Saturday, January 9, 2010

Daddy

My dad passed November 29 after a brief illness. My oldest son Jeff and I collaborated on writing his eulogy, and Jeff delivered it. I will miss him for the rest of my life, and I share it here to honor a wonderful man.

Walter Hugh Young was born February 1, 1925, to Dr. Edward Lee Young, Sr., and Alma Johnson Young at the family’s home on South 5th Street in Grandview. His older brother Edward, Jr., was four at the time. Dr. Young had a successful veterinary practice and was the first mayor of Grandview and Alma, who worked hard maintaining the home, was involved in garden clubs and church functions. In his memoirs, Uncle Edward described the four of them as a “happy, loving family.”

Someone told Grandpa’s dad that when a person’s initials spell a word, that person will become a millionaire. Though not a superstitious man, his dad still chose his son’s name, so the initials spelled a word – Why? No, that is what the initials spelled - WHY. Grandpa loved to tell this story and always pointed out that, at least in his case, the idea didn’t work! Grandpa didn’t much like the name Walter and was glad the family chose to call him Hugh.

On March 1, 1933, the family moved from the house on 5th Street to a farm they owned on 150 Highway. Uncle Edward has noted this was when “A great adventure began.” The boys had lots of chores at the farm. They made butter from the fresh cow’s milk, dried the dishes, kept the basement coal and wood bins stocked, snapped green beans, hulled peas, milked cows, watered livestock, etc., but there was still plenty of time for fun!

A favorite play spot was the pond. Grandpa, Edward and their cousins John and Claude Makin made little boats from scrap wood and keels from empty Prince Albert tobacco cans. They added a square sail and let the wind blow the boats across the pond. When John and Edward were about fourteen, their parents permitted them to carry .22 caliber rifles and shotguns. The boys redesigned the boats by boring a hole in the cockpit, so it would accommodate a small burning candle. Then using their father's empty, discarded medicine bottles filled with gasoline, they sailed the boats across the pond, shooting at the bottle with the rifles. When a bottle broke from the shot, the candle flame would ignite the gasoline, and with the sense of accomplishment boys can enjoy, they would watch the boats burn to the water line.

When a former neighbor’s husband died, she gave the boys (with their parents’ permission) his .22 caliber rifle. For two or so years after, Grandpa would walk the farm plinking at selected targets, becoming an expert marksman. Edward would even throw small, discarded vaccine glass bottles into the air 30 or 40 feet, and Hugh would break these every time. For such amazing accuracy, Edward nicknamed him "Dead-Eye Dick."

One summer a man who operated pony-riding rings boarded 10 ponies at the Young farm. He told Dr. Young that it would be fine if his sons wanted to ride them. So, they did. The boys rode bareback and tied clotheslines around the ponies’ lower jaws to guide them. Most of the time, Uncle Edward says they just rode them as fast as they could. But they didn’t just ride them.

They got some croquet mallets and wooden balls and had polo games. After the sunflowers matured in late summer, they cut the stalks and used them for lances and jousted like knights of old, trying to knock each other off the ponies.

During his school years, Grandpa was a member Grandview United Methodist Church and 4-H. At school, he participated in basketball and baseball and served as president of Grandview High School’s student council. The teachers provided Hugh with an excellent education. He was interested in history and literature and had a knack for writing and memorization. Through the years, he often quoted passages from the classics that he had read and studied. Grandma says Grandpa was a favorite of Mrs. Suddath, his English teacher.

Grandpa had many childhood friends, in addition to his brother and cousins. One of them was Lee Soxman, Jr. who is with us today, another Roy Kilby. Grandpa’s mother tucked several Valentines cards in his baby book, and most of them are from Roy through the elementary school years. Kathy remembers one evening her parents answered a knock on the door, and there stood Roy and Minnie Skeens Kilby dropping by for an unannounced visit. From that day on, the Youngs and Kilbys went out to dinner and played pinochle every Saturday night until Roy died in 1974. The two of them ventured into the automatic car wash business in the 1960s. Somehow they managed to turn one hour’s work of cleaning out the stalls, emptying the coin machines, and restocking supplies into two or three! Grandma and Minnie suggested the two alternate turns. That worked for awhile, but Roy and Grandpa had too much fun together to keep to that schedule.

One day during Grandpa’s senior year in high school, he was sitting in home room when a new student – a cute, petite, saucy brunette -- walked into the room and his life. He turned to Minnie and said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry!”

But those thoughts of marriage were soon put on hold. About a month after graduating, at the age of 18, that Grandpa received his draft notice. He was so excited, so ready to defend his country, that he ran into the retaining wall by the basement door as he entered the house and bruised his face!

He served in the Army’s 422nd Infantry, 106th Division. Stationed in Belgium and France, his unit saw action in the Battle of the Bulge. Grandpa didn’t like to talk much about his war experiences, but finally, in 2000, he did write his war memoirs because he thought it important to preserve this personal bit of history for future progeny. He received a Bronze Star for his service and was proud to have helped stop the spread of Nazism.

Still, I remember asking him about how he and his fellow American soldiers had been labeled as this country’s Greatest Generation. I questioned if he thought that was an accurate description as I took some issue with that. Somewhat surprised, I found Grandpa agreed with me. He always commented that the greatest generation consisted of the men who founded this country, for many of them gave their fortunes, their property, and their lives to establish the United States. Grandpa had great respect for them and a great pride in America.

Two and a half years after being drafted, and seven months after being discharged from the Army, that saucy brunette from high school, Dixie Jean Fizer and Hugh were indeed married by a justice of the peace on June 16th in Olathe, KS. In their playful fashion, they disagreed about why one married the other. Grandpa claims his declaration to Minnie. Grandma claims, “I always told him, ‘I picked you to be the father of my children.’”

Grandpa went to work for McGlone Road Construction. So, he and Grandma purchased a trailer, and for the next several years, the family lived in Nebraska and various places in Missouri. During that time, they had two daughters Kathy Jean born in 1950 and Judith Ann born in 1952. When Kathy neared school age, the family returned to Grandview, so she and Judy would not have to change school districts as they grew. At first, the family parked the trailer west of the Young farm house. Later, they built a home east of the house, and in the early 70s when the state claimed eminent domain to widen 150, Grandpa and Uncle Edward built homes farther off the road. Grandma and Grandpa lived there for 30 years before recently moving to a smaller home still here in Grandview.

After leaving the McGlone Construction, Grandpa went to work for Hydro Butane Gas and later worked for Dusselier Brothers Concrete, then retired from RED Concrete in 1990. Grandpa LOVED retirement. The extra time gave him new hours to devote to his passions: traveling, fishing, and hunting.

When Kathy and Judy were children, they visited Grandma’s sister and family in the St. Louis area, but in later years, Grandpa and Grandma vacationed in much of the United States, focusing on sites that were connected to American history. Grandpa’s favorite seemed to be the “Big Sky” country of Montana. When their daughters were grown, Grandpa and Grandma continued to travel, making almost yearly fishing trips to Canada.

The best trip of all, however, had to be to Europe. Instead of a 50th wedding anniversary party, Grandma and Grandpa invited Kathy and Judy to join them as they visited most of the places Grandpa had been stationed in WWII. It was the trip of a life time and a special time for the four of them.

A member of Missouri Conservation, Hugh enjoyed raising and training pointers and loved hunting with these dogs. His daughters can not remember a time their dad did not own a pointer – usually more than one. We have pictures of two-year-old Judy posing the pet Brittany as she had seen her daddy do during field trial dog shows. From the time they were toddlers, the family dined on dove, squirrel and rabbit – although Kathy worried that might have been Thumper – and quail, oh yes, lots of quail.

Quail is considered a delicacy in many five-star restaurants, and my dad looked forward to his first quail dinner after hearing the others rave. He was stunned when he saw how small the pieces were and how many he had to eat before he was full!

When the family built their home in 1970, the dogs were not left out, being housed in their very own brick building! Grandma said if she was going to look out the kitchen window at dog pens, she wanted it to be an attractive view! The walls of the living room are covered with photographs of dogs on point in the field: Pokey, Belle, Sue, Sweetie, Rip, and Tyrell -- just to name a few. Grandpa’s last pointer was Scout, who, when he no longer hunted, became the family’s 6th grandchild. To be sure, Scout didn’t stay in that nice brick dog pen; she made it to the house! When my grandparents dined out and asked for a doggie bag – it was literally food for the dog!

Through the years, Grandma and Grandpa were blessed with five grandchildren: Pat, Beth, Kristin, Sara, and myself. They were and are the delight of their lives. He survived his first great-grandson, Brock but is survived by three great-granddaughters: Kara, Anna, and Lydia, visits with whom he very much enjoyed.

Suffering through the onset of Alzheimer’s didn’t rob Grandpa of the joy he had in life. His doctor mentioned that it was unusual for someone to keep his sense of humor like he did. That is just one of the many things those of us who knew and loved him best will remember about him – a fun-loving, caring, gracious, gentle, generous, hard-working man who was a faithful husband of 63 years, a good father, a kind-hearted grandpa, and a proud great-grandpa.

Thank you all for sharing in his memories with us today as we celebrate a life that will be greatly missed, but a life we all hope we may one day see again in the glories of Heaven.

2 comments:

Jim said...

Good story about your Father. I run the official site for the 106th Division at www.IndianaMilitary.org and would like to help you share his story. I have 2 separate sites, 1 for 106th and 1 for those captured and POWs of the Germans. Find both in the top row of links on that site. You say he wrote a diary. I would be glad to include it on the appropriate site. There are about 200 such diaries presently. There is also a Roster of 106th and you might take a look to be sure I have included him. My email address on the site.

What would our life be like today, without people like your Dad ?

Hope to hear from you. Jim West

Joyce said...

What a really great family history you have! I love knowing things about our loved ones.
So sorry for you loss.
So happy for your wonderful memories.
Be blessed, Joyce