A couple weeks ago, I told about former pitcher and now announcer for the Minnesota Twins, Bert Blyleven, autographing a T-shirt and auctioning it to raise money for Parkinson’s research at an annual fund-raising event in the Twin Cities.
I was high bidder on the T-shirt and I gave it to my father-in-law, one of the greatest baseball fans anyone will ever know.
A few days ago, my father-in-law, who had Parkinson’s disease, passed away in his sleep at age 85. He had been in a nursing home for the past two years as his wife was not able to care for him at home anymore.
I was one of many admirers of my father-in-law. He was one of the people who have come to be known as the Greatest Generation.
These were the people who, after living through the Great Depression, went off to fight World War II, then returning home, went back to work or school and raised their families.
My father-in-law was one of these many remarkable people now in their eighties and older.
This was the generation that typically said, “What can I do to help?”
Help included serving on the volunteer fire department, community organizations and coaching little league baseball.
They were long on service and short on complaining.
I believe my favorite quality of his was the belief to not only do the right thing, but to do it right.
It is a characteristic found in most of the people of his generation and seems to be less commonly valued today.
Many years ago, my father- and mother-in-law were visiting us and we took them for a ride through the surrounding country where we live.
For some unknown reason, the people in charge of running our county like to put stop signs at the intersection of gravel roads where there is little traffic.
We approached one of these intersections and, looking left and right while moving at about 10 miles an hour, figuring I was the only car for two miles in every direction, I sailed through the intersection without stopping.
I heard this indignant voice sitting next to me saying, “What’s the matter! Don’t you stop for stop signs around here?”
That was my father-in-law who believed that stop signs meant stop and were not subject to questioning about their appropriate (or inappropriate) placement.
That also meant that anyone who was in the proximity of my father-in-law was also expected to do what they were told.
That was how he lived his life.
As a young man working for his own father-in-law at the family grocery store and meat market, or in later years as the man in charge at a county park dealing with lawns to mow, garbage to haul, campers that were noisy and customers in need of bait or anything else, he always had a sense of duty and order.
It was reflected in his family and everything around him.
When he retired to town, he made sure his sidewalk was shoveled about as soon as the snow hit the cement. He did not believe in cutting corners or taking the quick and easy way.
Those expectations he put on himself and others made him one of the most stubborn people I have ever met.
He could be stubborn to a fault but I came to appreciate this as an endearing and respected characteristic.
One final thing about my father-in-law. His name was Gerald. That is not with a soft G that sounds like the letter J, but with a hard G as in great and good.
It was the name his parents gave him and he would want us to say it the right way.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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