He was born on a sandy, rocky farm in northern Minnesota in 1911, the youngest of nine children.
Dad and his sister, Clarice.
The family was poor, but I'm not sure they knew it, for I never once heard him complain about being deprived as a child.
Dad at the top of the ladder and his brother Bruce.
He would rather tell the stories of growing up in a loving family, of the shenanigans he and his brothers would pull, of what it was like to plow a field behind a team of horses.
Dad in his twenties.
Dad was 33 years old when he married Mother. When asked why he married later in life than most, he remarked that he had to wait for Mother, who was 13 years his junior, to grow up.
Mom and Dad the day after their wedding in 1945.
Many years later when Mother's rheumatoid arthritis had crippled her so badly that she could no longer do anything for herself, he spent his time with her, feeding her, brushing her hair, cleaning the trach tube she breathed through and taking care of every one of her needs. I once asked him how he could do all of this, day in and day out. He said simply, "I love your Mother."
Mother and Dad - early 1990's.
Dad was not a highly educated man. At that time it was common practice for farm boys to attend rural schools through the eighth grade and then to work on the farm, and this is what he did.
Dad is the little boy on the end, looking at his hands. The picture includes some of his siblings and neighbor children at the little White Pine School.
His lack of formal education didn't mean he wasn't smart. He loved to read and I would often find him sitting at the kitchen table, completely absorbed in the contents of a book. He loved Zane Grey stories and would read the Reader's Digest, cover to cover, but more often than not, I would find him with the Bible open in front of him.
This man had a work ethic second to none. As Mother's disease required more visits to the doctor and then several hospitalizations, he worked two and sometimes three jobs to pay the bills. Never once did I hear him complain, nor did our family ever go hungry, thanks to his ambition and determination.
Dad was of the opinion that just because his firstborn was a girl didn't mean that she had to grow up expecting someone else to take care of her. He didn't just tell me how to do things, but showed me. I got my love of gardening from him, working with him to plant, weed and harvest our garden every year. With him I learned to paint a house, to change a tire, to use tools.
My sister and me with Dad in the garden.
He taught me how to drive by taking me out on a local frozen lake in wintertime, where I couldn't run into anything, and turned me loose to get the feel of driving. Our family car had an automatic transmission, but he insisted we sometimes take his old work car that had a stick shift. He said I might not always have access to an automatic and I had better learn to drive both.
With my shiny, new driver's license in my pocket, Dad and I set off for the big city - Minneapolis. Right through the busy, traffic clogged and sometimes confusing downtown area we went. Other than giving me directions of what street to take and where to turn, Dad never said a word. When I asked him later why he had been so quiet, he replied, "I knew you could handle it."
I come from a long line of people with working senses of humor. When Dad's family would gather together, the air was filled with laughter. The siblings would tell stories on each other about the silly things they did as children. They would delight in playing harmless pranks on one another, like swiping a forkful of someone else's pie when they weren't looking. Dad once told me that his cutting up as a child earned him many hours sitting in the root cellar at the farm, cutting up rutabagas for horse and cattle feed.
Dad being silly while swimming at the lake, bringing Mother some flowers.
In later years when we lived a couple of hundred miles apart, I would call him every few days, to check up on him but mostly to hear his voice. He would tell me that he had been fishing or that a cousin had been to visit with him or that it had snowed the night before. Sometimes he would tell me that he had a beautiful apple pie cooling on the counter, so that I could ask him to mail me a slice, so he could tell me he tried to get a slice in the envelope, but it just wouldn't fit. My phone calls always ended with these words, using his nickname for me, "I sure love you, Sis."
Dad wasn't perfect by any means. None of us are. But I could not have asked for a better Dad.
Dad and me - winter of 1947-48.
He passed on in December of 2004 at the ripe old age of 93. I was so very blessed to have had him in my life for so many years and I still really, badly miss him.