This is me with my dad, the handsomest man I know (sorry, Larry, you are a close second). Today is Dad’s 86th birthday! We all grew up knowing that mom married the hottest guy in Kewaunee, a source of pride to us. Dad was born in Suring, a small town in northern Wisconsin, and moved to Kewaunee at age 12. Since mom was also from Kewaunee, we claim Kewaunee as our family’s ground zero. AND even though he’s lived in California for 60+ years, the Wisconsin part matters. These are things you should know about him.
- My dad is hilarious. Tells stories with punch lines. Has comedic timing. He is charming. When you meet him, you will be charmed. He makes a party fun, and this family has a lot of parties. Our niece Danielle is in love with my dad.
- He taught me to be unafraid to take a tool to something that was broken. When I moved to college, he gave me a red tool box with fresh screwdrivers, hammers and such. I could change a tire, rewire a thermostat (OK, he was on the phone for that one), tear things apart and I know the correct way to use spray paint.
- He loves margaritas, shrimp cocktails and vodka martinis with extra olives and onions. But he isn’t a food snob; his tastes are pretty simple. You can either blame that on Wisconsin or the army (he was a first Lieutenant during WWII), two subjects that come with funny stories once you get him going.
- Dad’s Valentine’s Day candy is a treasure. No brother-in-law in this family dare compete. As far back as I can remember, he gave mom a large red heart box of chocolates and we five daughters would have our own “little girl sized” hearts. Once we left home, he mailed them to us. Never late. We receive a hand-wrapped package with his writing on the label, and a classic uproarious note inside, usually to the tune of how it would be wrong, wrong, wrong for us to crack open that candy and consume before February 14, possibly that it isn’t “ripe” yet, just great funny stuff. The year my sister, Sue lived in Australia, her candy arrived and she said she blubbered with tears over it.
- One Christmas he surprised us with a new car – a VW bug. Family of seven. DAD? IMPETUOUS?? He owned that car for 14 years.
- He taught me how to drive a damn complicated stick shift and how to kick-start that car. We had an Opel Cadet “kid’s car” with a wonky gear shift, and we’d go to a houseless street so I wouldn’t harm anything. Shift, shift, GRIND, shift. On cold foggy days when the car wouldn’t start, since it was so light, I’d roll it down the hill, pull the choke properly, pop the clutch and hopefully get it going before the dead end. Once in a while, he’d walk down and we’d push it back up the hill to kick-start it again.
- Dad and a business partner owned a micro brewery, Southern California Brewing Company, located at the Alpine Village in Torrance. After twelve fun years, they sold it on E-Bay. Why not? Every thing else is sold on E-Bay.
- My dad was responsible for moving the remains of his deceased father, after burial, twice. His mother, Chloe, was not happy with the first plot after a few years, it was in the ground and she liked the new mausoleum. So, my dad worked out some deal to have him exhumed and put in the mausoleum. Some years later (Chloe outlived Grandpa Charlie for decades), a better mausoleum was built. By now, Charlie’s remains weren’t in a condition that any person with sense would ever touch; the actual “mass” of the whole thing was… toxic?? Yet, you could not argue with Chloe. So… dead of Wisconsin winter (no pun intended), my dad arranged to have the heat turned off in the mausoleum. Freeze Charlie. He was then re-parked in the beautiful, pretty spot. Now you can see how he taught me to be unafraid to take a tool to something broken, hard to compete with that one.
- He designed our house for weddings. Five daughters. Church ceremonies, home receptions. He built all sorts of things to maximize the opportunity, including covers to transform the pool table for catering, extending the wet bar, fire pit in the deck. Fire pits are big fashion now but I gotta tell you, he INVENTED the fire pit, built via sweat equity with future sons-in-laws Scott and Pete in the mid-70s. Larry somehow avoided the day labor jobs, but the other guys now know how to build pretty much ANYTHING, in great part to working with my dad.
- There are a million more of these, but for now…
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!
We all love you!