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Tue, Sept. 17

Grandfather had great impact on family's life

A great man just passed away. He was 93, just a couple of weeks short of his 94th birthday. He was my grandfather, and we called him Papa.

He was a simple man who loved his family, from the oldest to the youngest. His life touched five generations, from me, the first grandchild, to my children's babies. Papa believed in honesty, commitment, integrity, and honor. But more than that, he lived what he believed.

Papa was born into an Irish/Welsh family in the little town of Anaconda, Montana. He loved to dance, and that's where he met my grandmother. He was 23 and she was 19 when they married in 1930. She was the youngest of nine children. He always called her Babe, and I didn't even know her name was Cecelia until I had kids of my own.

Papa raised his children and worked in the copper mines in Montana until my grandmother's health forced a move to California. Eventually, they moved to Prescott.

The hard work and hard times of the Great Depression shaped Papa's character, as it did many of his generation. Papa was frugal. He and my grandmother didn't live fancy, but they always had what they needed, and enough to share with others. If we needed shoes, Papa bought them for us. If we didn't have food, he made sure we ate.

"Babe," he would say, "I think the kids need cookies and milk."

That was my favorite. When we were older, it was cookies and tea. This ritual continued to my family, his great grandchildren. We never left Papa and Grandma's house without having cookies, and usually lunch or dinner.

That was one of the things I loved about Papa. You could always count on him, not just for cookies, or shoes, but for him being him. Papa rarely raised his voice, and I can't ever remember him being unkind toward anyone.

While looking at pictures of him and my grandmother, my son remarked that Papa was always old. I guess it seems that way to him - Papa was in his seventies when my son was born. But I remember a big man with dark hair who didn't talk much, but always made us feel loved.

We spent a lot of time with Papa when I was little. There were four kids in my family, and four kids in my aunt's family, all very close in age. Any number of us cousins could be found at my grandparents' house or each other's homes on a daily basis. Papa loved to take us for rides on the weekends. On one of our excursions, a large rock in the road put a hole in the oil pan. Papa stopped the car full of us kids, got out and crawled underneath. A few minutes later, he was handing out bubble gum, which he always kept in the glove box. We were instructed to "chew it good." Then he asked us to do something very surprising. He went down the line of us sitting in the back seat, and told us to spit the gum back out in his hand. We did, even though the gum was still at the juicy, sugary part. Papa disappeared under the car again, then got back in and we headed home. He had plugged the hole with the gum. Papa could fix anything.

My grandparents got the first color television in the family, and every Sunday evening most of us had dinner at his house and then watched Disney's Wide World of Color.

Papa and I had our special time together on Saturdays. We would always watch roller derby, just him and me.

He loved to drop in for a visit at lunch. He worked for the County and the old County yard was on Whipple Street, just a few miles from our house.

On one such visit, he caught my mom in the act of dyeing her hair. Papa was very old fashioned. Even though my mom had her own home and family, everyone still respected Papa and his views. He did not agree with women dyeing their hair. As he came through the door, my mom quickly put a towel around her hair, dye and all, and spent the next hour hoping her hair wouldn't fall out or worse. She kept hoping that papa wouldn't notice the occasional dark rivulet that escaped down her forehead. I don't know if he saw anything out of the ordinary, but because of the extended length of time the dye was on my mom's hair, it turned really dark. Mom had to wash her hair at least twice a day for a week before she thought the color sufficiently faded enough to go to Papa's house.

Out of a least a million memories of my grandfather, one is very vivid. I was sick with German measles. My eyes were swollen shut and I couldn't get out of bed for almost two weeks. Papa came by daily and sat with me. He'd eat his lunch, read the paper or just hold my hand. And I felt better.

I'm sure all of us - Papa's four kids, 15 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren - have different stories to tell, but one thing remains the same. We loved him, and he loved us.

It's odd to think of Papa being gone. He has always been a part of my life.

I miss you Papa. No one can take your place.

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