Noah with daughter Linda standing in Noah's living room on Santa Rosa Island, Pensacola Beach, Florida
This week, Noah (my dad) will celebrate his 79th birthday. He usually pays tribute to other amazing Marines and special Americans on his Web site, but this week I want to surprise him and pay tribute to him on his birthday. So, here's a tiny collection of memories of Noah. Some stories are based on my own memories and others were told to me. One thing I can guarantee...nothing was ever dull!
August 11, 1926
Rumor has it that my dad weighed 13 pounds at birth. I can't remember who told me that story, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were true. He's always done everything in a big way.
When I was born, my mom and dad bought a house in Oceanside, near the front gate of Camp Pendleton—on the highest hill in the city. My father has always preferred living on high ground, with a view as far as the eye can see. I don't know for sure, but perhaps that came from his years serving in the Marine Corps, and learning the benefits of having the high-ground advantage during war. I can say that every house he owned, including the first house in Oceanside, had a great view of the sunsets or the oceans. He enjoyed providing his family and friends the with safety, comfort, and the beauty of nature.
Noah's back yard, Gulf Breeze, Florida
Dad has always loved beauty, whether it's a beautiful view, beautiful flowers, or beautiful women; and he creates beauty wherever he goes. He must have single-handedly planted more trees than Mother Nature herself while he lived in California, and I suppose we would figure out that he's done the same in Florida, if we took a tally.
Dad makes a stunning appearance when he enters a room, and he always did. He doesn't try to call attention to himself, but somehow his entrance is like turning on a light in the room. His 6'2” stature surely plays a role in his charisma, but mostly I think his dignity and charisma is a light inside him that glows.
For such a dignified man, he's surprisingly silly. For instance, I've always known my father to be well-dressed, good posture, extremely clean, and everything in its place. As a child, he was perfect in my eyes, infallible. However, I remember one particular time he came home from working in New York and I saw his beautiful, immaculately kept Mustang drive up to our home, after traveling three thousand miles across country. I ran out to the car and found his smiling and happy face sitting behind the wheel with dozens of red pistachio shells scattered all over the seats. I remember realizing, even as a child, that the scattered pistachio shells were uncharacteristic of him. How could this perfect man not put the shells into the trashcan?
That little detail may not seem like a big deal, but it somehow made him human, in my eyes. It was the first memory I had of realizing that no matter how amazing and special a person is, everyone is human. It taught me that special and amazing people are no different than the rest of us, and that lesson served me well in my life. I've always viewed everyone I've met as being easily approachable and “human,” no matter how powerful, wealthy, or special their reputation. My dad showed me that there is no need to be intimidated by power.
My dad loves dogs—especially Yorkshire Terriers, and he loves flowers—especially colorful ones and gardenias. At his home in Thousand Oaks, California, he used to have a planter full of gardenia bushes growing upwind of his patio chair. He loved sitting on the patio after work, watching the sunset with a refreshing cocktail and the fragrance of gardenias wafting over him. He continues to enjoy the yard and garden now in Florida, even during the blazing hot days of summer. He spends a good deal of time in his glass-enclosed, air conditioned patio room with a panoramic view of the yard, the birds that fly into his yard to visit the feeders, and the flowers.
My dad has a brilliantly green thumb, a farmer to the depths of his soul. He can make anything grow, anywhere. I'll never forget seeing photos of lemon trees growing on property he owned in North Florida. There were ice sickles hanging off the branches, but still, those trees thrived—with lemons the size of softballs.
Not everything about my father is perfect, however. He has an inexplicable love for cornbread soaked in buttermilk…go figure!? He had me fooled, for a while. As a very young child, I actually believed it tasted good. In fact, I'd share a big glass full of the mushy, sour, soggy gruel with him. Then I grew up and realized that I could be eating ice cream, instead!
If you ever have the opportunity to go to the movie theater with my dad, I'd bow out of the invitation, if I were you. It's quite an experience to be sitting in the theater and suddenly hear his snoring echo off the walls like surround sound. I'll never forget the first time I realized my father slept through movies at the theater: We were seeing the Poseidon Adventure in a very upscale southern California theater, and, unbelievably, during the most exciting underwater action scene, I suddenly heard the familiar sound of my father snoring from the back of the theater. I had wondered where he went when he got up and left during the middle of the movie, and I worried that he was missing the best part. Then my mom and I realized that he'd ditched us to take a nap. We couldn't stop giggling, and we pretended not to know him as we heard the snoring get louder. I pity the poor soul who ended up sitting near him. I still cannot imagine...who falls asleep during the Poseidon Adventure?! I guess anybody who's seen as much real-life action as a fighting Marine, doesn't get too excited by watching the portrayal of a ship sinking on a sound stage.
My dad is silly, and, yes, he allows a four-pound Yorkshire Terrier to push him around, but if you ever need an advocate, an agent, or a guy watching your back—you'd be lucky to have my father behind you. He is a fighter and a winner. Quitting isn't in his vocabulary, and he doesn't run from a fight—ever.
He thrives on a challenge.
I sometimes wonder why he continues to live in Florida where every year he battles the threat of hurricanes and tornadoes, not to mention the life-threatening lightening bolts. During the recent ordeal with Hurricane Dennis, I began to see that my father continues facing challenges as he survives violent and unpredictable weather. He is willing to strategize and work to outthink a storm to survive its wrath, because his beautiful Florida home and lifestyle is worth fighting for.
My dad's life is filled with unbelievable and unique stories. The decades he spent as a Marine, a filmmaker, working through the Kennedy years in Washington, and the Apollo years and the moon. There are so many things to think about when you consider Noah's life. He has done a lot. And still, today, he is constantly involved with living his life to the fullest.
The most enjoyable things in life today are the friendships and acquaintances he has formed from all the contacts who read his Web site every week. He now enjoys putting this Web site together, and he enjoys the notes you all send to him. You'd think that a man who has worked and lived as hard as my dad would rather spend his days fishing or playing golf. But not Noah, he'd rather be “surfin the net” from his patio garden, and exchanging emails with you.
Noah - 14 years old
I hope you have a wonderful birthday, Dad! And I promise next week I'll post the story you sent for your site this week.
Contact Noah at: