My family and I attended the funeral of my Great Uncle Vern this week. He was 81 years old and recently lost the battle to cancer. I thank God for the chance we had to say goodbye to him several weeks back. I'm also thankful that he slipped away quickly and with minimal pain.
Grandpa Donald died when I was four and I have very little recollection of him. But I do remember after the funeral wondering, "Who'll be my grandpa now?" It was later that same day when Uncle Vern took me down to Anson Park to play. I considered him my grandpa ever since.
They sure don't make them like him anymore. He encapsulated so many of the great qualities Brokaw saw in Vern's generation, the Greatest Generation. Patriotic - he served our country in WWII as a combat engineer in the Pacific. Hardworking - he worked over 38 years at Lennox there in Marshalltown, becoming a team leader in the commercial furnace area. I've never met a better card player. No one was more competitive and yet no one was a better sport than Vern.
He was a quiet man in that he rarely said more than a man should, but he was a loud man in that his words carried a lot of weight. Such a booming voice. Nothing made me feel better than having him agree with something I said. When he laughed, I couldn't help but laugh along with him.
He was a servant to his family. His last days on earth were spent doing everything possible to see that his wife, Marilyn would be taken care of. At my last visit, he had to show me the new landscaping. His son, Jeff, had taken out all the green-treat timbers bordering their landscaping ("nearly every one rotten, Danny") and replaced it with concrete blocks. "That's concrete, Danny, as in PERMANENT!" (As in, "Marylin won't have to worry about it.") Few men have ever loved or enjoyed his family more.
After the funeral, we stopped by his house to change for the trip home. I changed down in Vern's room in the basement. His solid oak desk was down there. How many bills had he paid at that desk? How many plans had he conceived there - plans I'm sure he completed. I looked his storage shelves over. Nothing extravegent, but everything one needs to take care of a home. I looked at his work bench. No fancy tools, but everything needed to get the job done, and every one of them used.
Vernie, I will miss you so much. You were one of the kindest, gentlest, strongest, stout-hearted, steadiest, fun-loving men I've ever known. Being around you made me want to be a be a better man. Of all the words I've heard that describes heaven, "reunion" is one that means a great deal to me right now.