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Tell us about your Dad

  1. Jun 17, 2017 #1


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    I did this on for Mother's Day, and I figured I would be remiss not follow up on for Father's day.

    Tell us about your Dad. Like last time, I'll go first:

    He was born in 1908, the last of nine children born to Finnish immigrants. He had one older brother who died as a child before Dad was born, and two other siblings who also died while he was still a child; his only sister was murdered by a jealous suitor when he was just three, and a brother who died at the age of 25 three years later.
    He grew up on a farm in a rural community in Minnesota, and attending school through the 8th grade, after which he was pulled from school to help with running the family farm.
    He later taught himself enough to earn a amateur radio operator license and to build his own radio station. (later, after meeting my mother, he built her a low power key operated station of her own so that they could talk back and forth.)
    After he and mom were married (in 1936) they tried to make of go of it by sheep farming, and he brought in a little extra money by driving “school bus” for local children (he actually used his own Ford model A).
    When their ship flock contracted a disease and had to be destroyed, they sold the farm and moved out West where he was able to get work on the construction of Grand Coulee dam, and then after that went South to work on the construction of Shasta dam. They then moved back North to SW Washington where he worked as a carpenter at VanPort, a housing project meant for shipyard workers(WWII had begun by now), until he was inducted into the Army.
    He was initially assigned to a howitzer crew, but was quickly transferred to the radio shack after they learned of his experience as an ham. I'm not too sure about where all exactly he was stationed in Europe, other than he spent some time in Holland( from some old photos) and I have a 1945 Army road map he brought back that is for the region around Cologne.
    After his release they resettled back in SW WA in a house that Dad built, and while living there he served as master for the local Grange for two terms.
    They moved back to Minnesota in the fifties, where he got work in the Iron mines of the Mesabi range, and where I was born. During that time and while working full time at the mines, he also ran an 80 acre subsistence farm with 20 head of cattle. By now he was in his late 50's.
    (It is from this period that I have my favorite childhood memory of him. We had a pond in our pasture, and when I was about 8, the neighbor boy and I decided to build a raft to use on it. When Dad walked by on his way to some chore or another, he asked what we were doing. We told him and after looking at the collection of scrap wood we had gathered, said “You'll drown yourself on that.”
    He then stopped in the middle of what he was doing and proceeded to build us a proper raft that would actually stay afloat, towed it down to the pond with the tractor and launched it for us.)

    When he retired from the mines, we moved back West again. Even though he was retired, he never stopped "working". Between remodeling both of the houses we lived in, making the fire wood to heat them or hiring out his services to local farmers from time to time, he was as active as his health allowed until he passed away in 1980.

    Dad had picked up a number of skills over his lifetime, and could put his hand to just about anything. I never saw a repairman in our home, and he never took our car to a mechanic (Even when one needed a complete ring job, he did it himself). If Dad couldn't fix it, it was beyond repair or it just wasn't cost effective to repair it, and every house we lived in was subject to extensive remodeling.( We lived in 4 different houses while I was growing up, and none of them were ever bought on the basis of how they were, but on the potential of what they could be with some work.)

    My one regret is that he passed away shortly after my 21st birthday, and so I never really had a chance to develop a relationship with him as “man to man".

    So what about your Dad? Don't feel like you have to give a full biography, unless you want to. Anything you want to share is fine. A favorite memory or something your learned from him for example.
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  3. Jun 18, 2017 #2


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    My father and his two brothers (one younger, one older) were born in the rural hills near the northern tip of West Virginia, squeezed between Pennsylvania and Ohio. Their mother died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, when they were very young, and their father took them with him when he moved to the factory and steel-mill town in Ohio that later became my hometown. My grandfather never remarried, and raised his sons as a single father while working in various factories. He died when I was about six, so I didn't know him very well. He did have a long-time "lady friend" who continued to come to family Christmas dinners and reunions, for a long time after he died.

    My father graduated from high school (the same one I graduated from, many years later) at the bottom of the Great Depression. He did manage to find a factory job eventually, then became a firefighter. He worked his way up the ranks, and became an assistant chief about the time I was in middle school. He took a few years off to serve in the army Signal Corps during World War II, behind the lines in England, Belgium and France.

    I have a box of pictures that he took while he was over there. When I was a kid, my favorites were the ones that show the Manneken Pis in Brussels. :biggrin:

    After he came back from the war he resumed his firefighting job and caught up with a Finnish-American woman whom he had known in high school (graduated the same year, in fact). She had married someone else and had a son, then she become a widow while my father was gone. They got married, then I came along some years later, by which time my half-brother was about to go off to college.

    As a firefighter my father was on duty 24 hours at a firehouse, then off duty 48 hours. On his "off days" he moonlighted on a surveying field crew for a civil-engineering company, cutting brush, carrying equipment etc. so the professional surveyors could do their work. He enjoyed that job because it got him outdoors and gave him regular exercise to counteract sitting around the firehouse most of the time when he was on duty.

    Despite holding down two jobs and doing the usual yard work etc. around our house, he had time to do stuff with me. He taught me how to golf, and we often played with his younger brother at the municipal golf course. We occasionally drove to Akron to watch the big names play in tournaments at the Firestone Country Club. When the first "aerobics" boom hit in the mid to late 1960s, we both took up jogging.

    Most summers my parents and I took road trips during his vacations. Often these were in connection with reunions of his Signal Corps company. Even now, to me, "traveling" usually means "road trip," like the one I posted about last month.

    Although I was effectively an "only" child (my half-brother having left home soon after I came along), my older uncle had only one son, and my younger uncle had none, my father still had lots of relatives. My grandfather and grandmother each had about 8-10 siblings, so my father had all those uncles and aunts, and what seemed like dozens of cousins. Every year my parents and I made a day-trip to West Virginia to visit some of them. Every summer for many years, one of them hosted a reunion. Many of them of course moved away from the area, but they would occasionally come back for visits, or we would visit them on our road trips.

    During the second winter after I finished college, my father was outside shoveling snow for the third or fourth time in two days, when a friend who had retired to Florida (near Ft. Lauderdale) called up. They were going on a trip and needed someone to "dog-sit" in their mobile home. Were my parents interested? Yes! So my father arranged to take his vacation time then, and they drove down from Ohio.

    After they got back, I called home from graduate school and asked my mother, "How did it go?" She answered, "Well, we bought an apartment in Ft. Lauderdale." My father had fallen in love with the place and decided on the spot that he wanted to retire there, too. Later that year he "pulled the plug" and retired from the fire department after nearly forty years.

    He kept busy down there. He helped with maintenance of the common areas at their small apartment building, and served on the co-op (later condominium) board a few times. Likewise at the local Unitarian church that they joined and belonged to for many years. They lived not far from the beach, so most mornings he got up early and went to the beach to walk before the crowds set up camp on the sand. He got interested in horse-racing, and tried to find a good system for betting on the horses. He never succeeded, but he was a sensible sort and never spent much money on it anyway. I went down there twice a year, at Christmas and during the summer (first by myself, then with my wife after I got married), and did a lot of that stuff with him while there.

    He had a heart attack once, and a couple of bypass surgeries. He recovered, watched his diet (with help from my mother), kept his weight down, and stayed active until his early 80s when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had smoked up to age 50, then quit, but it got to him in the end anyway.
  4. Jun 18, 2017 #3


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    This is the way it was for us too. Generally we drove out West so my parents could visit with friends they had there, though one year we went to Georgia to visit one of my Mom's brothers. I was the only kid in my class at the time to have ever seen the ocean.
    I never got to meet Dad's father, He died some twenty years before I was even born. He was nearly 54 when Dad was born, and Dad was just shy of 50 when I was born, so he would have been almost 104 when I was born.
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