He was the greatest man I know. Standing on the shoulders of a giant is a cliche, I’m sure, but some phrases are evocative no matter how tritely they’ve been used. Like so many of my generation, I’ve been blessed in my life with a grandfather who loved me and helped to make me the man I am today. Certainly the finest man I’ve ever known (and I have known some excellent men), he cast a long shadow over my life seemingly without even trying. As a child, all I knew was that he took me to ball games (my first IU basketball and football games and my first Colts game) and movies (Return of the Jedi), and that dad and I would go watch the Hoosiers at his house when they were on cable. These things were so important to me then, but now seem so trivial in light of the truly great things this man did for me.
He was the greatest man I know. He was a warrior and scholar. He was a learner and teacher. He was a man of faith and of thought. He was raised in a small town, spent many hours on a farm, and lived in the city. He was Irish, and he was American. He signed up to serve his country after Pearl and rose to be a lieutenant colonel in the USMC. He knew Eva Marie Saint and once asked Ava Gardner to dance (she declined saying that Mickey would be way too jealous). He saw Hack Wilson, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial and was there in Brooklyn the day Jackie Robinson changed the world. He dedicated his life to teaching, and served kids at an inner city school for years. Even after he retired, he substitute taught, always favoring Pike High so he could be near his grandkids. He was a dedicated citizen in the true sense of the word, campaigning tirelessly for candidates who helped the poor. He was an elected official, and would drive the people to the polls on election day who couldn’t make it themselves. Deep into his 70s and 80s he was working tirelessly for the poor and the defenseless. He believed that one could best fulfill the Greatest Commandment by honoring the Second One that was like it. Despite all he had done, I never heard him boast. Not even once. Only a humble man can loom so large. IF the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, then he was indeed a tree of life. He was the greatest man I know.
I’ve tried to live my life in light of the heritage I’ve received from him, though I’m not sure that he how much he realized it. I’ve dedicated my own life to working with the same people that he did, because when you stand on the shoulders of a giant, you can see far. Some days you can see clear to Jerusalem. Now that he’s gone, I feel like I’ve descended down into a valley that I can’t see out of. It’s far easier to stand on the shoulders of a giant than to walk in his deep, deep footsteps. Each time we lose a man like this, it’s as if the world grows that much more dim and moves on a little more. It becomes incumbent upon all of us ascend to the same heights at which men such as this move, if only so we can see the light again, and find our way along in the twilight. There are only so many hours of daylight in each life, and we must walk while we have them. There is no way to thank such a man as this, except to live how he lived for 86 years. Goodbye, Grandpa. I love you. You were the greatest man I knew.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will called sons of God