‘Rest Well…Dear Friend’

'Rest Well…Dear Friend'
Charles Farber, nephew of William O. "Doc" Farber, told people who gathered at the USD political science professor's funeral Saturday afternoon that he would expect the service to be a celebration.

"This past week, every time I practiced speaking, I couldn't help but see Bill sitting there, and I could see him say, 'That was okay. Let's try it again, and this time tell them who you are and why we are here, and remember it's a celebration, so put a little oomph into it,' " Charles said from the pulpit of the United Church of Christ-Congregational.

The church, filled to capacity with people who gathered to pay their last respects to their mentor, reacted, fittingly, with rounds of laughter, fulfilling Doc's wish by making his funeral a time of joy, not sorrow.


It was a gloomy day outside. Claps of thunder mixed with the laughter that afternoon.

In contrast to the gray skies were beautiful sprays of flowers that adorned Doc's casket that, fittingly, was in front of the church, beneath the pulpit.

Doc's portrait, which has hung in Farber Hall in Old Main for nearly a decade, rested in a chair on the church's altar; his black cap and gown were draped on chair's back.

Charles said his family has been very fortunate to have Doc as its leader for so many years.

"On the occasions of funerals when we get together, they are celebrations just like we're having today," Charles said.

Charles rode with his uncle to the cemetery at the last Farber funeral.

"Doc said, 'This is a great occasion; what a wonderful family reunion. I can't wait for the next one.' "

Again, the church filled with laughter.

"In thinking about Doc's unshakeable sense of optimism, it is important to note, that he was not optimistic because his positions always prevailed," said Dr. Don Dahlin, who represented The University of South Dakota at Saturday's funeral service. "Think, for example, in his belief for the need of local government consolidation, and how much of that have we had?"

Dahlin said Doc also said one should consider work a calling, not just a job.

"Clearly, Doc saw that he had important work to do, and that he should do it in this place," Dahlin said. Farber was educated and taught at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, "and he could have stayed on, and I asked him why he didn't," he added. "His response was that he thought he could do so much more good here, both in helping the state and especially in helping the students," he said.

Charles said his uncle believed in challenging himself and others to always do their best.

He noted that members of the Farber family have, over the years, settled to make their homes and earn their livings in cities across the country.

"Bill has taught us the value of being fully engaged wherever we live," Charles said. "When he moved to South Dakota, he fell in love with the state, and the Vermillion community, especially the people."

Charles added that his uncle always approach every challenge with a contagious spirit of enthusiasm.

Msgr. James M. Doyle, a longtime friend of Doc, told those who gathered at the Saturday's services that despite their different backgrounds, ages and experiences, they all have one thing in common.

"The one thing that has brought us all together here today is our unified admiration and deep affection for this dear man, William O. Farber," Doyle said.

He believes Doc's success can be credited to his liking the people he taught and worked with, and they liked him back.

"In fact, when you think of that sparkle in his eye and that wry smile, he had a unique way of charming most everyone he met," Doyle said. "And he also truly liked being a teacher."

Doyle said that during Doc's career as a political scientist, he taught his students until they experienced an epiphany of their highest strengths, and began employing them in the service of something bigger than themselves.

That brought happiness not only to the students, but also to Doc.

"Only a happy man could have lived full throttle like he did until almost the end for nearly 97 years," Doyle said.

Doc was in the right place at the right time when he arrived at USD, Doyle said, teaching and mentoring students for nearly three-fourths of the 20th century.

"So rest well, great professor and dear friend," Doyle said.

Dahlin said part of Doc's effectiveness in dealing with people stemmed from his physique. "It was hard to be intimidated by this short, portly, innocent-looking fellow," Dahlin said. "But even more important was his basic approach to people. He didn't have a mean bone in his body, and I don't think I ever saw him angry."

Farber, Dahlin said, loved to talk, but not engage in much small talk, loved to laugh, and most of all loved to challenge.

Farber taught those around him to embrace the chance to become a mentor to others.

"I asked him how he chose the students with whom he chose to work," Dahlin said.

"He would meet with the student, talk with the student, and then if the student showed any interest in further discussion, Doc would invite the student to come see him in his home.

"If the student came, and kept coming, the student was 'in.' It meant you had your own personal trainer for life," Dahlin said.

"One of the endearing qualities of Doc was his uncanny ability to connect with individual students on a very personal level," said Mike Koehler, who spoke on behalf of all of the young women and men who were mentored by the political science professor at USD since the mid-1930s. "When you were in his presence, you truly felt like you truly were one of Doc's only students on the entire campus."

The impact Doc has had – the harvest of the ideas he has planted in the minds of so many young minds – today is flourishing, Koehler said.

"At one point, you couldn't turn on a living room TV at dinner time, pick up a newspaper, watch a major sporting event or roam the halls of Congress in Washington or the state Capitol in Pierre without witnessing Doc's harvest," he said.

That "harvest" continues to flourish today in city halls, board rooms, courtrooms and classrooms across the country, Koehler said.

"Students were Doc's life, and he nurtured them and cared for them as if they were his own," he said.

Like Dahlin, Koehler once asked Doc why he didn't stay at his more prestigious alma mater, Northwestern University in Chicago.

"Doc said he didn't feel as needed there as he did at USD, where he could help equally qualified students who simply lacked experience and opportunities," he said.

Koehler said Doc understood that students came to him with an inner flame lit, and he sought to nurture and feed that flame, and at all costs never kill it.

Doc was many things to many people, he added – teacher, mentor, father figure, grandfather, all in one, he said.

"On a personal level," Koehler said, "he was all of those things to me."

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