My goal in life since business school has been to do for my family what my grandfather did for his. Gramps did many things for us, but the most significant was to be a positive example.
My grandfather had every right to be a bitter man. His father died when he was two. His mother remarried and his step father died when he was six. His mother died when he was eight. He was raised in Brooklyn New York by his grandmother. Every summer he would be farmed out to relatives to work on their farms on Long Island and Staten Island New York. It was on Staten Island that he met my grandmother. They got engaged, but before they got married my grandfather went off to fight in WWI (See cover photo)
During the fighting in France Gramps got shot and lost his leg to gangrene. He survived and was shipped back to recover at Walter Read Hospital in Washington DC. While there he wrote my grandmother to tell her that the engagement was off as he was not the same man after the amputation. Of course she wrote him to tell him that she still loved him.
This next piece of the story makes me cry every time I tell it. My grandfather told me this story when I was in college. During a visit he asked me to take him to Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island. My grandmother’s homestead had been moved there and he told me this story sitting in a car in front the building that had been my grandmother’s farmhouse.
After the war Gramps had been released from Walter Read. He had taken a train from Washington to New York City. The subway to the ferry and then the ferry to Staten Island where he arrived late at night. From the ferry he walked through the night across Staten Island with one leg and crutches arriving at my grandmothers at 4 in the morning. He went up to the front porch and sat there afraid to knock on the door for fear that they wouldn’t accept him.
Of course they accepted them. He and my grandmother married. They had two children, my mother Dorothy and her sister Margaret Mary.
Gramps had a successful career at the US Post office. But tragedies struck again. He had a heart attack when he was in his forties and then my grandmother died at the age of 58.
He had 10 grandchildren and we all grew up spending summers with Gramps at his lake house Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. It is there where he taught us so many things. He taught us about hard work. He taught us to garden. He taught us to fish. Most importantly he taught us to be good people and to find positives in life. Gramps had every right to be a bitter man, but he was one of the most positive people I have ever met. He had great faith and decided to be a happy man.
I went to visit Gramps at the lake when he was 90 and he told me: ‘Paul, don’t get this old”. I was thinking that life had caught up with him…He followed up with: “Yes I am getting old. I go to bed at night and there is more me out of bed than in the bed. I take off my leg. I take out my teeth. I take out my hearing aid. I take off my glasses. I can’t take out the metal plate in my head from that boating accident in the 60’s, but…”
Gramps died the following summer at the age of 91. A positive influence to the end.