A Kind of Cartoon Obituary

Two days ago my dad died.

But just as I live the rest of my life, I know that there is nothing too serious for cartoons. So here is a set based on the lessons I learned from my dad.

It’s not his full story. It’s more a handful of lessons I have taken to heart, and cartoons inspired by those lessons.

1. What you do is not who you are.

My dad was a chef, trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York following his tour of duty as a Coast Guardsman in Vietnam. And while his career started in restaurants, soon after his family started to grow.

He made a choice and went into dietary for Maryland corrections, where he would then stay for the rest of his career retiring in a supervisor role.

My dad coached my little league teams and he coached my soccer teams. He was also my Webelos leader. When anything special happened in my life, he was there.

It’s not that my dad wasn’t a chef, he was. He made really good soups and could efficiently debone a chicken. With a love of locally sourced food, he continued working in and around the profession his entire life. But if you were to ask me who my dad was, I would tell you he was a man who loved his family and showed it every day of my life.

Now, as a father and husband, my biggest motivation is my family. You won’t usually find me jet setting around the globe. That’s why I charge a big premium anytime my work takes me away from home or makes me give up precious evening time with my wife and daughter.

2. Creating and sharing things is a great way to leave a legacy.

My dad would dive headfirst into lots of creative things. Things like woodworking crafts, canning, carving, gourds, antiquing, and painting. And even though he sold some of his crafts from time to time, most of his work was given away.

All around Westminster, and in the homes of family and friends, you will find my dad’s creative work. From little wooden gingerbread men to gourd penguins, Christmas was one of his favorite times to share.

When people ask about my cartoon licensing policy, I tell them that they’re free to use anywhere and for anything. I’ve always said that it’s because I didn’t like the licensing business model. But truthfully, I think it has more to do with this idea that sharing creative work for free has always felt right to me, even if it that makes it harder to draw an income.

3. Pursue diverse interests.

Outside my parent’s house there is a big garden filled with vegetables (my pop was a master gardener) and a greenhouse filled with exotic trees and heirloom tomatoes. He also always liked to fish, something he connected to his childhood by the ocean in Rhode Island.

But sometimes it seemed like each year he had a new hobby. Something very different from the year before. Something he would probably give up by the next year.

My Ukrainian grandfather was like this too. He built houses, owned an ice cream shop, worked as a fireman, became a lobsterman, and we even found old pictures of him as part of an acting troupe.

So if you ever wonder how I can be a designer, evaluator, coder, entrepreneur, sociologist, and whatever else I become, this is how.

4. Give your time and yourself.

Being generous does not require vast wealth. My father worked for the state and my mom spent much of my childhood either taking care of us or working in family literacy (where she is herself leaving a legacy, home visit after home visit and program after program).

But my dad gave his time and himself through a variety of channels. Volunteering with the Optimist club, playing santa clause, supporting organizations he believe in, pulling together events, and flinging pizza to fundraise.

Out of anything that I could do to make my dad proud, helping other people would be number one. Thinking about the people directly around me, and acting to personally make some kind of difference in their lives.

Our world is changing and more digital than ever, but people are people, and I try to embrace this lesson each and every day.

5. The best sources of information are walking all around you.

I remember heading to the Chesapeake bay with dad and our boat to fish. Each and every time we would stop by the bait shop on the way. Yes, bait helps catch fish, but it was more than that.

During those stops my dad would always engage with the often a surly bait shop owner on what was biting and where to fish. Yes, there were fishing reports. But my dad always trusted direct conversation with people more.

Sitting in the Frontier, my co-working space in the middle of North Carolina’s research triangle, I follow my dad’s lead. I’ve learned more about business, nonprofits, and the transition we are taking into the digital age, from talking to the people around me than I ever could from a course or a book.

6. Big things are built one conversation at a time.

My dad started a fishing rodeo in our town, 30 years ago when I was 7. Each year, over the decades, he would drive around to local Westminster businesses asking for donations and door prizes.

  • Every kid would get a hot dog
  • Every kid would get free goodies.
  • There would be prizes and trophies for the winners, and door prizes throughout the day.
  • The pond would be stocked with fish specifically for the kids to catch.

With a red catfish hat, colorful suspenders, and megaphone my dad would walk around the pond helping all kids have a fun day.

Every kid could fish, even if they never picked up a rod in their life. Even if they had no money, or fishing equipment, or parent there to help them do it. My dad would find a way to get them help.

After my dad died and we were wondering what we could do in lieu of flowers, my sister had an idea. Why not put money towards making sure the fishing rodeo can keep happening?

Last year, for the first time ever, Carroll County Parks and Rec (not my dad) planned the Westminster fishing rodeo. It went well. But there is never a guarantee they will keep it going.

So we setup this fund, and with it we can help keep the fishing rodeo alive. And help kids continue to enjoy free food, fun, and a day of fishing in honor of my dad.


If you’d like to donate you can do so by visiting:



  1. Brenda Warnes on December 3, 2017 at 11:14 am

    What a wonderful way to remember your amazing father. He was such a generous and colourful man, and he seemed to live his life to the fullest. Even though I did not know him personally, you have captured his character so lovingly that I feel I know him now. You are such an awesome son and your Dad would be so proud. We are sending you much love, the Warnes family xox

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Thank you Brenda 🙂

  2. David Larwin on December 3, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Chris, I am so sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like a wonderful man. Your work here captures that well. Thank you for sharing. Prayers for you and your family. —David

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      Thank you David!

  3. Brandi C. on December 3, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Chris, I’m sorry to hear of your father’s passing, but thank you for sharing so much of him here. He must have been an amazing man, and the fact that it wasn’t lost on you and your family (or the community) is the best part of this. You gave him a beautiful tribute that he’d have been proud to read.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks Brandi 🙂

  4. Cheryl E on December 3, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Sorry for your loss Chris. What a lovely tribute and description of him.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks Cheryl!

  5. Donna on December 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Chris I am sorry for your loss. It was very moving to read these wonderful stories.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you Donna 🙂

  6. Heather A Mack on December 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    So sorry, Chris. Sending you fortitude and resilience. It’s inspiring to see you transform the pain and heartache of loss into something so loving and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you Heather!

  7. Cousin Michael on December 3, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Well done Chris. He will be missed.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks Michael 🙂

  8. Wendy Tackett on December 3, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Beautiful tribute to your father, Chris. A father like that is worth remembering in a grand way, and you did…his teachings will live on. Hugs to you!

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Thank you Wendy!

  9. Kathy DeBarr on December 3, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    My condolences on the loss of your father. What a wonderful way for you to remember your Dad. Your father’s love and teachings live on.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Thank you Kathy!

  10. Beverly Backof on December 3, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Chris. So sorry for your loss. I will always remember your dad and all the years in Scouts with you and Matt . Your dad was always there on your scouting trips and watched over his Scouts. Such a great leader and kind man. Prayers and blessings to you and your family .

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      Thank you Beverly 🙂

  11. Chris Vogan on December 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    This is awesome Chris! He was such a good man and I always loved being around him. Always fun. He will be missed

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      Thanks Chris!

  12. Patricia Rogers on December 3, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    What a wonderful legacy your father has left. Thank you for sharing this and inspiring us all to focus on the important parts of life. Best wishes to you and your family. Patricia

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      Thanks Patricia!

  13. Amelia Ward on December 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    This is beautiful, Chris. So sorry for your loss.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you Amelia 🙂

  14. Carol Martin on December 3, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Well done Chris. I remember all the fishing rideo’s & making pizza’s for a lot if the optimist club. I worked with Henry. You’re Dad was a very nice man. He did a lot for kids. I’ll remember him in that way of all the volunteering he did. He was a great man. And he will be missed. So sorry for your loss. Thoughts & prayers to your whole family.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you Carol 🙂

  15. Kristi Lee on December 3, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Chris – Leo, Maya and I are so sad to hear about your loss. Your dad sounds like a wonderful person and I can definitely see some of him in you. I am sure you will continue to carry on his legacy and he will watch and be a part of it every day. We will definitely make a donation, that sounds like an awesome tradition.

    • Chris Lysy on December 3, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks Kristi!

  16. Mary Payne on December 3, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Chris, at one time, I worked with Kate. Surely your dad must have been a special, loving and devoted father and husband. Yours is such a lovely tribute to your dad. As a parent, you can imagine that you hope the life
    Lessons you teach your children are ones that they embody as adults. It’s obvious that you and Kate will continue the family legacy of love and devotion. So sorry for your loss – God bless your dad and be with your family as you remember the good times and grieve his passing.
    Mary Payne

  17. Erica on December 3, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your father. Those life lessons will certainly be passed on for several generations.

  18. Barb Donovan on December 3, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Sincere condolences to your family. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad.
    I lived in Westminster for 11 years and knew your family through the Fowlers. He always had a smile on his face and sure loved his family.

  19. Sheila B Robinson on December 3, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Oh Chris, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. What a brave and beautiful tribute you’ve written and illustrated. Thinking of you and your family…

  20. Amanda Michelle Jones on December 4, 2017 at 12:46 am

    You know, when people’s loved ones pass, I typically wish them love, healing, and happy memories. You’ve definitely captured all that in this post.

    And so, I wish you even more live, even more healing, and many, many more happy memories.

  21. Aimee on December 4, 2017 at 4:55 am

    Thank you Chris for your generous sharing in this wonderful homage. Thoughts and care to you and your family.

  22. Ann Gillard on December 4, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute to your Dad. I’m sure he was very proud of you.

  23. Amanda Sutter on December 4, 2017 at 7:59 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute and way to honor a life well lived. Thank you for sharing with us. Sending hugs.

  24. Ann Webb Price on December 4, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Chris-What a lovely tribute to your Dad. I lost my Mom just 2 months ago so I am with you in spirit. The grief comes and goes as I am sure you know. I will be praying for you. -Ann

  25. Summer Wood on December 4, 2017 at 11:30 am

    So sorry to hear of your dad’s passing, Chris. This is a beautiful way to honor him. He must have been so proud of you. Carry on the good work.

  26. Kate Svensson on December 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Dear Chris, I am very sorry for your loss, and I wish you and your family well. Your father sounded like a wonderful person, father, and role model. When it comes to our loved ones, all the time in the world would never be enough, but I am glad that your father’s legacy will carry on with you.

  27. Roxanne Rane on December 4, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Dear Chris,
    What a wonderful man and profound loss for you, your family and your hometown! What you shared with us is poignant, beautiful. Thank you for this. I am grateful to have read this today and to you for all the insight you have brought me today.

  28. Kathleen Bodisch Lynch on December 4, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Dear Chris,
    So sorry for the loss of your dad, and what a beautiful way to honor him! Thank you for sharing the wonderful, inspiring stories and for creating the fund to keep his generosity flowing.

  29. Kirsten on December 4, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    What a wonderful tribute. It seems like your dad was a wonderful man.

  30. James on December 4, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Nice, Chris. I’m sorry for your loss, but it sounds like he lived a good life and left his loved ones (and many others) lots to remember him by. This a great way of using part of your identity to honor his.

  31. Trilby Smith on December 5, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful remembrance of your Dad. Although I don’t know you, I read and use your cartoons often, and I really enjoyed reading this.

  32. Jennifer Wilson Marsh on December 6, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Chris, I am so very sorry to hear about your Dad. I have so many amazing memories from my childhood because of him and your wonderful family. Reading this piece brought so many of them back. What a legacy of kindness and love he leaves behind – something for us all to aspire to. Our hearts are with you all.

  33. Kate on December 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Dear Chris, your father’s legacy of love, generosity, kindness and belief in humanity is abundant in your wonderful remembrance stories of him. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all. Beaming love and hugs .

  34. Sandy Saperstein on December 12, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Beautiful tribute. Condolences to you and your family.