If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them. — ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ Amor Towles
Last week, on October 25th, 2020 my dear father, Dean Rhodes, passed away peacefully at home with his loved ones by his side. When I’ve told friends, “I can’t imagine a world without him,” they’ve comforted me with, “you don’t have to…he’s always with you.” And I can feel that’s true. I realize now that parents teach their children much more based on how they lived, rather than how they tell us to live. And my Dad’s legacy is how he lived and thrived while battling Multiple Sclerosis, and how he chose humor over misery, imagination over isolation, and love over all.
After his diagnosis, he was forced to change professions, so he shifted from clarinetist to CPA, working his way to the top of his firm at Ernst & Young. When he retired, after he was confined to a wheelchair, and his MS got so bad he could only move one pinky, he took it upon himself to read all of the greatest classic literature, completing 168 novels, and writing a funny one-line synopsis of each, then did the same for all of the Shakespeare plays. He used a Kindle and sometimes had to ask my mom, his devoted wife of 43 years, to turn a page for him. But he kept reading. He refused to be a prisoner of his disease and he never turned bitter or angry. He said he had one rule, “Never talk about the illness.” Instead he talked about life, about his family, nature, and great art. He was always funny, always kind. He always put his family above himself. Even when he started hospice, they asked what his concerns were, and he said, “I want to make sure my wife has the support she needs.” And as my mom says, “A man is remembered for what he loves.” He loved reading. And he loved us. I will miss him every day.
But he has left us this list of all the great novels he read and all the funny thoughts he had. I hope you can learn a little something from this brave man I was lucky enough to call Dad, who never ever let the weight of the world make him weak. He’s my champion and hero (he also loved We are the Champions by Queen).
It’s an honor to share Dean’s List with you, which isn’t just a list, but proof that no matter what life throws your way, you can always rise above it and choose to grow. (These were read between the years 2012–2020. He especially…