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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The first time UF President Bernie Machen brought his father to the president's box for a Gators football game, his dad had only one request: to watch Auburn University play on TV while the Gators played on the field below.

To the 80 people who gathered Sunday afternoon to remember Machen's father, a lifelong Auburn fan, this story was no surprise.

Machen's father, Bernard Machen, died Jan. 9 at age 94. A memorial service was held Sunday at Oak Hammock, the UF-affiliated retirement home where the elder Machen lived since 2004.

Family members and friends shared memories of him, sang hymns and listened to Scripture verses chosen by his wife, Eleanor. She sat in the front row while President Machen read a speech she'd written for the occasion.

"Bernard will never die," Machen said, reading his mother's words. "My wish for each of you is that you know that kind of love." The couple would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this month.

Their daughter, Faye Bracey, also shared several anecdotes, two of which related to her father's work as a nitrate salesman.

Bracey said when she was born, her father had to borrow money from a stranger in a train station to get back to Montgomery, Ala. As soon as he arrived, he mailed a check back to the stranger.

Once she left home to attend Vanderbilt University, Bracey said she rarely kept in touch with her family, always blaming it on her new friends. One afternoon, she walked onto campus and discovered her father had driven from Atlanta to meet these friends who were so important.

After he took them out to lunch, she said her father told her, "Little girl, I want you to know I'm glad you're having a good time, but families communicate and you need to remember that." Since then, she said she never forgot to call home.

Don McGarity, a retired Presbyterian minister and volunteer chaplain at Oak Hammock, led a final hymn and a benediction.

McGarity said he visited Machen as often as he could, and Machen talked about how much he loved his family every time.

"Many times I have to cheer people up," he said, "but he would cheer me up."

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