minutia press.
Paw Paw

My long lapse in posting has been due to the roller coaster events of the past two weeks. Paw Paw -- my wife's grandfather -- passed away peacefully this past Tuesday. He was 94 years old, and from all accounts had a truly wonderufl life. I'll try to post more about him below, but the stories are bound to unfold slowly. The funeral was this past Thursday afternoon, on a beautiful sunny day. My wife and I are so grateful for the comfort we've felt from friends and family who have been so amazingly supportive. That set of fine people includes many of the readers of this blog and I thank all of you for your kindness.

Paw Paw was one of 7 brothers, who were raised in a house in North County that had 3 bedrooms and one bathroom. In addition to the 9 related people in the house, the family took in a border to help make ends meet. Paw Paw's father delivered newspapers and processed laundry, which involved washing the clothes and then hanging them in his basement to dry. They had funds to send the first child (not Paw Paw) through college, but all others had to work to put themselves through.

Paw Paw hauled ice for home refrigerators (really, "ice boxes") to pay for his way through Washington University. He graduated class of 1933 with a degreein Civil Engineering. He recalled that in his day, Student Life was called Stupid Life. He told stories of the engineering students forming IM teams and beating the frat teams until the frat teams cinvinced the IM officials to be a frat-only IM. He had a true fondness for Washington University, and when I joined the CS faculty, I became a member of the faculty club so I could take him there for lunch.

Sometime during WW II, Paw Paw was clenaing the floor (because his wife felt it wasn't clean enough), and he used a cleaning product whose formulation changed during the war. He had a bad reaction to the chemical and contracted a nasty skin disease. He suffered from this for 4 years; medical intervention served only to spread the disease from head to toe, and we nearly lost him.

He recovered, started his own Civil Engineering business, and biult several structures around town you've probably seen: The Immacolata, St. John's Mercy, the tall office building at 25x Bemiston just to name a few. He told me that in each case when he worked with a particular architect in town, the guy would tell him "this time we're just building a [simple] box". The Immacolata was one such "box".

We were fortunate to have Paw Paw live with us for 6 years, starting at the time his beloved wife went to the nursing home with Alzheimer's disease. He stayed with us until the stairs down to his area became problematic, but he bonded with us and our kids in a way that can't be put into words.

He lived to see the birth of 3 of his great grandchildren, and nearly lived to see his 4th. He almost made it to the Bat Mitzvah of his oldest grandchild, but that's the subject of another post.

We will miss him greatly. He was in my opinion one of the "36" -- it's said that the world continues because of 36 righteous people who live somewhere in the world. I wonder who's taken Paw Paw's place?


I'm very sorry for your loss.

I hope you and your family find comfort in your memories and the knowledge that you surely made this fine man very proud. My guess is that Paw Paw felt confident leaving, knowing that his family is still represented in the 36.

Posted by: Elaine at February 22, 2004 9:11 AM

You and your family are blessed that Paw Paw lived so long to have touched your lives. I have a saying on the wall in my office that goes like this:

Some people come into our lives and quickly go...
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.

I believe that the later part in true in your family.

I hope your children will remember how blessed they have been.

Posted by: Beth at February 25, 2004 1:41 PM

How beautiful! Thanks so much.

Posted by: rkc at March 1, 2004 7:07 PM