My ex-father-in-law played an integral part in my life for more than 20-years. He is the only father I’ve ever known. Today is his 90th birthday.
It’s hard to imagine that so many years have gone by, but that seems to have become normal for me when recalling fond memories of the past. I’m older today by a few years than he was when we first came to know one another. At the time I was 23. He was bigger than life, outgoing, happy-go-lucky, energetic and just plain fun! I liked him from the start as does anyone privileged to know him. The father of six daughters and now the grandfather and great-grandfather of dozens more he’s lived a rich and full life. I hope today he would reflect back on those 90-years and can say he’s enjoyed the journey. I think he has. And I hope too he would know how proud his father, and mother would feel about their son’s many accomplishments.
He’s among that Greatest Generation who as a young man answered the call to duty at the outbreak of World War II. He served honorably in the south Pacific and when the war was over returned to his home and family in Tacoma, Washington. In time, after years of hard work, he established his own thriving retail and service business. Eventually he merged that enterprise with a larger one and entered management in the propane industry. He’s often said he wished he had gone to law school, but in propane he would spend the majority of his working years. He’d retire from it after many years of service. He would have been a great lawyer. He would have done well at anything he chose. He’s just that kind of a guy
Eventually he became a regional manager with lots of travel and responsibility. At the same time he held weighty, responsible positions at church and served in that capacity throughout most of his adult life. He always had meetings to attend and many things to keep him busy. There never seemed to be any end to it. In all that he did, he was a leader among men. Even in the heat of debate, when tempers were short — as he negotiated union contracts — he remained respected among his foes. Throughout it all he never forgot his most important work. His duty as a husband and father were never far from his thoughts. He knew there was no greater calling and fulfilled it well and has always been a giant, steady rock for his family.
I have many fond memories of those years we shared and I hope he would agree we enjoyed a lot of fun, memorable times together. That’s how I’ll always remember those days. Along the way I learned many lessons while in his company. Among them, as best you can, he’d say, divide your life into thirds. A third for you and your family, a third for work and a third for service. Do the best you can to adhere to that rule and you’ll do well. Sounds simple. In some ways it is. He was right.
Now, with the years that have passed by I’m no longer a part of his family. No longer am I a son-in-law, no longer is he “dad.” He is however my children’s grandfather and the lessons he taught and all those memories remain, as will his legacy for generations to come. And though he had no brothers and no sons to pass on his family name, it will be through my sons — Matthew William and Devin Avery — that his name will live on. In some small way their mother and I had hoped to honor him by doing that.
90-years old today. Imagine that! He still gets around well and still drives a car. He and his wife will soon celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary. Another milestone in itself. In some ways, the journey really is the reward.
Happy birthday Bill! Here’s hoping you’ll have many more to come. I love you and, no matter what — you will always be in my thoughts and prayers — and always near to my heart. After all you’re the only dad I’ve ever known.
The above post was written in September of 2011. Bill’s wife Marge of more than 60 years, after a long illness, passed away just five months later in February of 2012. Nine months followed, and Bill too quietly slipped away in his 91st year.
He will forever be remembered by all who knew him for his fun-loving personality, his friendliness and especially for the tremendous influence and inspiration he was to his family.
He had a full, rich and rewarding life and passed on to the world just beyond to join his family and friends who preceded him on the day of he and his wife’s 65th wedding anniversary.
“If you live in the hearts of those who love you, tis to never die.”