Coping with Grief
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James “Jim” Robert Kriston
October 4, 1937 - October 3, 2023 (MMXXIII)
Daddy, you will be missed!
Where to begin… Maybe a simple “thank you” for all that you were to me, and to those around you whom you touched. You made us laugh, you showed you cared – in your work, how you lived life; by just being you.
Before I came along, your parents Pauline and Alex Kriston and twin brother Bill watched you grow. As a kid from the West End and 1956 graduate of Scott High School, you began to make quite an impression: sometimes good, other times not so (though you most certainly would disagree!) You went off to the Navy for four years, returning in 1960 to get a job as a lineman at Philadelphia Electric. It was around then that you met Mom, Patty Bilka, fell in love and then married in 1962. Five years later, I completed our family.
There were a lot of great memories we shared: going to camp up the mountains, heading down the shore to Wildwood NJ and Ocean City MD. I’ll never forget the amusement parks and dining at your favorite restaurants on special occasions; all the birthday, holiday and family gatherings. Your numerous talents impressed us including paint-by-numbers; landscaping our backyard (many times over); planting gardens, which then produced vegetables which you canned. Out of necessity you learned to cook, and you tapped into another skill creating some incredibly delicious dishes. You then logged those recipes in several handwritten cookbooks, which grew to include over 2000 entries.
In addition, you enjoyed your time traveling with Mom throughout the U.S., North America, the Caribbean and Europe by land and on cruise lines, as well as your golf trips to Myrtle Beach. There was time spent socializing at the West End Fire House or “stirring the pot” every Wednesday afternoon at the Polish Club - the PACC. These social clubs also had you trying your luck (and many times succeeding) at cards or with your baseball and football pools. You also hung out and tinkered in your backyard shed, or on your various work benches in the garage and basement. You put up all those soups and chilis in Mason jars, to eat and share with others; you had your favorite TV shows on DVR so you could watch them whenever you wanted to pass the time. Even working at PECO, where you retired after 37 years, held a special place in your heart - especially the 3–11 shift as a troubleman. Oh, the countless hours of overtime you put in, to provide for our family and help me through school!
You and I were able to play a few rounds of golf together, along with many fun and challenging hands of Rummy, primarily Tonk. Those card games also entertained the doctors and nurses during your most frequent recent hospital stays. My fondest memory though, even up to the very end, was watching you devote countless hours, days and weeks to your crewel and cross-stitch patterns, also referred to by you as your “knittery.” What started as something to decompress after work back in the 1980s became something to keep you productive and engaged in your 80s. The stitched “JRK” signature evolved into your self-proclaimed title of “Jimmyangelo.” You often stated without hesitation, “if there can be a ‘Michelangelo’, why not a ‘Jimmyangelo’?” It was befitting for the beauty you created. All that talented handiwork and your patience to see it through inspired those who saw it and was appreciated by those with whom it was shared.
Finally, there was the love and respect you showed to your friends and family, even to total strangers. To Mom, where you really shined helping her navigate the tough years as she battled multiple types of cancer. From her treatments in Philly in the 1990s, and then as she struggled for close to a decade until her death in 2018, you became "domesticated" to do whatever was necessary – to drive, clean, cook, wash and iron clothes, or just listen. Together you celebrated your 55th wedding anniversary five months before she passed. That dedication is still an inspiration to many today. Your love was also given to me and my husband Tom Loughery; your in-laws Tony and Mary Bilka, your sister-in-law Toni Longenecker and nephews Tom and Mark Mascuilli; your brother Bill and sister-in-law Donna, and nephew Billy. The way you made people feel at ease and brought joy to those who came into your life (even temporarily) was a gift - exemplified in the end, with the nurses and aides from Willow Tree Hospice, who cared for you the last 11 weeks of your life. You made them feel comfortable and they were a true blessing to all of us!
Dad, in the 5 1/2 years since Mom has been gone, we became the bestest of buds. I will forever cherish that time spent together: the wise-cracks made back and forth, being your chauffeur and eventual caretaker, the conversations we had! It has been an amazing run. We all look forward to honoring you and your memory on December 6th at Harris Mountain Funeral Home and then at the Polish Club in Coatesville. Of course, it's happening on a Wednesday.
Here’s to you as we raise a glass of your favorite cocktail – that Nikolai vodka and tonic – in your memory. Until we meet again, Pop!
Love always, Michelle