Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Grandpa Stoehr

By far, my favorite picture of my Grandparents EVER!  I'm loving Grandpa's bow-tie and Grandma's suit and bag.

Last summer my little family flew to Wisconsin and spent a few days up north with my Grandma and Grandpa Stoehr.  Blog posts about our trip are here, here, here, and here.  We played all the usual card games, spent our days playing and fishing in the Red River, and our evenings sitting around the fire-pit roasting hot dogs and making our fingers sticky with s'mores.  My children danced outdoors, blew bubbles, and slapped mosquitoes away as they buzzed in their ears.  We layed in the hammock, nursed bottles of Sun Drop, and talked with our Grandparents.  We stayed up late listening to stories about Grandma and Grandpa's early years, we got lost in old photo albums, and ventured outside well after midnight to watch the meteor shower.  Our days in Shawano with my grandparents were magical.

On this trip I took several pictures.  I snapped away, experimenting with different apertures and shutter speeds   I took many pictures of my Grandpa Stoehr.  At the time he had a sore on his arm that wouldn't go away, and was just diagnosed with prostate cancer.  My mom said prostate cancer wasn't much to worry about, but we were all a little concerned about the sore on Grandpa's arm.  Doctors couldn't figure out why it wouldn't heal.  My brother, Jimmy searched the web for answers, and the most likely culprit was skin cancer.  I didn't worry too much about it, as I heard skin cancer was treatable, but in the back of my mind a voice told me, "it could be more serious."

One day I was taking pictures of my mom and grandpa sitting outside and he looked at me and asked, "Lessy (that was my nick-name), why are you taking so many pictures?"  I told him it was my new hobby, and most of the pictures I took didn't turn out anyways.  He nodded and gave me a half-smile.  The same voice in the back of my head whispered, "Take pictures of your grandpa, because this might be the last time you see him in this life."  I listened.

About a month ago my grandpa was finally diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer.  It was too late to treat.  The cancer was the cause of the sores on his arm.  He was given three days to six months to live.  He lived for two more weeks, and then took his last breath in the arms of my Aunt Lori.  My mom said her last goodbyes twenty minutes before on the phone. 

I said my final goodbyes over the phone about a week before he passed.  I told him how Tralee asked me, "Is Grandpa part of Heavenly Father's Happy Plan?"  He laughed -- that cheerful laugh of his I can still hear when I close my eyes and picture his face.  Our conversation was quick, and I was able to say and hear the last words I hoped for:  

I love you Grandpa.  
I love you too Lessy.  

This last month has brought back many memories of my grandpa.  I think my mom said it best at his funeral service, "Grant Stoehr was a tough man, but he had a tender heart."

Korean War hero
I attended his funeral two weekends ago, and was honored to be there.  My grandpa will be remembered as a Korean War hero, a hard working farmer, a good neighbor and friend, a tough but loving father, a lover of baseball, a fan of The Cubs, a good bowler, a hunter, and someone you could sit around the table and enjoy a fun game of Rook or Sheaps Head with.  He will be remembered as a man who loves his family, who was the kind of person who gave everyone a nick-name, as well as the kind of person who cried every time he watched Hoosiers.

Bear or moose hunting in Canada

My own father with Grandpa

My personal memories of Grant Stoehr include sitting next to him in his big red truck chewing Big Red gum.  I remember going on road trips with Grandpa.  One time, it was just him and me in his truck.  I was little and tired.  He let me lay my head on his lap and I fell asleep listening to him hum along to his favorite country songs.  I remember riding in the back of his truck as he drove around.  I felt wild and free when he would go fast, or take a quick turn.  I remember being excited to watch him open another box of chocolate covered cherries at Christmas.  Did we give those to him because he hated them or loved them?  I still don't know.  

 I remember riding on a tractor with him.  I remember the time I snuck a ferrel kitten inside his house, and it promptly pooped on a mattress.  When grandpa came in, he picked up the cat and threw it outside while yelling a list of profanities.  I never snuck another cat in.  I remember the excited look in his eyes when he took me to the Brewers Stadium where he worked.  That man loved baseball!  I remember how Grandpa loved to play cards, and how lively games would get sitting at the table with him. I remember how he would treat us to The Old Country Buffet.  He always reminded me to clear my plate and not waste food.  

I remember him paying me to brush his ever-thinning hair.  One time he had me shake salt (at least I think it was salt) into his hair because he heard it stopped hair loss.  I remember him taking me metal hunting.  He didn't care that I was wearing my new shoes I paid for with my babysitting money, he wanted me to get the metal out of the mud and put it in his truck.  I remember him pulling up to our house on Crossway Road with two buckets of smelt.  He told me to get two scissors and start gutting them.  We sat on my driveway gutting buckets of smelt together.  That Friday night we went to Grandma and Grandpa's house for a Friday Night Fish Fry.  I never tasted fish that good before, and I haven't since.  Maybe it was because I gutted the Smelt myself with grandpa, or maybe it was because grandma was an excellent fish fryer--probably both.  

I remember how he insisted on paying for breakfast the morning of my wedding.  I had a waffle with strawberries and whipped cream, the only meal I ate on that special day -- treated by grandpa.  He was there on all my special events -- birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, graduation, when I went through the temple for the first time, and when I married Jim.  

Grandpa pictured with his best friend, Uncle Marv, and other ball players

After Jim and I were married and would go visit Grandma and Grandpa,  Grant happily buddied up to my husband.  He took Jim to one of his old-timers baseball games.  My hubby said Grandpa still played ball like a twenty-year-old.  He also took Jim along to one of his hunting raffles.  Jim sat in a bar with Grandpa and a bunch of Wisconsinites listening to the same song play over and over while Grandpa laughed and talked with all his buddies.  They told Jim that HE had a weird accent.  Jim laughed, and had fun with Grant.    

Some of my favorite bedtime stories growing up, were listening to family tales that have been told and retold through the years about life on the farm, and about when Grandpa was young.

One time, in his teenage-ish years, Grant ate his neighbor's prized watermelons, and put the rinds in the mailbox.  
Grant Stoehr is on the back of the bike.  Check out that house in the background!

Grandpa riding a bike.  One of his sisters must be in the basket.

He was a tough disciplinarian, and stories about he and his kids were legendary.  He would wake his children up to do the morning milking by throwing cherry bombs in the basement.  I think that may be the coolest alarm ever!  There are so many memories of Grandpa, most of them happy, funny, and lively.  I'm so grateful to have stories I can share with my children about one of my heroes.

Grandma and Grandpa Stoehr.  

On the day of Grandpa's funeral, the church was filled to the brim with people Grant had affected over the years.  If only I could have heard everyone's favorite memories of times spent with my grandpa.  Well over 300 family members, friends, and community members attended the service.  Grandpa was sent off with full military honors.  Kind words were said, tears were shed, laughter shared, and the spirit of Grant Stoehr was definitely among us. 

Grandpa with Rudy, his best four-legged friend

Below are some of the pictures that I took at the funeral.

Gathering for the family viewing.  It was nice to see some family members I haven't seen in years.

Aunt Peggy and Larry

Grandma and Uncle Steve.  Grandma looked beautiful and strong throughout the day.  She is an inspiration to me. 

Brady, Aunt Lori, and her girls

Uncle Larry helping Hunter with his tie

Aunt Lori and Aunt Peggy put together three different memory boards that displayed pictures from various points of Grant's life

The pallbearers 

Grandma with all eight of her children.  The back row from left to right:  David, Jody, Lori, Peggy, Scott, Steve.  The front row from left to right:  Charlene, Dolores, Paul

Tralee adored my cousin's foreign exchange student, Kira.  Kira is from Germany and Tralee loves her!  Check out Nikki photo-bombing in the picture above.  It makes me laugh.

I wonder if Grandpa saw me taking pictures at his funeral and shook his head and gave me that half-smile again.  I hope he was okay with me documenting this last event of his mortal life.  It was a bittersweet day.  Bitter knowing that Grandpa is no longer with us in this life.  Sweet that we were able to gather together as a family, and honor a man whose life was well-lived.  Also sweet in knowing that we will see Grandpa again in the next life, and knowing that he's now with loved ones who have gone before him. 


Seth said...

I just have to say that I thought this tribute to your Grandpa was incredibly well done. So sorry for your loss.

Leslie said...

Thank you Seth

Meagan said...

Leslie, thank you so much. I'm glad you have so many memories of Grandpa. He was so great. Someday when you have time, please write the stories of his childhood. I'd love to hear them.

Boom said...

Excellent Leslie! You are amazing!

Love Mom

James and Shawna said...

Leslie, you have such an honest, open way with words. Thanks for sharing!

Nona Haddock said...

Leslie, now we can see why you are so incredible. Great pictures and story. I'm sorry your grandfather has passed on because I know you and your family miss him. Beautiful tribute you've created. thanks for sharing.

Leslie said...

Thanks everyone!