When my Grandpa Smith passed away at age 85 last week, he was with family in Indiana. But I was lucky enough growing up that he and my Grandma always lived close by in Oregon. They lived at the coast or in Central Oregon or down the Willamette Valley – never too far of a drive. So I got to know my Grandpa pretty well. That we all lived in Oregon was something of a coincidence, since my grandparents and my parents moved here independently of each other.
My grandfather started his life in Iowa. He graduated high school and started US Army service just in time to serve in the occupation of Germany. After completing his service, he went into training for Christian ministry, again in Iowa, and met and married my grandmother. His service in the church would lead the young couple to Alaska. This was of course pre-statehood Alaska, so it was quite the adventure moving up there for two young mid-westerners. There are some great stories.
From there my Grandpa followed his ministry career throughout the Western US, including Arizona, California, and eventually Oregon. Sometimes I try to imagine which destinations in my Grandpa’s life journey offer a better juxtaposition: Alaska and Needles, California (one of the hottest spots in America); or Alaska and Long Beach.
Grandpa semi-retired to Turner, Oregon, which was great for me, because now they were only about an hour down the freeway. I remember staying for a full week once or twice, and spending many many weekends and long afternoons in their quiet cottage. Grandpa did not talk a whole lot, but I always enjoyed listening when he did. Very good memories.
My grandfather lived through a formidable number of chronic illnesses, with many converging in his final years. A few years after complete retirement he and my Grandma moved back to Indiana to be with their children. I last saw him in May, and am glad for the chance, however brief.
Don Smith really ways a remarkable man. I had great love and respect for him, and his life is in many ways an inspiration for mine. I hope to live up to his example.