According to the dictionary, you're eponymous if you have something named after you. But also the thing that is named after you is also eponymous. Now it seems to me that it should be one or the other or there should be two separate words - one for the person who has something named after them and one for the thing that is named after someone. At any rate my father is eponymous because there is a school in northwest New Jersey that is named after him - the Clifton E Lawrence Elementary School.
My Dad was a special person. Before he came to Sussex, he had been voted the most popular teacher at Highland Park High School in the early years of World War II when most of his students were going to go directly from high school into the military. He taught "Problems of American Democracy." I wished I would have asked him what those problems were, but I never did. He was the principal of Wantage Consolidated school starting in 1943 and then the school system sort of grew underneath him to the point where he became superintendent of the Sussex-Wantage Regional school system. When he retired at age 62, he had been in the school business for 42 years having started as a teacher at the age of 20. Unfortunately, he died within a month of his retirement of a heart attack. He never collected one iota of his richly deserved pension. He still had a lot to give as he had just won the primary election for state assemblyman and probably would have won the general election as well. He was the ultimate civic-minded person!
But my Dad's professional accomplishments don't really tell you what kind of person he was. He was an extremely cheerful, optimistic person who brought out the best in everyone. He was a genius at human relations and he really genuinely liked people. His values were very mainstream, middle of the road American, and he kidded about being middle class. He had a great sense of humor and a lot of folksy sayings. He was intelligent, but his intelligence was infused with an emotional sense and he had excellent judgment and wise decision making abilities. He touched a lot of people's lives.
I remember as a kid his telling about this little girl in kindergarten or first grade. I guess she was a few years behind me in school because I don't remember her personally. But I remember her name - Yvonne Petroliwicz - at least I think that's how you spell it. My Dad would say he felt sorry for that little girl because he didn't see how she was ever going to learn to spell her name! Well, fast forward about 50 years and I was in the Sussex Ben Franklin one day. I had taken in an old picture of the Wantage School (seen above) circa 1940 to get it framed. The person in the framing department looked at the picture and asked me if I had gone to school there. I said yes, did she? She said yes. Her name was Yvonne Petroliwicz. I told her that my Dad had been principal there, and she proceeded to tell me the story of how every year on the first day of school (or maybe it was the last) - I don't remember - she would bring my Dad some cupcakes. On the day she graduated my Dad presented her with a doll and she told me, "I was the only one he gave a doll to."
That was the kind of man my Dad was. He touched a lot of people's lives. He made it a point to know all the kids in his school by name even when there got to be several hundred of them. He carried a brief for his kids, looked out for their best interests. He fought for school additions when the kid population grew even though he made some enemies with the folks who didn't want their property taxes to go up. He seemed to know everyone in the county both children and adults.
I remember another time when Abie South died. Abie was about 14 at the time and lived with his mother and sister in Butler's alley, the "ghetto" of Sussex where the poorest people lived in ramshackle huts. Abie was in a coal car parked on a siding probably stealing coal to heat their house when suddenly a load of coal came down the shute positioned above and into the car smothering Abie. It was a tragedy for Abie's mother because she didn't have a husband and Abie was the "adult" male of the family. I remember my Dad driving up Butler's Alley - because I was with him - till he found Mrs. South to express his condolences. I remember her saying, "You don't know who your friends are till something like this happens." A lot of people wouldn't have bothered to contact Mrs. South. He cared about people whether they were high or low.
My Dad was very active in the community. He was President of the Board of the Alexander Linn Hospital for 20 years. He was active in the Masonic Lodge, and he was out a lot at night at meetings. One year he was secretary to the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge, Adrian Hommell, and was out at some lodge meeting or other almost every night. I remember he used to say Abe drove 80 miles an hour with the heater on full blast, the radio on full blast, the windows rolled up and smoking a cigar! Abe was quite a character. Dad was an American history major in college and was active in all the historical events like the Bi-Centennial celebration in 1976. I remember my Mom saying that on their honeymoon they visited all the Civil War battle fields. Dad loved all the civic institutions - church, school, hospital, the Boy Scouts.
My sister had cerebral palsy. She must have had massive brain damage due to lack of oxygen when she was born. She looked normal, but she never learned to talk and walked only for a few years. Her balance was always precarious and she fell a lot. From her teen-age years on she was heavily sedated and not too active. My Dad was so good to her. He played with her and made her laugh. The only thing my sister had in life were our parents. She used to sit by the window all day waiting for them to come home and, when they pulled in the driveway, she let out a big cheer and clapped her hands. They were all she had, and they were so good to her.
My Dad was a very sociable, gregarious guy sort of the opposite of me. He was very balanced between introversion and extroversion, but he was mainly an extrovert, I think. He loved social occasions. Psychologically, he had his head on straight. It seemed like he was always "up", always in a good mood. I don't think I ever saw him lose his temper, ever saw him angry. I always wished I was more the outgoing type like him but I'm not. Even in the same family you can have seemingly opposite personality types. I'm more like my Grandfather who was very introverted, almost autistic. I've come to terms with the fact that my Dad and I are different types, and I'm glad I didn't try to follow some life path that required the social and psychological skills and abilities that he had because I just don't have them. I think everyone has to first find out who they are, and then follow the path best suited for them, not necessarily the path that their father or mother followed. Parents have to realize that their off-spring may or may not be like them. I think psychological predispositions are genetically inherited and not just from parents but from grandparents, great grandparents - who knows how far back certain traits go - and there certainly is a diversity of personality types in any given family if you go back far enough.
When my Dad died, the Board of Education promised my Mom that, if they ever built another school, they would name it after my Dad. Well, about 10 years after my Dad died, as it turns out, they did build another school. However, the local paper announced that it was to be called the "Ryan Road" school because it was to be located on Ryan Road. When I was a kid, Timothy Ryan was the dog catcher in Wantage Township, and I guess he was the most prominent citizen living on that particular road at the time, which, if I recall, was a dirt road. So Timothy Ryan, through no fault of his own, was about to not only have a road named after him but a school as well. And the school would have been named after him had it not been for my Mom. She went into high gear writing letters to the editor, getting her high powered friends to write letters to the editor, and in general going on a campaign to make the Board of Education follow through on their promise to her to name the school after her late husband. After some initial resistance, the powers that were gave in and decided to honor their promise and name the school after my father after all. My mother was a relentless campaigner and there was no stopping her when she got on her high horse.
So that's how my father got to be eponymous. He had a great life. He enjoyed himself immensely, but not every minute. I remember him saying, "Some days I wouldn't give you a nickel for this job." He was a genuinely nice person. I don't think he had a mean bone in his body, and he seemed to have the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein. He had a real sense of wonder about life, about the universe. My Dad was pretty down to earth and liked to joke around a lot. They used to like to have picnics in the summer time, and my Dad would say, "This tastes pretty good for an old dead cow." He also had a sense of his own mortality, and I heard him say numerous times, "But life goes on."
California Free Press