Thursday, May 31, 2012

Family Reunion: Friday

Now that I've written about my Grandpa's life you can see why I think he's so amazing. He turned 90 this past March and we decided it would be great to have a family reunion to celebrate this amazing accomplishment. When my mom first suggested having a birthday celebration for Grandpa he wasn't too keen on the idea and said why not wait to have a party until he's 95 or 100, but then he agreed that now's time to do it since he might not be able to see/hear people by that time. Grandpa is extremely hard of hearing (partly due to the injuries he sustained during the war) and his eyesight has been getting progressively worse over the years since he has macular degeneration and cataracts.

My mom's two brothers, their kids and several of my sisters came to St. Louis for the weekend. Grandpa's three living children were at the reunion, as well as 12 of his 15 grandchildren. It had been 12 years since most of us had been together, so it was wonderful to be together again so that we could all catchit's up with each other.

Everyone arrived last Friday afternoon/evening.  Here are some pictures of all of us as we hung out and visited with each other. First are Elizabeth and Sarah, and then baby Emily.
Here's Miss Kate and Mattie giving Emily (a little too much) love!
The kids playing outside:
Grandpa memorabilia:
Aunt Annette holding Emily, Elizabeth showing Grandpa her rock collection and Matt playing ball with David:
Sharon and Cousin Eric:
Matt playing with David. I think it's funny how in the second picture Matt is manually turning David's head towards the camera:
We decided to make a little scrapbook for grandpa with letters from everyone and pictures to go with it. Here are some of the individual shots we took of people. First we have the "Arizona Zimmermans" as we call them. Uncle Rick and Aunt Annette, with Cousins Tina, Dan, Dave, Joe and Abby.
Uncle Steve and Aunt Jackie with Cousins Eric and Lisa, plus Chandra, Laura, and Sharon and Spencer:

Grandpa: My Hero, part 3

Continuing on with Grandpa's story… After Grandpa retired in June of 1984, he became a volunteer at Rochester Methodist Hospital. His first experience was to work in the Adolescent Chemical Dependency Unit.  He did this for three years. In 1993/94 Grandpa was elected president of the hospital's Auxiliary Board and he served as the first male president. By 2004, Grandpa had logged more than 4000 hours of volunteer work at Rochester Methodist Hospital and he still continues volunteering at the hospital to this day because he finds volunteer work extremely rewarding.

A Federal Medical Center (prison) was built in Rochester in the fall of 1985. Grandpa was the prison's first volunteer and he taught men to read and write. Grandpa had an interesting experience one day when he was sitting on a bench outside of the classroom.  A young man sat down on the other end of the bench and timidly asked Grandpa, "Will you teach me to read?" Grandpa replied, "Yes, if you are willing to read orally in the classroom." (The reason this young man had to be willing to read in the classroom was because there was only one classroom in this facility, and there was no other place to work.)

Grandpa worked with this young man for about 2½ years, and he was able to read at a third grade level.  Around this time, this young man was called back to the court from which he was sentenced.  As he was coming back to Rochester on a prison bus, he stood up and yelled, "Hurrah!" as he saw the sign for Rochester.  His fellow prisoners said, "What are you shouting for?" He replied, "The last time I came along here I couldn't read that sign, but now I can!"

Around 1993 many Hispanic men were sent to this prison facility.  The regular prison teachers had no experience working with foreign speaking men. Grandpa had taught foreign speaking children, so he started teaching these Hispanic men.  Most of these men were eager to learn English and were very hard workers. Grandpa really enjoyed teaching these men, and continued volunteering at the prison until 2001.

In September of 2003, Grandpa began volunteering at Riverside Central Elementary School, which had opened the previous year.  This school was built to replace the Hawthorne and Holmes Schools, both of which schools Grandpa had been principal at. Grandpa was greatly surprised when he went there and found that about half of the students were minorities.  When Grandpa had previously worked at these schools there were no more than three or four minority children.  Grandpa continued volunteering at this school for many years and impacted many lives.

Grandma and Grandpa lived in their house they built in 1955 until 1988 when they built a town house in the Oak Cliff area.  The address of their town house was 1222 NE 19th Ave.  They lived there until 2004 when they made their final move to Charter House, a 22-story retirement center in downtown Rochester.

Here are some other interesting and significant things about Grandpa's life:

Grandma and Grandpa's third child, Scott, passed away in 1994. They received a telephone call from Anita, Scott's wife, around 1:30 a.m. on March 4.  She said that Scott had collapsed in the parking lot of a pool hall in Billings, Montana, where he had been playing in a pool tournament. Scott had suffered from atrial fibrillation, and his heart was not beating when he was found lying in the parking lot.  The paramedics were able to get his heart beating again on the way to the hospital. Grandma and Grandpa went out to Montana on March 7 to be of assistance to Anita.  Scott never regained consciousness, and the doctors told them that Scott's brain had been deprived of oxygen for too long.

Scott had many tests to check for brain activity, but he was declared brain dead.  Scott had expressed to Anita that he would never want to live in that condition.  Although it was a hard decision, Grandma and Grandpa agreed that he wouldn't want to live in that condition, either.  Scott was moved to hospice on March 23 and he died on March 30, 1994.  His funeral service was held at the Methodist Church, and his ashes were spread in two places: by the cabin where he’d lived, and in the Alaskan waters where he did commercial salmon fishing. Grandpa said that losing a child was one of the most devastating experiences that he ever went through.

Grandpa has had many hobbies and interests over the years, so here's a little bit about some of his major pastimes:

Traveling: Although Grandma and Grandpa took family vacations each summer when their children were growing up, they have done some extensive traveling since Grandpa retired in 1984.  They have traveled to many places, but the most interesting are: Honduras, Australia/New Zealand, Alaska, Nova Scotia, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Canada and the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Grandma and Grandpa have also been to the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany and they've visited 42 of the 50 United States. Grandpa also had a very fun rafting trip at the Grand Canyon with Steve in 1997.

Sports: Grandpa grew up playing softball as this was the only sport that they played in his country school.  When he was a junior in high school his school started a baseball team.  They learned a lot that first year and they went on to win the county tournament the following year.  This was a big accomplishment since it was only the second year they’d had a baseball team. Grandpa was also introduced to another new sport his junior year... ping pong. Grandpa even bought a large piece of plywood to serve as a table and he put it in the upstairs of his house.  He still loves to play ping pong, but had to give it up several years ago since it's too difficult for him to see the ball.

Before going to college, Grandpa had only seen one basketball game and he’d never heard of tennis or football. Grandpa learned about tennis in his second year in college, and was an avid player until giving it up in 2005. Tennis is something that I will always associate with Grandpa since there was a tennis court in the backyard of his townhouse in Oak Cliff. When my family and I would spend summer vacations at my grandparent’s townhouse in Minnesota we would always spend time hitting balls against the fence at the tennis court.

Another sport Grandpa dabbled with was golf. He took it up in 1946 and played until 1956 when he decided to give it up because it took too much time away from his family.

Grandpa says that the best workout you can get in 45 minutes is playing racquetball, a sport he played and enjoyed for about 25 years.

Since Grandpa's move to Charter House in 2004, he’s learned to play pool.  The pool game that they play most often is 8 ball, and Grandpa has even won the monthly tournament twice, as well as being the runner-up once. 

Gardening: When Grandma and Grandpa moved into the house they built in 1955, Grandpa started a big garden and made it into a family project to teach his children the value of work and different gardening principles. He hoped that his children would enjoy gardening more than he had when he was a child. Grandpa kept this garden going for years and he grew many vegetables including: tomatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, squash, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, rhubarb, cabbage, spinach, leaf lettuce, chives and parsley.  He also occasionally grew things like parsnips, beets, kale, strawberries and raspberries.  In addition to the vegetable garden Grandpa also had several extensive flowerbeds.  At Charter House, he serves on the Green Thumbs committee which manages the greenhouse.

Photography: Grandpa began taking pictures when he purchased a red box camera when he was 12. He has taken thousands of pictures over the years with the four cameras he has owned during his life. Grandpa even went to the trouble of developing his own film and photographs in the bathroom of his house. Grandpa says that my mom was a good helper when it came to developing pictures.  Grandpa also made original Zimmerman family photo Christmas cards every year.

Collections: Grandpa collected stamps when he was a child and still has a small collection. Grandpa also started collecting carved animals in the early 50's when he visited the United Nations Building in New York.  This is where he purchased an ebony elephant that had been made in Africa.  When a teacher at one of the schools he taught at retired, she gave  Grandpa two shells that she had on display in her classroom. Grandpa had always thought shells are really beautiful and this started him collecting shells.  He also had a small rock collection that he would often display for the children at school in hopes that they would become interested in collecting things.

Now that you've read these posts about my Grandpa and know a little bit about who he is, you can see why I think he's so incredible. He truly was a man before his time and is one of the best human beings I know. His devotion to teaching students made him a wonderful teacher and principal. His love of teaching don't stop when he retired, as he's logged thousands of hours volunteering in different schools and hospitals.

Grandpa has always been such a caring and loving grandfather, too. He's always been so genuinely interested in my life and loved hearing anything I might want to share with him. He always loved spending time with me, whether it was playing games, taking walks or something else. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful grandfather and I love him so much and wish everyone were as fortunate as I have been to have such a wonderful influence in my life.

Grandpa: My Hero, part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my Grandpa's experience fighting in World War II. Here's a little more about his amazing life.

After being discharged from Schick General Hospital in October Grandpa made plans to return to college.  In December he enrolled in Iowa State Teachers College (now renamed University of Northern Iowa) to continue his education in preparation for becoming a teacher.  Many of Grandpa's credits from Luther College were accepted, and by taking 18 or 19 hours for three quarters, Grandpa was able to graduate in August. (Here's Grandpa's college graduation photo:)
Grandpa's first teaching job was in the small town of Hudson, Iowa, about 6 miles south of Cedar Falls.  Grandpa was a homeroom teacher for the seventh grade, a high school physical education teacher, as well as the coach of the boys' baseball and basketball teams.  His salary was $2200 for the nine-month school year.  The following year Grandpa was asked to be the fifth grade teacher because it was such a large class.  The coach who had been serving in the Navy returned, and Grandpa assisted him in coaching sports.  For Grandpa's last year at Hudson, he returned to being the seventh grade homeroom teacher, and he also coached the junior high athletic team.  Grandpa enjoyed his teaching experiences at Hudson very much and remembers the students being very cooperative and friendly.

Grandpa was interested in becoming a principal, and signed a contract in Eldora, Iowa, to be a junior high school principal.  He also helped coach the high school football and basketball teams.  Grandpa spent a lot of time with four of the other new teachers.  Grandpa occasionally dated three of these teachers, but knew that Helen Garlock had many of the characteristics that he wanted in a wife.  She was smart, hard working and neat in appearance.  Grandpa knew that she was the girl for him, and she accepted his proposal one moonlit night when they were parked by Pine Lake.  They were married at the Congregational Church on June 4, 1950.  They stopped in Chicago at the Congress Hotel for the first night of their honeymoon, and the room cost $10.  From there they went to Indiana to visit Grandpa's aunt, Minnie Deaton. (Grandma and Grandpa's wedding photos:) 
Later that summer, Grandpa finished his Master's Degree in elementary education at the Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, Colorado.  (This college has since been renamed the University of Northern Colorado.)  Helen (Grandma) had never been to Colorado before, so she and Grandpa spent many weekends exploring different parts of the state.

In August of 1950 after Grandpa finished his Master's Degree, he and Grandma moved to Rochester, Minnesota, where Grandpa got a job as principal of Hawthorne Elementary School.  There were about 430 students in kindergarten through six grade.  The principal that Grandpa had replaced was very well liked, and the staff and parents hated to see him leave.  As a result, grandpa was not very well received at first, but after a few years he was finally accepted.  In the winter there was always a skating rink on the playground, and Grandpa usually skated with the children and supervised the noon activities.

In October of 1950, Grandma and Grandpa were fortunate enough to buy their first house.  The house was almost new, as the previous owners had lived there only six months.  The address was 720 13th Ave NE, and it cost $12,500.  This house was a story-and-a-half, but the upstairs and the basement were unfinished.  In the next couple of years, Grandpa was able to finish the upstairs and this would've been a nice, big bedroom, but Grandma and Grandpa moved out of this house in 1955.  They sold it for $15,000, so it proved to be a good investment for them as they made a $2500 profit on the house in the five years they lived there.

Grandma and Grandpa welcomed their first child into the world on October 2, 1952.  The baby was a little girl that they named Diane Rae (my mom).  Eighteen months later on April 8, 1954, Grandma and Grandpa had their second child, a boy named Richard K.  Scott Alan, their third child, was born on July 11, 1955. Exactly two years later on July 11, 1957, Grandma and Grandpa had their fourth and final child, another boy that they named Steven Lee. (Here are some pictures of Grandpa's four children; the cute little girl is my mom, Diane:)
Grandpa knew that having four children in such a short period of time was a great deal of work for Grandma, so he tried to be helpful by being responsible for the children when he got home from work in the evenings.  He often gave them their baths and read stories to them at bedtime. (This was the 1950's and 60's, and I think Grandpa was really ahead of his time because at that time most men didn't help with their children to the extent that Grandpa did.)

Grandma and Grandpa built a house and moved in 1955. The address was 1690 7½ Ave NE, and this house was a split level with three finished bedrooms. In 1965, Grandpa finished off the lower level, and the three boys had a big bedroom down there.

Grandma and Grandpa took their family on many vacations when their kids were young.  They started by going to various lake resorts in Minnesota, and as the children grew older, the vacations became educational as well as fun.  In 1965, the Zimmermans went to the New York Worlds Fair and Washington, DC.  In 1968, Grandpa bought a foldout camper because he was taking the family on a six-week trip West.  After working for many continuous summers, Grandpa made traveling a priority that summer. Some of the places they visited were Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde in Colorado; the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Yosemite, Disneyland and the Golden Gate Bridge in California; Yellowstone in Wyoming; and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
In 1965, Grandpa had been principal at Hawthorne School for 15 years.  It had been a wonderful learning experience, and he had made many good friends.  The staff helped Grandpa really learn how to be a better principal and he thought almost all of the teachers at Hawthorne were great.  They really helped prepare the students to live a productive life.

At this time, however, Grandpa decided to transfer to a new school that was being built; William P. Gage Elementary School.  Grandpa enjoyed choosing a new staff for the school, as well as ordering new supplies and equipment. This school was located in a cornfield, and it seemed to Grandpa that it was quite a distance from the residential area.  Sometimes when Grandpa went to school in the morning he would see pheasants walking through the fields.  One day Grandpa accidentally hit a pheasant and he had it mounted as a souvenir.  It wasn't long before houses were built all around the school. When Grandpa began as principal of Gage in August of 1965, there were 137 students in the school.  In the three years that Grandpa was principal at Gage, the enrollment grew to 360 students. 

In 1968, the you former principal at Jefferson School left, and Grandpa was asked to replace him.  (This was the same man who Grandpa replaced at Hawthorne in 1950.) Again, Grandpa wasn't very well received at first, but after a couple of years, Grandpa was accepted and loved. Grandpa had a good experience at Jefferson, but he was transferred to Edison School in 1977.  Edison was a primary school (kindergarten through fourth grade) and Grandpa thought it would be fun to finish his career as principal at Edison before retiring.  However, Edison was made into the administrative building for Rochester Public Schools.  As a result, Grandpa was asked to go to Holmes School, where he worked for two years before serving his final year at Folwell School in the 83/84 school year.

I love that Grandpa chose to be a teacher/principal for his profession! He is seriously one of the most gentle, kind and patient men I know, and he truly loved and cared about his students. More to come about my amazing grandpa!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grandpa, My Hero: part 1

My grandpa is an amazing man and he is truly one of my heroes. Grandpa turned 90 earlier this year and my family gathered in St. Louis this past weekend to celebrate his amazing accomplishment. We had a wonderful time and I have lots to blog about, but before I start blogging about the reunion I want to give you a little background information on Grandpa's life so that you know why I think he's so amazing. (Grandpa's high school graduation photograph:)
Grandpa was born in 1922 and in August 1942, Grandpa enlisted in the Army Reserve Corps and was called into active duty in March 1943. Grandpa reported to Camp Dodge in Des Moines, Iowa, for infantry training, but got the measles a few days later. When he recovered from the measles he was sent to Camp Wolters in Texas for infantry training. After 13 weeks of rigorous training some of the men were sent to replacement depots in the East.  Within a couple of weeks they were sent on a troop ship to Oran, North Africa.  The men were shipped to Bizerte, Tunisia, in a "40 and 8" boxcar.  (This boxcar got its name in World War I because it carried 40 men and eight mules.) The men then boarded a small British ship which took them to Salerno Beach in Italy.  Grandpa's division was the 45th division and they made a beachhead landing  in Salerno Beach, and Grandpa was in the first group of replacements.

In September 1943, Grandpa and his buddy, George Biddle, were assigned to the anti-tank company in the 45th division.  Grandpa was in combat from then until he was pulled off the line in December to get ready to go to Anzio, Italy, for a behind-the-lines invasion that was to take place in February 1944. 

On February 13, Grandpa and his sergeant were on duty guarding the gun emplacement when a 1000 pound bomb exploded about three feet from them.  The last thing Grandpa remembered was telling his sergeant that it looked like a German F109 was headed their way... however, it wasn’t a German F109; it was accidental "friendly fire" that came from one of their own P40 pilots returning from a mission.  Grandpa was later told by his buddy George Biddle that everyone thought Grandpa died in the explosion, but another one of his buddies, Everett J. Scott, decided to dig him out anyway because he just couldn't leave him. Thank goodness they did because Grandpa wasn't dead; he moved!  Paratrooper medics were called and they drove Grandpa to the field hospital on the hood of a Jeep.

When Grandpa was wheeled into the receiving unit at the field hospital, he remembered a doctor peeling his eye open asking, "Can you see the light?"  (There was a light hanging from the ceiling by a single cord.)  Grandpa said, "Yes," and that's all he remembered until regaining consciousness three days later. In the meantime, bomb fragements were removed from his skull.

The next thing Grandpa remembered was a beautiful, auburn-haired nurse feeding him soup.  His head was completely bandaged and the nurse said, "It's okay if you lie on the right side of your head."  About three days later Grandpa was taken to Naples, Italy, on a British ship.  The words of the hymn God Will Take Care of You flowed through Grandpa 's mind as he waited on the dock to be carried into the ship.  This hymn has always remained a favorite of Grandpa's since then.

At the makeshift hospital in Naples, Grandpa was able to get out of bed the second day and walk to the latrine with the assistance of crutches.  (Grandpa had a hard cast on his right ankle since it was broken.)  When Grandpa looked in the mirror, he noticed that his face looked freckled with black spots; it was soil that had been blown into his skin by the blast.

A few days later Grandpa met his friend George Biddle in the hospital on the way to lunch (George had been wounded a few days after Grandpa).  In war there’s a saying, "You never know what hits you."  That was true in Grandpa 's case.  George told him what happened when the bomb hit.  The bomb landed about three feet away from the gun emplacement and ruined the 57mm gun that Grandpa was guarding.  Grandpa's damaged helmet was found about ¼ of a mile away from him near a house whose windows had been completely shattered by the blast.  The sergeant who was on duty with Grandpa was wounded, but not nearly as severely as Grandpa.

Two months later in April, Grandpa was sent to a hospital in North Africa where he awaited transportation back to the United States.  The thing Grandpa remembered about this tent hospital was that he was there on Easter and this was the first time that Grandpa had ever experienced having real palm leaves for an Easter church service.

Space was fortunately found for Grandpa in the sick bay of a Navy ship returning to the United States.  Grandpa's eardrums had ruptured in the blast, so the medics continued to flush out his ears to try to stop the infection, but this wasn’t successful.  The ship docked along the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where several hotels had been converted to hospitals for the wounded soldiers.  The second day Grandpa was there he was sent to the ENT department for his ear infection.  The doctor who saw him said, "I have something new that I'm going to use to try to cure your infection."  He put a drop or two of liquid in each ear and within two days Grandpa's ears quit draining.  This miracle liquid had recently been developed, and it was the first supply of the liquid that the doctor had received. The miracle drug was penicillin!

A week later Grandpa was sent to Schick General Hospital in Clinton, Iowa, where he remained until he was discharged in October.  The hard cast was removed from his right leg, and was replaced with a walking cast.  This made getting around much easier for Grandpa.  About three or four days after returning to Iowa, Grandpa's parents came to see him.  Grandpa was so excited to see them that even though he was wearing a cast, he ran all the way down the hall to embrace them.  It had been a long drive for them, as well as a sacrifice, since gasoline was rationed. (Grandpa recovering at Schick General Hospital:)
While at Schick General Hospital, Grandpa met Dr. Spiegel who talked to him about getting a metal plate in his head to cover the hole in his skull.  This seemed like a reasonable idea to Grandpa, so he had this operation a few days later, and a tantalum plate was placed in his skull. That plate has served him well over the decades as it is still serving its purpose!

Grandpa remembered how wonderful the food was at this facility was.  After eating Army rations for months and months, the variety of fruits, vegetables and meats was unbelievable.  What surprised Grandpa the most was how good plain, white bread tasted.  After not having any bread for several months, he said it almost tasted as good as cake!

The cast was finally removed from Grandpa's ankle in late July, and he had physical therapy every day to help him be able to walk normally.  Grandpa played a lot of cards and ping pong for fun.  The entertainment was enjoyable, and Lawrence Welk was a frequent visitor to the hospital. Grandpa was discharged a few weeks later and resumed his education.

This is where I will leave Grandpa's story for now, but I will pick it up again soon because it's not over! For now, feel free to watch this slideshow that I made showcasing Grandpa's life. I really worked hard on it, and I felt like it was a success when I saw Grandpa crying at the end. I thought long and hard about my music choices, and I chose to end the slideshow with Plumb's rendition of God Will Take Care of You; the song that flowed through Grandpa's mind after he was injured in the war. It was absolutely perfect!
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