Ramble on, Dad

My dad was always so happy. I miss him so much.

My dad was always so happy. I miss him so much.

Gone through some rough times lately. Staying strong though. On November 16th I lost my dad to the horrible disease we call cancer. He was too young to die, at only 63 years old. There is so much more I wanted to do with and learn from him.

My dad and my daughter, Kaitlin in 2010.

My dad and my daughter, Kaitlin in 2010.

My dad, Dr. Stephen F. Wurst, was the kind of guy that everyone dreams about becoming. A successful businessman, a craftsman, an artist, a die hard fisherman, and most of all, a dedicated father and husband. My dad was a veterinarian who started his own practice back in 1984, called Barnegat Animal Clinic. Over the past 30 years he has helped touch the lives of so many pet owners throughout Ocean County. He worked his butt off to provide for his family. I was lucky enough to have worked for him for my first job, cleaning cages; then again as a veterinary technician when I was attending Ocean County College back in 1998-2000. I feel privileged to have seen him in action at work. As one of my friends, Jim said, “Death is inevitable, but being one of the good guys is not…. in fact, the odds are stacked against each of us that we might achieve the type of legacy your Dad did.”

He was so dedicated to his profession and his family. I had a lot of fun experiences with dad, many that most people don’t ever get to do. I’ll hold onto these memories forever and plan to pass on his legacy to my two kids. I think that one of the most important things that my dad instilled in me is that nothing is ever easy and that you have to work hard in life to get where you want to be. I grew up working in my dad’s woodshop. My brother and I had our own space on his workbench. We’d use the space to make small gifts for our mom. He taught us that when things are made by hand then they are much more meaningful.

After my dad died, my brother asked me to make a wooden box to hold his ashes. I didn’t know what to say other than a big yes. I was honored to make such a meaningful piece for my dad, who was the biggest mentor in my life, especially when it comes to woodworking. My dad wholeheartedly supported what I did with my small business. He helped me setup at events. He helped me salvage wood. He was always there for me.

Box I made to hold my dad's ashes until we spread them in all the places he loved.

Box I made to hold my dad’s ashes until we spread them in all the places he loved.

As with all old wood, it holds a story. I built the reclaimed wood box using wood that my dad helped me salvage. The box is made from old barnwood that we salvaged from a historic farmhouse in Maine while on vacation up there in September. The fish (one for each of our family, was my brothers idea and was something my dad was passionate about crafting in his shop; I used one of his fish as a stencil) are made from old cedar shakes from the Shack. My dad helped me sift through the debris pile on the side of Route 72 two months after Superstorm Sandy hit the coast. This is definitely the most significant piece that I have ever made and ever will make.

Hold your family close this Thanksgiving. Cherish every moment you have together. I’m thankful for all of my awesome family members and friends for all the love and support these past few weeks. Ramble on, Dad. 

Here’s a tribute I put together for his Celebration of Life on November 22: