in Hamden, CT for 63 years. He and Muriel raised their family there. Just to say it in a sentence: Julie and Muriel had a wonderful, wonderful marriage. He loved her so much, and these last fourteen years without her have been hard. They raised Mitch, Joan and Larry to become the great people that they are. And they have paid him back for his love with their love.
Each generation will speak for itself in a few minutes. But I want to say that Larry, and Mitchell and Joanne, and Joan and David have been exemplary in the way they have cared for, respected, thought carefully about, and just plain “been there” for their father during all these years. He would say, with a funny smile, “they are some bunch.”
His grandchildren Becky and Jeff, Ben and Wendy; Casey and Brooke; Tarah and Matt; Derek and Melanie; Glenn and Daniel and Alyse all did everything right.
Julie was very proud of great grandchildren Abby, Josh, Ethan and Julia.
Again, each generation will have a chance to say something in a few minutes.
To come back to Julie and this shul: He was involved in every flower and bush on the grounds. He was the zaydee for the Nursery School. He was very involved in organizing a Temple Beth Sholom youth basketball team in the community league called “Biddy Basketball.” In more recent years, I was the coach of the TBS Biddy Basketball team, so Julie decided to get his now-adult players to play my kids. It was a fun day. I don’t remember who won but I do remember everyone on the benches eating pastrami sandwiches between quarters.
One of his proudest moments was being chosen “Man of the Year” in 1957. He was also the recipient of the Temple’s 2000 “President’s Award.”
Julie’s love of golf has led me to a thought: Why are there 18 holes of golf? In Judaism, 18 spells Chai, Life. And I’ve thought that Julie lived all 18 holes. He played the straight-aways and the ones that pass by the lake and the short ones and the long ones. I played golf with Julie, he would take me and my kids, and he knew every inch of every hole, and he played every hole with enthusiasm and skill. And he found every lost golf ball that had been forgotten or passed over by everyone else. He found every golf ball liker he cared about every lost person. That’s why he remembered everybody even after 80 years, because he cared about every person. And that’s how he lived his life, all 18 holes.
So now he got to the 18th hole and he had shot a good game. But he was tired and there wasn’t anything left in him. He couldn’t go another 9, not even one more hole, and he knew that Muriel was waiting in the clubhouse. Together, they had built this big beautiful family and now they just want to watch the family from a distance. They earned it.
And someday, my granddaughter will look at the pictures of her baby-naming, and she’ll ask me who that man was who was sitting on the bima. And I’ll tell her that that’s Julie Hyatt, and he was our very special friend.