Last week, I lost my favorite reader.
In a lot of ways, he wasn’t at all the the kind of reader we at the newspaper wanted to reach. He didn’t take the paper and didn’t even live within 1,000 miles of our coverage area. But this man wasn’t the average reader. He was my grandfather and he was 98 years old.
When someone lives for nearly a century, it’s hard to contain the story of his or her life to just a few words or to really do it justice if you even try. But his life was long and colorful. After reading lots of my work, it only seemed fitting that I write something about him.
My grandfather grew up in rural Pennsylvania during the 1920s and was part of a large family, with many brothers and sisters. After graduating high school in 1939, he joined the United States Army. He was called to serve in World War II, deployed to Europe and was awarded a Purple Heart after he was injured in an artillery explosion on the Rhine River.
After returning home from the war, he married my grandmother in 1953 and began his decades-long career as an esteemed banker. He found some land and a home not far from where he grew up and eventually had two children. He enjoyed coin collecting, crosswords, reading about military history and taking care of his property. Mowing with his John Deere tractors was his past time and pride.
When I think about my grandfather, I remember him in a lot of ways.
I remember the feeling of excitement I’d get each summer when my family came to visit, and I’d see him standing outside his little blue house, at the end of his long gravel driveway. I remember him in his ancient but beloved recliner, working on a crossword and watching the Mollie B. Polka Party. I remember all the arrowheads and old watches he gave me — all the times he asked me if I had a girlfriend or if I was eating my bread and milk. And I’ll always remember the ways in which he taught me to work hard and to respect myself and others.
When I landed my job as a journalist, I don’t know if anyone was more excited than my grandfather. Living so far away, he couldn’t get a paper delivered, but he often kept up with my articles by reading them online and asking me about my latest assignments, each time we talked. The news wasn’t local to him — not at all — but he didn’t care. He kept reading and that made me feel like I was doing work that mattered.
Now that my grandfather is gone, there are so many things I wish I had told him. But if I could say anything now and have him hear me, it’d be this: Rest in peace, Grandad. You were the best grandfather and reader I could have ever asked for.
Happy birthday to Andrea Welch of Pottsboro; David Lee McCrary; Jane Belcher of Sherman;