Pete and Jackie Acho ~1998
Peter Acho (12/27/38 – 8/7/22) was the best Dad and Baba we can Imagine. I learn a lot from celebrating the lives of others when they transition from this life. Reflecting on my dad’s life has been poignant. Below is the eulogy I gave (with help from our son, Grant), and here is his memorial service and video. A life well-lived and love freely given. We are lucky to be his family. He was one of my first, and best, teachers of empathy…not because of what he told me to do…but because of how he was with me. We cannot so much train empathy into people as give them this valuable currency to spend with others. Empathetic parenting is so important to raising children with a capacity for empathy. It’s easier to give what you have experienced yourself. Thank you, Dad. Love you forever.
“Good afternoon, my name is Jackie Acho, and I have the blessing of being Pete’s daughter. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you in person. As many of you know, I’ve been fighting ovarian cancer for the last 2 and a half years and remain in active chemotherapy. My dad was very protective of his kids and grandkids, and I have no doubt he would want me to be safe from infection now, even as I yearn to hug and be held by you who also loved him today. In the days following his passing, I’ve heard from many of you about what kind of man he was and the effect he had on your life. It’s comforting to know that you saw a lot of what we did; my dad was uncomplicated that way. So many people loved Pete; he made us feel good. He was the best dad and Baba I can imagine, and so much more…
Pete was a wonderful brother and friend, growing up ensconced in the Detroit Chaldean community, doing well at school while working in his dad’s store. Apparently, there was also some time for mischief, including one story that had to do with a chemistry experiment and an explosion. Police may have been involved. I always wondered how my grandmother managed with 4 boys so close in age! I also marveled at the longtime friendships my dad carried throughout his life. Whether they came from childhood or later, Pete was good at gathering wonderful people around him as he went along and not letting them go.
Pete was just the right partner for Barbara. They met when she was 15 and he was 19. He seemed like a prince and was a good, well-centered match to her fiery nature. They were married 58 years. Up close and personally, I can tell you it didn’t always look easy, but there was never a question about their devotion to each other, the spark they held all that time, and their unwavering support of each other’s growth through the years. They both earned college degrees after Mike and I were grown, and loved learning individually and together. It helped that my dad was so funny. He loved trading witticisms with Barbara’s brother Jack, who enjoyed hanging out with our family and helped care for Pete in the end. I don’t ever think I heard them call each other by name; it was always, affectionally, “brother-in-law.”
Pete was the best dad I can imagine. I was his second child and only daughter. Some (ehm, Mike) might say I had it easier. I don’t know about that, but I do know that always felt seen, heard, understood, and supported by my dad. Maybe not that one time he fired me from his grocery store…but otherwise, yes. He told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and I believed him. This is pure gold for a kid. He took me out for lunch most weeks while I was in college. If I said I was too busy, he’d say, “you gotta eat,” and if I complained about school, he reminded me that “register one was always open” for me. I returned to studying, well-nourished, emotionally and physically. He always encouraged me to have fun and not just with words. Until I met my husband John, my dad helped me move for every school and work adventure. He was efficient. We’d spend a day unpacking and three more having fun. I’ll never forget splitting a bottle of wine over dinner with my dad in the North End of Boston, talking about his childhood and my dreams. Or jumping on the boat to Nantucket, not realizing it was a loooong trip. He hated boats but forgave me anyway. He was worried I wouldn’t find pomegranates in season in Boston, so he seeded and shipped them to me from Detroit twice! As my grandma said at the time, “that’s good, hard lovin’!” He was protective of me and his grandkids. He had a habit of walking on the street side of the sidewalk, just in case a car might swerve. It’s been hard on him watching me endure a tough cancer. In many ways, his passing feels first like the best way he can help me now. He’s protecting me still, from the only place he can, as one of the loudest guardian angels around.
Pete was the best Baba we know. Whether it was donning capes and playing superheroes with Alex, helping tired parents rock babies to sleep, making up bedtime stories, or teaching all of the kids how to golf. One of his biggest joys in retirement was spending time with grandkids, doing whatever they wanted to do. He joined us for outdoor adventures in the summer – picnics, hikes, the zoo – and museums in the winter. He loved to play as much as the kids did. He also loved cooking and eating with family, gardening, and trying new recipes. There was often ice cream involved, usually chocolate. He was always game for celebrating his birthday, and we loved that too.
My dad’s love was unfettered, pure, and widely given, along with a big dash of humor. He made life better for all of us lucky enough to know him. He’d be the first person to tell you he enjoyed his life fully, and that was contagious. Even when he suffered from illness in the end, he modeled resilience by doing whatever he could to feel better. In closing, I want to say something to him that he often said to us “you did good.” Take comfort in a life well-lived, Dad. Rest awhile, then, be that angel looking over us. I know it’s right where you want to be. We love you.”
Thanks to Kendall Acho for filming and recording the service and Sophie LeMay for putting together the video. Thanks to Barbara Acho for taking the photo.