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Who Tells Your Story?

Below this I have posted my grandfather’s obituary. He meant and means so very much to me. And the obituary he has below sucks. 

I was feeling nostalgic last night, remembering all the time I was blessed to spend with both of my dad’s parents, Clement and Gladys. My mom’s folks passed while I was a kid but I had the gift of enjoying Clem and Gladys for many years, many Christmases. Let me stick to Clem for a moment to paint a picture, on the importance of story and perspective. 

The obit below is a statement of fact. Who Clem married, where he worked, who survives him…what a joke. If you knew the story of my grandad, you too would be torqued by this obit. He was a hero, in every way. 

Clem was an employee at General Motors, a factory foreman that helped turn a line of auto assembly into planes for World War 2. He was a plumber, and I went to work with him more than once to fix a leak or a water heater for an old neighbor, and he wouldn’t take their money. He was always up early…and we would go cut wood together at sunrise. He got more done by 10am than anyone I know (besides Amanda). Then we had a bad glass of port wine at 11am, and went back to work…such was the routine for my grandpa. 

Clem taught me how to disagree without being disagreeable. He was the oldest sibling in a farm family, only made it through 6th grade before having to watch/groom his brothers and sisters to run the family farm. And yet…and yet…he was the most educated man I have ever known. Time Magazine, Ted Koppel, he consumed so he could converse with anyone. And we debated vigorously over the years, most especially about Ronald Reagan. He held court, was humble and yet so strong. His sons (3) held him in the highest regard. 

Christmas was always at their home, a gaggle of cousins traveling from hours away. We humped it 4 hours from upstate New York to Dalton Pennsylvania every year. And it was magic. To sit in his lap and open presents was something I would anticipate for 364 days a year.

My last memory of Clem, my favorite, I was visiting him and late in his years dropping him off at his apartment. Gladys had passed away, I am sure we went to the VFW to grab a beer, or in his case a glass of port wine that they kept under the counter at the bar, JUST FOR HIM. As we pulled up to the apartment, I told him that I loved him and from the driver’s seat reached over to give him a hug. He thought I was just tugging the door open for him and was visibly shocked that I wrapped him up in a bear hug. He went on to tell anyone that would listen that I gave him that hug. My parents, friends, anyone…it was new to him and I think it hit home. That moment shifted his world view, his perspective…I did not architect it for that purpose, but I am forever grateful that we had that flash of a moment together. It lives in me. 

I am telling his story right now. He taught me the beauty of a liverwurst sandwich, one piece of wheat bread…a slice of onion…hot mustard and liverwurst. I make my kids eat it every once in awhile. I adore it, as it was what we ate after the port wine at 11am, a bit more work and then a classic German snack at 2pm. And then some Lawrence Welk. 

I am telling his story…when i think about the time he ate a fortune cookie without taking out the fortune and said (with a mouth full of cookie and paper) “What do you mean, a fortune cookie?” 

The story is all that matters. His story, my story, your story. My grandfather moved me. He wasn’t a collection of facts, but a rich tapestry. If you want to make an impact with people, in business or in your personal life, I would challenge you to know the story. Facts wither, facts are boring. Tell me a story. Go.

Erik Radle

A voracious reader, un unabashed foodie and struggling golfer, Erik holds multiple degrees from Baylor University where he attended as a National Merit Scholar. His involvement in the community includes support for organizations like Educational Media Enterprises and Park Cities Baptist Church. More info