Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Goodbye, Dad: Lloyd C. Nintzel, 1923-2016

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 10:00 AM

So let me tell you a little bit about my dad.

Lloyd C. Nintzel loved his seven kids—Chris, Jeff, Ken, Diana, Doug, Bill and me. He loved his 18 grandkids and his three great-grandkids.

He was born on Dec. 29, 1923, in New York City, and spent most of his life as a New Yorker.

His love affair with baseball started when he was just 8 years old, listening to the radio as the Yanks swept the Cubs in the ’32 World Series. That was the year Ruth called his shot in Game 3 and drove a legendary home run deep into center field. Dad was hooked. The next year, he went to his first game; his mom took him and his younger brother Chub across the city on the train on Sunday, Oct. 1, 1933, to see Ruth take the mound against the Red Sox. He later marveled to me that his mom braved the trek across the city with two young boys.

He was the first kid in his family to go to college—and he picked one of the best, Dartmouth, though it was something of an accident. He didn’t know anything about going to college and neither did his parents, but some of his high-school friends were aiming for Dartmouth, so he figured: Why not? After a few hurdles, he got his real letter of acceptance and his parents drove him up to Hanover, N.H., for the first time when he started his fall semester in 1941.

That December, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Dad, like many of his generation, wanted to enlist. The Army wouldn’t take him because he was colorblind, but he kept trying to sign up and discovered the military needed meteorologists, but there was a snag: He needed to be drafted. So he convinced a draft board to come together for the purpose of drafting him and he went off to training around the country. He shipped out to Greenland, tracking radio transmissions and doing who knows what else. Following the Allies’ victory in Europe, he ended up in France, where he joined some of his fellow soldiers on an impromptu (and evidently unapproved) trip to Paris, until the MPs caught up with him and sent him over to England.

He came home, finished his undergrad work at Dartmouth, met my mom out at the family’s summer beach cottage in Mattituck, Long Island, got married, and then went back to Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business for his MBA. He moved back to the city, worked as a CPA in the financial field in Manhattan, moved out to the suburbs of Jersey, had his seven kids.

I was the youngest and I didn’t see that much of my dad when I was growing up. He and my mom divorced when I was 6 or 7 years old and a few years later, we moved to Arizona with my stepfather, whose military career took him to Fort Huachuca. But I heard from him a lot—regular phone calls, frequent letters telling me about life in the Big City and bemoaning the fortunes of the Mets (often accompanied by newspaper clippings of articles he thought would interest me), and postcards from his many travels around the world.

Dad came to visit every summer and we took trips to the Grand Canyon, California beaches and even the Hawaiian islands, back when my oldest brother Chris was serving in the Navy.

As I got older, I started flying back to New York City to visit him. We had a lot of fun seeing games at Shea Stadium, plays on and off Broadway and jazz concerts at Carnegie Hall. He lived in a high-rise on York Avenue down near 90th Street and later, after he remarried, in another apartment in Murray Hill. He jogged around the city, played tennis, and often talked about the importance of maintaining his “original splendor.”

Dad was a pillar of support. He helped pay for my college education and encouraged me to pursue a career in the newspaper biz. I wouldn't be where I am today without him.

After Dad retired, he moved to Seattle with his second wife, finding a comfy Queen Anne condo. I made regular trips up there and he delighted in showing me around his new city. We explored restaurants, visited museums and, of course, made treks to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners. His last ballgame was on Father’s Day in 2011, when he let me and my brothers Ken and Bill know that he had skybox tickets through his old college fraternity. We all flew to Seattle to take him to the ballgame.

And he was so excited to meet his youngest grandchild when my daughter Olivia arrived in 2013. “My God,” he said when I told him a kid was on the way. “Miracles do happen.” He was happier than I’d seen him in years when I brought Ya Ya—as she calls herself—up to meet him in Seattle.

Dad’s second wife was not in the best of health in her final years; his time was spent taking care of her through her long illness. After she passed away last year, Dad moved to Tucson to be closer to us kids. We looked around at various senior living apartments, but then my mom, who had been living alone since the death of her second husband back in 1984, invited him to board with her—and he decided that was the best place for him. There’s a twist none of us saw coming.

It was so great having Dad here. Ya Ya might not have been able to say “grandpa,” but she loved going to visit “Napa” on her way home from school. He and my mom came over to my place watch the poor Mets lose the World Series this year. And we even made a trip out to Hawaii this summer, where Dad got to watch the Friday night fireworks over Waikiki beach while holding Ya Ya’s little hand.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, we celebrated Dad’s 92nd birthday. He was surrounded by family: My mom, his kids Diana, Doug and me; his grandkids Michael (and his wife Cassie), Caitlin, Tracy, Brian and little Ya Ya, who was so happy to help him blow out his candles. We toasted his milestone; he said he hoped we’d all get to experience a 92nd birthday ourselves.

And two days later, on Thursday, Dec. 31, he got up to fix his breakfast and slipped in the kitchen. He hit his head going down, hard. At the ER, the docs said there was a lot of bleeding around his brain.

He was such a strong man, even at 92. He had moments after the injury where he could recognize us and point out old family members in photos, but—as much as we hoped and prayed it would be different—we came to realize he wasn’t going to be back with us. He moved to TMC’s amazing hospice, Peppi’s House, and, on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 13, he passed in his sleep.

Goodbye, Dad. I love you and I’d give anything for the chance to get another ice-cream cone with you and Ya Ya again.

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