Everyone knew Carl for his fun-loving personality. His kind and light-hearted nature made him a joy to be around. My dad had a great way of knowing how to get people to lighten up when situations were challenging or bleak. Because of that we shared a lot of good laughs. He’d always remind me to not take myself or life too seriously. One of the many gifts my dad gave me was to learn how to laugh at myself. Something I do very often.
People respected and appreciated my dad’s style of communication and interaction. He was big on authenticity. Dad was a man of his word and someone you could count on and trust. One of the best compliments he gave me was saying, “Kris, you know how to bullshit, but you’re not full of it.”
You would never know my dad’s life entailed many hardships. He grew up in the Depression era and was so poor that he worked as a child to help support his family. In World War II, Dad had an important role as a Forward Observer in the 9th Army Infantry. He was involved in several major and horrific battles. It was uncanny that he survived even one of these, yet alone seven, including Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. I did not discover his recognized heroism and medals of honor until after he passed. When I learned of Dad’s history it deepened my understanding of his impeccable character, values, and strong faith. It became crystal clear to me why his personal quest was to make every day count.
After the war, my dad met and married my mom. The two of them provided a life filled with goodness in every way. In addition to Dad’s dedication to us, he was actively involved in his community. He led the park board as President for 20 years, was active in the parents music and athletic clubs, was a little league coach, and a church elder, to name a few. Dad’s extensive volunteerism was so remarkable that friends and relatives still reflect on the impact he made in our home town and our family. Each time I pass Norridge Park’s first athletic facility, I shake my head in awe knowing that my dad volunteered his time as the general contractor for the entire construction project. The board at the time wanted to name the building in his honor, but had to defer to the person who donated the funding. :-) Dad also constructed the baseball concession stand with my Uncle Iver. The two of them made their living as carpenters, but did all of this pro bono after work. I’m not sure how many people would do these acts today for free. My dad’s desire to serve the community stemmed from his deep understanding of what it took to create strong families. He knew how important it was to have a park for kids and families to play in, share stories, and create memories. It didn’t matter if he was the immediate benefactor. He would joke saying he was raising funds for the swimming pool before his kids were even old enough to swim.
I had the chance to meet my Dad’s friends and learn of his tales of fun and good deeds throughout my adulthood. The minute Dad’s name is mentioned it’s followed by compliments and gratitude for the impact he made on people’s lives. Dad was well-respected and appreciated by everyone who knew him. He was a great friend, mentor, and leader.
Forever humble, my Dad would lead by example in all aspects of his life. Never complained…just tackled what ever needed to get done, done. Every day Dad approached life with a heart full of gratitude. When I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities, my Dad would simply remind me that everything would be OK, “Believe in yourself. Stay true to your faith. You can do it.”
Saying goodbye to my parents was one of the hardest things I have endured. When my Dad died, I truly knew what it meant to have a broken heart. Our positive father-daughter relationship and friendship brought immense meaning to my life and played a huge part in making me the person I am today. The lessons he imparted still motivate me to be the best version of myself.