Monday, December 15, 2008


Last week John's dear father, James, "Jim" to most of us and "Poppy" to the girls, passed away. Never a smoker, he was nevertheless diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago but I'm sure he'd want the details of his life rather than his death remembered.

Jim was a truly remarkable man, which is obvious to anyone who learns of his life story and his life's work. He grew up in the rural midwest in a small house where, according to him, if in the winter he set a glass of water beside his bed at night it would be frozen solid in the morning. He attended a one-room schoolhouse until he went to high school. Here is a great passage from his obituary (the full text may be read here):

"Jim has always been an individual contributor and independent inventor. He overcame a series of hurdles to achieve his accomplishments. The boy from rural Carroll County Missouri became a leading scientist in liquid crystal technology. The scientist became a world-class inventor. The inventor became an entrepreneur when he could find no corporations to pursue his dream. And the small businessman challenged world-class corporations to protect his rights. His story is certainly one of pursuing the American dream."

Of course I'm very much in awe of his professional accomplishments. Every wall in his office is covered with his various awards and prizes and medals and honors. Several of them were received during the past several years, after I joined the family, and my husband attended the awards ceremonies.

To me though, he was so remarkable because he was such a warm, kind person, a dedicated husband and father and grandfather. He and Dora had a wonderful 52-year marriage. They raised four terrific children whom he was very close to and immensely proud of. Three of their four children pursued careers in science of their own, and Jeff and John each have their own businesses based on liquid crystal technology. His influence on all four of them is obvious.

At our frequent family dinner gatherings Jim talked enthusiastically about science, technology, and politics, but when the conversation turned to funny old family stories he sat quietly while Dora energetically and colorfully retold the events. When I'd look over to him he was always smiling ear to ear and chuckling, though I know he must have heard each of these stories dozens of times before.

When Erin started walking and Dora and Jim visited or we visited them, Erin always walked straight to Poppy's waiting outstretched arms. "What's this business of always going to Poppy first?" Dora asked rhetorically, "What about Grandma?"
"Now, dear," Jim replied, "she's obviously a good judge of superior character!"

Of course Erin did and does love Grandma very much, but she and Poppy had an obvious special bond, especially when she was younger. She always sought him out and propped herself up on his lap and usually happily stayed there for quite some time.

"You're just Grandpa's girl!" he'd say to her frequently as they sat together. And not surprisingly sometimes her energy outlasted his:

Once and a while another grandchild managed to steal some lap time with Poppy, but it never made for quite as cute a picture:

And after the twins arrived, Poppy's time, and his arms, had to be shared,

but visits with Poppy were still a priority for Erin and Jim always loved it when the girls came to visit.

Earlier this year he bought an immoderate number of princess dresses and accessories for them (and his other young granddaughter, Lucy) to play dress-up whenever they came over. The girls always went for the princess stash soon after arriving and then literally paraded in front of us or set up small chairs in the family room and "held court" together. Jim always enjoyed the show. He sat in his favorite chair, smiling and giggling at the excessive, shimmery, bejeweled spectacle he enabled.

He was a very loving man, a truly doting grandfather.

My girls were certainly very fortunate to have him as prominent part of their lives for their first few years, but how I wish they all could have had more years together.

Today was your funeral Poppy, and representatives from the Army had your coffin draped in a flag and they played Taps for you. We sent the twins to preschool today but Erin bravely attended.

Your girls miss you, Poppy, and I miss you too.


Jodie said...

I am so sorry for your families' loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Trish said...

A fitting tribute! Our sincere condolences to you all on your loss.

Queen Bee said...

I'm so sorry K....what a sweet and wonderful man he was.

MommaWriter said...

I think that was the best and most fitting tribute yet. You really captured him better than a list of titles and awards ever could. And I bet he would have loved it.