For anyone who couldn’t attend Granda’s funeral online, here below is the eulogy, penned by me, read on the day by my cousin Mark Yendole. And an old video above, created almost ten years ago.
Roman philosopher Seneca said “So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
Liam Yendole, ‘Granda’ to Claire and I, and G.G. to my daughter, had a long life by any standard, and he sure knew how to use it. He passed away last week aged 94 (he would tell you 96), under the care of a compassionate and generous team at St James’ Hospital.
A midlander by origin, he was more turf than surf. He lived for grass, be it his beloved, velveteen lawn or the well-thrummed turf of Leopardstown. He spent hours in his garden, a beautifully balanced symbiosis that lasted as long as I ever knew him; he tended the plants in his garden with great care, and they tended to him in kind. Alongside Liam Kelly they turned two successive gardens into floral spectacles, and neighbors and smiling strangers would pass comment over the wall on sunny weekends. We made it our goal to ensure he never had to leave it.
He ventured far beyond Dún Laoghaire and saw much of the world, both in his life as a printing press mini-mogul, as Ireland’s longest-serving Rotarian and simply as an avid traveller and voraciously social person. Often leaving Nana at home while he galavanted (11 years his senior, she didn’t share his wanderlust) Granda cruised Norwegian fjords, danced on ambassador’s tables in Nairobi, and earlier in life hitchhiked and cycled through France, ending up on a boat off the Mediterranean coast — if you believe his most Walter Mitty tale of all — with movie star Errol Flynn. He bowled almost every green in the British Isles, and collected brass pins from their clubhouses in a tin box.
In retirement from a life in the printing industry, he helped found Ireland’s Print Museum in Beggar’s Bush, with funding procured by the similarly devious Bertie Ahern. He was immensely proud of his life in print and couldn’t understand the digital world it gave way to. I had to ‘fix’ his computer every week. The myriad problems all lay between seat and keyboard.
He came to Australia in his eighties to visit Susan and I there, (stopping off in Raffles, Singapore to break up the trip, as one does) and saw more of the country during two weeks than we saw in a year, taking in everything from Cairns to Adelaide, inflicting opera upon us, hiking the Blue Mountains, bussing the Great Ocean road, flirting with waitresses as he did everywhere, and even lying outlandishly on a legal disclaimer form so that he could snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, unzipping his wetsuit afterward to reveal a dark pink heart surgery scar to the horrified dive boat staff. We played cards until the wee hours, cheating unrepentantly, drinking wine to stay awake. Granda delighted in mischief, not always knowing or caring where the border lay that separated it from genuine trouble. You only ever heard about the horses he won on, the stocks he sold at a peak, the debates resolved in his favor.
If your life was enriched by him, it’s likely you were exasperated by him at some point. He was rarely diverted from his chosen course of action, and because he rarely sought counsel on what course to take, it could often be unadvisable, controversial or downright meddlesome. Right until the end, he found sport in harassing vendors and others in longhand letters, scratched in his own indecipherable scrawl. His correspondence was legion and legendary.
He could be a tyrant, frankly. He refused to let Mum wear blue jeans as a teenager (she stored them in a friend’s house) and wouldn’t support her desire to go to college. He had no time for modern music. It was — often — his way or the high way. He spoiled his grandkids, to the infuriation of their father (and to a lesser extent, their mother). He doted on his great-grandchildren, even if he got their names wrong or mixed up their genders at times (Merv and Ikea know what I’m talking about).
His greatest stubbornness was a refusal to ever slow down — he led an uncompromisingly full life. He was, in many ways, unstoppable. When, in his early 90s, he ripped the tendons off one knee in a fall, he was so frustrated with recuperation that he basically tricked his carers into discharging him early and driving him home.
The parts began to wear out. He walked until his legs would no longer carry him. He looked longingly at the world until his eyes failed him. He sang until his mind was so full of memories it struggled to store lyrics. He hated walking with a stick, insisted on driving well into his dotage, and had decades added his life by a quadruple bypass that would have hobbled lesser men. He never thought to pull the brakes. Doctors remarked that he was far younger than he should be for someone so old.
Lightly cured in Jameson, Granda outlived all of his brothers, and by sheer volume of tellable stories, it will be extremely difficult for any one person to outlive him.
He even looked like he might survive two heart attacks aged 94. But slowed by ticker trouble, COVID found him.
Had Granda ever listened to Bob Dylan, he might have found some common ground in Dylan’s defiance and rebellion. And so, we’ll let him have the final words, below, which seem appropriate.
Proud, loud, righteous and riotous, Granda was relentless and endearing and pig-headed in equal measure. Life will be far less interesting without him in it, causing his own brand of cheeky havoc, and telling us “wait now, wait ’til I see.”
I will not go down under the ground
’Cause somebody tells me that death’s coming ‘round
I will not carry myself down to die
When I go to my grave my head will be high
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down under the ground
(Bob Dylan — 1963)