Sunday, August 8, 2010
He met my Grandma Casper when they were in High School Together. They dated his whole senior year and then he enlisted in the Navy. After basic training, he proposed. He was at Pearl Harbor and served in WWII and they didn't get married until he returned from the war. Within a year of marrying Grandma, her half brother came to live with them because her father's second wife had passed and he was so lost in his grief he couldn't raise my Uncle Arnie. A year after that Grandpa's older sister Ruth and her husband Kenneth died in a plan crash leaving 4 children orphaned. There was a bit of a tussle in the family over custody, some wanted the older kids, some wanted the 3 girls, some wanted only the boy... after about a year of this my Grandpa and Grandma stepped up and said they would take all four kids in. This is how they became to be my Grandparents, because my mom was only one when her parents died.
I am not sure 3 years into a marriage, with a toddler of your own and expecting your second child that most people would take on 5 kids that weren't their own, but my Grandpa did. It was important to him that his nieces and nephew not be separated, he felt they had already lost enough. He also felt badly that the older kids were going to have to switch houses and schools so he quit attending the Catholic church with is wife and children so that my mom and her siblings could continue to grow up in the Lutheran church their parents had attended. When my Aunt Karen developed cancer, Grandpa never once thought about seeing if someone else could take on the "adopted" kids so he could focus on his birth daughter. They were all 7 his kids and they were all raised as siblings. Sure, everyone knew the family history and that Grandpa was their uncle not their father, but he was their Dad.
He had ice cream pants... they were these awful brown pants and it was almost embarrassing to be seen in public with him when he wore them, but you knew if Grandpa had them on, you were stopping for ice cream at some point before going home to Grandma. He tolerated no disrespect to others. He had a candy shop and chocolate factory that was the stuff of childhood dreams. I loved taking my school classes on field trips to Grandpa's chocolate shop... he put Godiva to shame. He taught me to jump on a trampoline, and was at everyone of my dance recitals. When I got into a car accident, he sent me a box of Captain Crunch Cereal as a joke. He loved black coffee and making Sunday breakfast for all his girls. He called women toots or sweetie but not in a dirty old man sort of way, just in a throwback to another era. He always said that you could face a problem laughing or crying and that he would much rather laugh at life than to sob his way through it.
He was just a really remarkable man and I am eternally grateful that he and his fairly new bride stepped up to adopt my mom and her siblings because my Grandpa blessed my life from it's beginning. His legacy is a great one that lives on in the hearts of his many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also in the lives of the people he employed, volunteered with, coached and lived life with.