Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good-Bye, Grandpa!

On October 3, at 10:30 a.m., my Grandfather passed away.  He was loved very much and will be missed very much.  This was the 3rd death in my family in six months and in that same six months two new grandchildren and a niece were born.  They say these things happen in threes so we've had our allotment and hope we're done for a while.

Grandpa's funeral was held the following Saturday with a military service.  My son, Austin, a Sergeant and Recruiter for the Air Force, accepted the flag.  It was very moving.
Following is my good-bye to Grandpa that I read at the funeral.  Sorry for the length, but I just could not shorten in any way and I just had to share:

Thank you all for being here to celebrate the life of my grandpa, Roland E. Bechtel, Sr. Six months ago I would not have thought that we’d be back here so soon. Grandpa was doing well, was fairly healthy, no disease, no illness, no major medications. But here we are. About three weeks ago Grandpa made some comments that he really missed “his girl” (Grandma) and that he was tired. Shortly after that he closed his eyes and went to sleep and last Sunday he just quit breathing. Grandpa died as he lived. Tidy, neat and with dignity. He was truly a great man; a role model and an inspiration to all that knew him and loved him.

Grandpa had a very successful and accomplished life, in many ways. He was the perfect example of being “self made”, of making your own way and working smart and hard. He was a car salesman and a machinist in his very early years and then was drafted into WW11 and served in the Army Corp of Engineers in Japan, leaving behind a young wife and two young boys. I know this had to have been a tough time, but he returned safe and proud with a life long repertoire of war stories that we think he embellished just a little each year. Then there even seemed to be brand new war stories in his much later years that we’re not sure were real and forgotten for many years or just imagined. Either way, he loved to tell stories and we always listened as if we had never heard them before.

Grandpa started The Bechtel Agency, selling real estate and insurance, shortly after returning home from the war and built a successful career. In addition to brokering the sale of the land where the DuBois Mall is located, he served on the Morningside Cemetery Board, the DuBois Housing Authority Management Board, the 4th Ward Hose Co. of the DuBois Volunteer Fire Dept, was a member of the American Legion Post 17 and served on the Clearfield County and DuBois area Board of Realtors, serving a year as president.

Grandpa accomplished a lot. But he was most proud of his family. He and Grandma raised two handsome and intelligent sons. The biggest tragedy of their life was the loss of their son Charles at the age of 23, but from this tragedy came another proud accomplishment, that of raising their grandson, Brad, as their 3rd son. As Grandpa’s family grew, he became more proud. And it always really stuck with me that he loved every member of his family equally, whether they came into this family by blood, marriage or adoption. It didn’t matter to him. If they were part of our family, they were his to claim. My mother, his daughter-in-law, became especially close to Grandpa after Grandma passed away. She was his main caregiver and he missed her a lot if she didn’t show up a day at the nursing home. And if I came to visit him without Bob, his grandson-in-law, he never failed to ask me where Bob was, and how was he.

Grandpa was the perfect grandfather and great grandfather. And when the great great grandchildren started to come along (he had ten of them) he started to lose track of what great grandchild they belonged to and what their names were, but when we took a baby in to see him and he knew it was one of his, he just loved that baby to death. When my boys were young, he loved picking them up from school whenever he got the chance so that he could talk to the school office ladies and brag that they were his great grandsons. And he and Grandma were always very proud to take my boys to church with them or to Valley Dairy, or the mall, or Bailey’s Ice cream stand.

After Bob and I moved to DuBois and took over The Bechtel Agency, and had our two boys, Austin and Brandon, Grandpa started setting new goals for himself. Austin was his first great grandchild and he said his goal after Austin was born was to see him graduate from high school. Well, that happened 10 years ago and Grandpa was 84. His new goal then became to reach 90. That happened almost 5 years ago. Then he said, “well I’m just gonna go to 100”. And it’s funny, a week before he went “to sleep” he said something to Dad like, “well now that I’m 100”. We think that he thought he had reached his final goal. He had accomplished all that he had set out to do and he left knowing that he did a great job.

Grandpa had some habits and quirks that at times were annoying, but that we now look fondly back on with smiles: His trash habits; he would neatly tear papers or boxes into pieces that would lay flat and stack in the garbage can. Then he would wrap the garbage as nice and neat as any Christmas package to throw it away into the big garbage can; he had a gum chewing habit for many years and being a student of thrift he was not one to waste anything, he would patch holes and cracks in his driveway with his chewed, spent gum; His sweet tooth was legendary. He kept Hershey’s kisses in business. I remember him sitting at his desk in the office and before lunch and about 3:00 every afternoon he would open his desk drawer and divvy out two kisses at a time as his snack. Like clockwork, same time every single day. Now in his later years he didn’t bother looking at a clock or counting out the kisses. He just ate what he had until they were gone. Also later on he added jumbo marshmallows to his daily snacking. Mom kept an eye on this and would only give him so many each day. I also remember as a young girl, and my boys remember as well, spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and every night at exactly the same time, Grandpa would dish out a small bowl of vanilla ice cream with melted peanut butter on top. Of course, any one around was also offered a bowl. As Jane said the other day, she had a bowl of this famous treat the other night in honor of Grandpa. So much for healthy snacking. He lived almost 95 years this way.; then there are the times when Grandpa was in his late 70’s to 80’s in the winter, due to his OCD behaviors of being neat and tidy, he would get up on his roof to shovel off the snow so that he didn’t get any roof damage or leaks. People would drive by and see this old man up on an icy roof shoveling and stop in our office to ask Bob and me if we knew he was up there. We’d say, “yeah, but he won’t come down until all the snow is shoveled off”. And Grandpa was very well known for being thrifty. He loved to run my office errands for me, such as going to the bank, post office, or getting my office supplies. I would give him the money for my purchases and he would come back with the goods and the receipts and if I was short by even a penny, I would have to make good to the penny right then and there. At the time, I would get very annoyed by this, but have come to appreciate his ways and remember this with a smile.

But what is so moving and heart warming is the legacy of love that Grandpa left. You know when people ask the question, “What do you want to be remembered for”? Grandpa defines the answer to this. The comments I’ve received through the years, and especially this last week, about Grandpa, really does not include too much of his personal career accomplishments, but about the kind of man he was. Comments such as; he was a great man, he was so proud of his family and was always pulling pictures out of his wallet to show the latest grandchild or great grandchild to anyone in the mall that he hadn’t shown them to yet, I miss seeing them walking together about town or at the mall, previous bank tellers telling me they loved talking to him and joking with him when he came into the bank; we have such fond memories of him at the family reunions; he always came into the dry cleaners with a joke and a smile; he made such a great contribution to the community and was so funny; my nephew, Roland IV, wrote to me telling me he’ll always remember Grandpa whistling and humming and eating candy; and from my dad – I will always remember my father as a loving and uplifting man. He always overcame adversity with a smile and a humorous remark. He had a great way of energizing the family and making everyone feel good. He had no hangups except his penchant for tidiness. He succeeded through ‘good times’ and ‘bad time’.

We can only all hope that we’re remembered in these ways that Grandpa, Roland E. Bechtel, Sr., will always be remembered.


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