My beloved Grandpa passed away in Denver last June at 92 years old, after suffering from two years of Alzheimer’s disease. He is considered the great man in our family…the one who set the standards for work ethic, personal responsibility, and love of family. My Dad gave the eulogy at his memorial and I’d like to share it with you. It’s in outline form, but try to imagine my Dad flowing through it effortlessly…until the end. (I’ve deleted the last name, of course.)
Charles: Truly part of the Greatest Generation
ï¿½ Loving son, farmhand, student and scholar, devoted husband and father, geologist, grandfather and great-grandfatherï¿½just some of the things that made Charles William special
ï¿½ Born 92 years ago today, June 13, 1914 on a farm near Frederika, Iowa. Parents Louise Dreier and Io Austin; brother Elwin who died age 18 during the first landing on Iwo Jima in 1945
ï¿½ Attended small, consolidated country schools until his senior year in High Schoolï¿½skipped 2 grades and graduated at 16
ï¿½ Continued working as farm hand for 4 years saving money for college
ï¿½ First in all his direct family to attend college, earning Bachelors and Masters degrees in Geology at the University of Iowa
ï¿½ Worked many jobs in college including getting up at 5 in the morning to fix breakfast for his dormitory; even took up amateur wrestling in college and won the intramurals at this renowned wrestling school
ï¿½ Met Letha Helen at a social function for the Nursing School at Iowa, and walked her home that night
ï¿½ Married to Mom, his beloved, for over 50 years, and he grieved greatly when she preceded him in death in 1989.
ï¿½ Together they raised 3 children, Gerald William; James Io; and Kathy Louise.
ï¿½ Extremely proud of all his familyï¿½wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
ï¿½ In addition, maintained strong relationships with his and Momï¿½s extended families and many friends from college as well as colleagues from work at Atlantic Richfield.
ï¿½ Dad would not accept idle time; he was always busy and involved in something like genealogy, reading, cooking, woodworking, fixing things around the house, and of course gardening and yard work. As long as his health was good, he planted gardens, raised flowers and maintained a nice yard. All of us will remember how nice the backyard looked at Wide Acre Road with all the Russian olive trees, flowers, produce garden, bird feeder and so on. While he could he even worked at Katherineï¿½s Quality of Life home vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen table.
ï¿½ But, we all know his favorite of all hobbies was his beloved miniature schnauzers; even as his health failed he never stopped asking about Jock, and he wanted to know that Jock was comfortable and not a bother at Whitney and Erikï¿½s.
ï¿½ Late in life he traveled with Mom, including going to Mexico and taking grandchildren to Hawaii. They regularly visited family in Iowa and wherever the children lived; after Mom died, he continued his regular visits, including several trips to Europe, and many came to see him in Denver
ï¿½ Dad was a good man; an exceptional man; a successful man in all important waysï¿½widely respected, admired and loved by all his direct and extended family plus his friends and co-workers; many have written expressing their strong feelings for him. A couple of examples that indicate how others felt: a cousin from South Dakota ï¿½We have always admired Charlesï¿½what a gentleman, always so interesting to visit withï¿½; a former work colleague in Texas ï¿½your dad was one of the best fellows I ever met in my oil field venturesï¿½; one of Momï¿½s nieces, ï¿½we all love him you knowï¿½
ï¿½ Worked hard his entire lifeï¿½on the farm growing into manhood; in college earning money and excellent grades; as a geologist for over 37 years working in many locations; as Father and husband, building and providing for his familyï¿½be it a breakfast table; trundle beds for Gerry and me; desks for our rooms; even turning a porch into a master bedroom in Jackson, Miss
ï¿½ He led by example and deed, not often by words and very occasionally as necessary with his hands on our rear endsï¿½at least on mine
ï¿½ Dad enjoyed weighty conversations, mainly about how and/or why things worked they way they didï¿½politics, economics, woodworking, science, the weather, or whatever, he wanted you to think and know about things; he wanted to hear what you thought
ï¿½ He had a dry sense of humor that grew over the years, particularly after he retired
ï¿½ As my sister Kathy said, Dad was not a religious man, but he was very spiritual
ï¿½ A few things I remember:
1. playing ball with Gerry and me in Dallas, and then soothing Kathy after I hit her with a bat
2. carrying Gerry to the car to go to the polio clinic in Miss
3. cigar smashed on his face after playing tether ball with Kathy in Oklahoma
4. surprising Mom with something she had hinted at but really did not expect
5. his story of getting caught by a nun with Mom sitting on his lap in the dark living room of Momï¿½s nursing dorm
6. pouring over his geology maps or visiting drill sites in the middle of the night
7. knowing every distant cousin, where they lived, what they did and what family they had
8. explaining rocks, mountains, geysers, glacial plains and other geology to any family member who would listen
9. seemed to me he always know the answer to any questionï¿½even at 90 years old
We all loved him dearly and will miss him greatly, but we are also glad he is at peace.
**** My Dad teared up at that last sentence and it was the first time I’ve ever seen him do so. I was invited up, along with the other grandchildren, to say something, but I was too overcome with emotion to come up with anything. My failure to match Dad’s eloquence and pay tribute to my Grandpa haunts me constantly.