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In Memory Of
John Joseph Malko
1942 2024

John Joseph Malko

May 31, 1942 — March 15, 2024

Eulogy for John J. Malko by Mary H. Reaman
May 31, 1942 - March 15, 2024

When I met John Malko some 25 or more years ago, he was not someone I would describe as soft, or warm and fuzzy. Don't get me wrong, he was kind, and when we met, he immediately welcomed me into the family as his daughter in-law, but he struck me as someone who was driven more by logic and practicality than emotion and playfulness. By the time I met John, he had traversed so many of life's big transformations. He had been widowed for many years already, but stories of Linda still made his eyes light up. He already had grown children and grown grandchildren. He was retired and no longer working. Life had surely seasoned him, and by all accounts, the hardships he encountered from childhood through adulthood could have hardened him, crushed him, or dimmed him, and yet family stories confirm, he had a mighty sense of determination, a profound curiosity, and resolute courage to continually try new things.

No doubt this combination of attributes led John into some precarious situations including falling off a roof, an axe in his foot, and blowing himself up in the basement as a result of a water-heater incident. But these very attributes are what also brought John to life.

Think about it. Here are these "city slicker" types from Cleveland, who really were just kids (John was 26 and Linda was 22) when they decided to move out to the country and start a new life on a farm, while raising a family. They left everyone they knew and most of what was familiar to set out and make their own way in the world. The Malko kids concur that John and Linda didn't know the first thing about country living or farming, but that's the thing…They didn't let their unknowing stop them! We can only imagine now the scope of challenges that came with such a big decision for both John and Linda, but what we know is that they found a way. They found a way to get Chip and Marlene to join them! They found a way to ask for help from neighbors and long-time farmers. They found a way to work with what they had. They found a way to grow, to learn, and to keep going despite the losses, challenges, and lessons along the way.

Determination requires a certain amount of stubbornness. It requires confidence - faith in oneself - the conviction that "I can/We can." It requires strength to continue on when most others would have certainly given up or given in. I don't know who was more stubborn, but based on the stories I've heard, both John and Linda were determined - determined to live life on their own terms, determined to question, and determined to step outside the status quo. This kind of determination is something we could use more of in our world today!

Determination without the ability to question, without curiosity, is pride's dead-end street. In telling stories about John, one of the recurrent themes was an appreciation of his curiosity, his willingness to learn, to ask questions, to find a way to solve a problem. Whether by consulting books, neighbors, or ideas gained in conversation, John sought out the best wisdom available and was not afraid to take the limits of his knowledge to the test and attempt or experiment with a project, even risking failure or wounding in order to learn, to find out, to pursue the vision of what he wanted to fix, create, or otherwise bring forth - whether it be fixing farm equipment, building a swimming pool, a farmhouse transformation into a Tudor, or a field of a thousand sun flowers. All good adventures begin with curiosity. The way John allowed curiosity to be his guide, reminds us that curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. Curiosity is the fuel for discovery, inquiry, and learning. It's what makes life exciting! In fact, Nietzsche said, "There are two different types of people in the world, those who want to know, and those who want to believe." John was the type of person who wanted to know. And that desire made his life quite a daring adventure!

Curiosity takes courage. It takes courage to admit we don't know. It takes courage to risk failing. It takes courage to side-step tradition, to venture outside the lines of conformity, question authority, and do something differently than the way it's always been done. But John did all these things!

Amanda reminded us that when John worked in the corporate world with its culturally required uniform of shirt, tie, suit jacket, and shiny black shoes, John rebelled in his own way, wearing garish suspenders, big belt buckles, ugly ties, and cowboy boots just to poke fun at the requirement and point out that the way someone dressed said nothing about one's work ethic or capacity to do the job at hand. Based on the stories I've heard, neither was Linda someone who shrunk from challenging the status quo or questioning authority, religious or otherwise. Their examples remind us that curiosity is rebelliousness in its purest form! The discovery of knowledge, and ultimately the discovery of Truth, is impossible without this kind of profound curiosity and John and Linda both possessed it, passed it onto their kids, and now inspire those of us who are lucky enough to hear their stories!

Dementia is a cruel disease for both the one diagnosed and those who love and care for them. And still, the paradoxical nature of life allows gifts to be embedded in unsuspecting circumstances. One of the gifts that arose in these last years with John was the emergence of John's softer side. As the disease progressed John dropped his guard, he depended more on others, and was more openly affectionate and warm, easily offering hugs to everyone! He always remembered the words to Arlo Guthrie's' Lightening Bar Blues and I'll always remember how he sang and danced to the music as Amanda played it on the guitar at the music store. Turns out there was always a soft-side to John. I'm grateful for having experienced John's softer side, but I realize now his big heartedness shone bright throughout his whole life - in the strength of his determination, in the profundity of his curiosity, in the courage he had to explore the unknown, in his ability to share his affection, and finally in his ability trust that Love would see him through to the end. And it did.

May we be so lucky to cultivate determination, curiosity, and courage to the extent that our lives too become a daring adventure! Thanks for the inspiration, John!

Services will be held at a later date by the family.

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