Last November I wrote a little bit about Chuck's "Pop" and his other grandfather for Veteran's Day. I have absolutely adored every moment of the past 13 years with all four of my husband's grandparents. We were so fortunate to have them for as long as we did, and that was something we both recognized all along. Since 2007, both of my father-in-law's parents have passed away, and my mother-in-law's father suffered a major stroke. Pop had been in a nursing home for 15 months before his death, and his daily struggle to recover was truly inspirational to everyone who knew him. But that was just the way he was. He was the kind of person who inspired others.
Pop was born in 1922, way down in southeast Louisiana, practically in the Gulf of Mexico. His father was a boat builder and his mother was a midwife. Pop grew up speaking French as his first language. He learned English in school, but always told us that his thoughts and even his dreams were still in French. From an early age he learned how to build wooden boats with his father. Pop joined the Army as a young man and served his country in World War II. He was able to use his knowledge of his native language as an interpreter while serving in France. Pop survived five major battles in his Tank Destroyer battalion while overseas and had a reputation among the servicemen for being the fastest foxhole digger. After he finished digging, he would sit on the edge of his foxhole and read his New Testament. Pop was a man of great faith, and he later became an ordained Baptist minister, pastor, and lifelong missionary, preaching sermons in French in small mission churches across South Louisiana. He and his amazing wife married in 1946 and raised three daughters (the eldest is my mother-in-law). Pop was such a devoted family man. I was always touched by his love for his wife and the way they shared every task together as a team. They had a beautiful marriage.
After he retired, Pop devoted his later years to his woodworking and carpentry hobbies, and he always had a list of projects to do for other people. Even on the day of his stroke last year, he was busy working in his shop on remodeling projects for their bathroom. He was also an amazing artist, drawing landscapes from his childhood memories with remarkable accuracy. Pop was known all over his community for his "napkin art," the beautiful pen and ink sketches he would "doodle" and give to everyone he met.
After his stroke, Pop lost the use of his right side as well as his ability to speak. During the months in the nursing home, however, he learned to use his left hand to continue his passion for drawing and to communicate his love to his family and friends by making the sign for "I love you."
Carpenter, soldier, war hero, pastor, father, grandfather, missionary, veteran, friend, volunteer, craftsman, artist, husband of 63 years -- these are all part of his legacy. Any one of those things would be remarkable enough, but Pop embodied all of them. Beyond what you've read here about his life and his work, he was also a man of impeccable character. He had a kind and gentle way about him. The words I've most often heard used to describe him are "sweet" and "precious." He always greeted me with a smile, a big hug, a kiss on the cheek, and the words "Hey, cher!" (which means "dear" in French). Pop loved people and he loved to visit, but he was a man of few words. He loved to sit and enjoy company, and he would listen and laugh but he never did dominate a conversation. Oh, he had great stories to tell, but he rarely took the floor. I think it's just another way that he showed how much he cared for others. He always put them first. Granny and Pop remained active in their community and church well into their 80s, serving as volunteers and giving all that they could to those in need. I have no doubt that his wife will continue this tradition for as long as possible now that he is gone. I will always remember how Pop loved the Lord, and how that love spilled over into his great love and service for others.
I know this is a long post to read about someone that most of you never met. I have so many of these little treasures tucked away in my memory, just like the beautiful pieces of carpentry and art that decorate nearly every room of my home and were made by his hands. Just one more story and then I'll be done.
I had always noticed that my sweet husband took after his Pop in so many ways. When he was young, he liked to draw and paint. Now that he is an adult, his favorite hobby is woodworking. He loves to build and create things, and he is so handy around the house. Also, he loves people, but he is very quiet in a crowd, just like his grandfather. But one day I truly saw how similar they were in the most adorable way. Chuck was being ordained as a deacon in our church, and Granny and Pop had come for the occasion. We were getting ready to have sandwiches for lunch, and I walked into the kitchen to find Pop standing all alone at the counter, "drawing" on his bread with the bottle of mustard - not for anyone's entertainment, but simply for his own amusement. I stood watching him and smiling, because I'd seen my own husband doing the same thing so many times before. Honestly, I can't think of anyone I would rather see my husband emulate. If he continues to grow up to be just like his Pop, I will be one happy girl!
We've just returned home from being with family for several days for the funeral. It was so moving to see all of the people whose lives have been touched by this incredible man. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, What a man. What a legacy. It was a life well lived, and he didn't waste a moment of his 87 years. I am so honored to have known him and to have been loved as one of his own.