- Published on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 00:00
- Written by Los Altos Town Crier
April 29, 1923 to Nov. 1, 2012.
Resident of Sunnyvale, California
Douglas Churnin, deeply beloved husband, father, grandfather,
great-grandfather and friend, journeyed through life with an open hand and outstretched hand. Endlessly loving and giving, he embodied the spirit of tikkun olam – repairing the world -- by making the lives of all he met brighter and better as he got up every day, never thinking of what he could do for himself but for what he could each and every day to improve their lives and uplift the spirits of others. He lived humbly and carefully so that he could share all the more freely and gladly.
He was known for his inventive ways in the kitchen where he was always preparing abundant meals that you could never walk away from without extras to take home and his ever present toolbox, which he used to fix whatever was broken and construct whatever would make anyone happy, from brick walkways to tables and lamps, remodels of rooms and offices and hutches and shelves for the grandchildren’s dormitory rooms. When his persimmon tree bore fruit, he would slip a bag of fruit on every neighbor’s door. Fittingly, his blood type was that of a universal
donor and in keeping with his caring spirit, he won awards for the volume of blood he donated over the years.
Douglas grew up in New York City during the Great Depression, working hard at whatever jobs he could from the time he was a child to help his family. His life took wing when he met the love of his life, Flora, when he was 15 and she was 13. They lived in the same apartment building at 1263 Grant Hill Road in the Bronx. Douglas’ mother asked Flora’s mother if Flora could tutor Douglas in French and trigonometry. As he quickly mastered his verbs and mathematical formulas, Douglas, whom Flora found to be smart, kind and very handsome, quickly realized he had not only lucked upon the best (and prettiest) of teachers, but upon the loving heart and beautiful soul that completed his and would help him create the family of his dreams.
They married on Oct. 11, 1943, when Douglas was on furlough from the U.S. Air Force, where he proudly served his country during World War 2. On his return, he
attended and graduated from New York University in 2 ½ years. He worked for Longines Wittnauer in New York for almost three decades and for Linzer Jewelry Manufacturing in San Francisco for 15 years before retiring. He was incredibly proud and protective of the four children he and Flora raised and put through school as they did everything they could every day to help them achieve their dreams and lighten their journeys: Dr. Sharon Churnin Nash, a psychologist in Los Altos Hills, Ca.;
Dr. Jon Churnin, an anesthesiologist in San Francisco, Ca.; Nancy Churnin Granberry, a Dallas Morning News staff writer in Plano, Texas and Marc Churnin, an executive with Samsung, in San Jose, Ca. He reveled in their academic
and professional accomplishments, their marriages, the birth of their children and their children’s children.
Their Sunnyvale home, filled with books, treasured mementos and family photos, was always warm and welcoming, with their ever growing family joining them for holidays, birthdays and the celebrations they felt were called for when any of their children or their in-laws or friends were able to stop by. Douglas’ embracing nature was an unstoppable force that was futile to resist. Anyone who had ever been unkind or dismissive to him would find that when they were in need not only did he never hold a grudge, he was the first to step up and help by doing whatever would ease their pain or bring them joy. He was a strong man with boundless energy and strength, who loved poetry, particularly Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee?” from Sonnets of the Portugese, one of the first gifts he gave Flora because even as a teen, it so perfectly expressed his undying love for her. His concept of family was broad and inclusive. One of his dearest friends was Jim Smith, one of the first people he and Flora met when they moved to California, and who became another son to them over the years.
Douglas struggled with kidney failure and complications from lung disease and diabetes that sent him in and out of the hospital starting in January, with Flora always at his side, sleeping on a chair in his hospital room, watching fiercely over every medicine, treatment and monitor, fighting for the best treatment and showering every doctor and every medical professional that helped him with gratitude and appreciation. Douglas fought valiantly and successfully to stay out of
the hospital for several months to enjoy many simchas, from the bnai mitzvah of his twin grandsons to the birth of two great granddaughters and the passing of the holiday hosting traditions to their eldest grandson, Adam Nash, and
his wife Carolyn of Los Altos. He even managed to hang on long enough to enjoy the sight of his San Francisco Giants winning the World Series on his hospital T.V., which would have only been possible if they won it in four straight games which they helpfully did.
When his doctor told him in the beginning of October that he had
aggressive, incurable bladder cancer, his one wish was to make it to his 69th wedding anniversary. He did, in the hospital, in a sweet celebration with Flora holding his hand, taking pleasure in a book assembled of loving wishes from all over, listening to favorite songs played in their room by a harpist and flautist named Angel,
and happily departing from his pureed hospital fare for a slice of his favorite strawberry shortcake.
He died at 89 1/2 in El Camino Hospital in Mountain View with his Flora, four children, Jim Smith and grandson Adam by his side, after more than two months in the hospital where he had heard daily from his children, his children’s spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and additional family and friends of their love for him in a constant stream of visits and phone calls. He fought as long and hard as he could to stay with his loved ones through his ever increasing pain, but was at peace with his journey, particularly after his children
promised him to take up his mission to care for their mother and each other and each and every one of his precious and adored grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Just a couple of weeks before his last day, he said his most important advice was to “follow your heart, because that will always take you to the right place.” That’s what he did and that’s why he did not fear the next part of his journey. “I’m a very lucky man,” he said. “I’ve had a good life. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Services were held Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. at Home of Peace