I think I can sum my father up in two words.
The first word presented itself to me in the mail when I was seven years old. One of my many jobs was to retrieve the day’s mail, and I began to notice that a number of letters were addressed to “Lion Lee Jolles.” I had no idea that he was in the Lions Club, and I just thought it was interesting that somehow the post office knew so much about him. They knew he was a lion of a man.
This Lion of a man left his mark on his country by fighting in multiple wars and not just surviving, but surviving D-Day on Omaha Beach when he was part of the 5th wave of the invasion force. Like many of that era, he didn’t talk much about it until years later. He simply accepted and endured the emotional pain of those events because, as he once told me, “that’s what soldiers do.” It seemed fitting that he was a corpsman (a marine who administered first aid to other soldiers.)
This Lion left his mark on a few chins by always standing up for what he thought was right, including one unlucky chin in Veterans Stadium when the Eagles were playing the Redskins. This particular Eagles fan wandered down to the Redskin fans, and decided it was okay to be rude and belligerent. We hear so much about those famous Philadelphia fans and the abuse they heap on opposing teams and opposing fans. That fan messed with the wrong Lion that day.
This Lion left his mark on the needy in so many ways. As a member of the Lions Club for over 52 years, he tirelessly helped raise money for the blind and visually challenged. But that’s far from the extent of his service to others. Decade after decade, he proudly gave his time, energy, and muscle to so many charities. Once retired in Florida in his late seventies, with my mother at his side, they often began their days at 7:00 am, by picking up food from the supermarkets and distributing these foods to homeless shelters, shelters for abused children, and aids patients. Into his eighties, he worked almost daily at the Lions thrift center. He not only gave of his time, but for years, he gave candy and toys to young, less fortunate children…paid for from his own pocket.
This Lion left his mark on his community by leading multiple scout troops. His scout troops were legendary, his teaching unique, and his ability to inspire extraordinary. In fact, in 1968, he took over a troop of seven boys, and that year he led them into a competition against 55 other troops and won. In 1969, as this troop began to grow, he led two patrols into that same competition and won first and second place. In 1970, he led three patrols and won first, second and third. He created a scouting experience so profound, that this little troop of seven expanded to over 140 boys in less than three years.
This Lion left his mark on his family by sharing his love, and most importantly, by being present. He was an amazing salesman, amassing decades of awards, and yet, he made sure he was home with his family no later than 5:00 pm just about every day of his life, a fact he was fiercely proud of. He accomplished this even though he was in a profession that required a great deal of nighttime appointments for success, and yet, he figured out a different way to conduct his business. He would not compromise on time away from his family.
The fact is, this Lion left his marks not just by what he did, but by what he taught us:
- To not just lead, but to charge.
- To not just win, but to dominate.
- To not just teach, but to inspire.
- To not just create, but to innovate.
- To not just write a check, but to dedicate yourself through your actions to help the less fortunate.
- To not just confront, but to stand up for yourself or for others who aren’t able to.
- To not just speak, but to roar.
At his passing, I pledged my word, as the son of this Lion, to honor my father by continuing the legacy he left. I ask you to join me. We can charge, and we can dominate, we can inspire, and we can innovate. We can stand up for ourselves when it is called for; we can help the less fortunate, and we can certainly roar.
I told you that two words summed up my father, and I haven’t yet told you the second word. Once again, I take you back to the mailbox, and the day the Post Office threw a curve ball my way. Just as I was comfortable reading those letters addressed to “Lion Lee Jolles,” it seems he got promoted. He forget to tell me, his then eight-year-old son.
He had become his club’s President, which is hardly surprising since he was never one to sit on the sidelines of any club or organization he belonged to. Do you know what they call the leader of the Lions Club? His new title started appearing on the letters addressed to him, and you know, I didn’t even flinch this time. It just made sense. The letters were addressed to “King Lion Lee Jolles.”
I miss walking beside you, King Lion. You truly made this family, this country, and this world, a better place… and I will never forget your roar.