Born in the early 1920’s to Irish Catholic parents in South Side Chicago; my grandfather, “Doc”, was an unsuspecting member of what historians would later call the greatest generation. This group of young people were raised with few luxuries and naturally molded into tough, gritty, self-sufficient Americans. Doc spent his early years in the heart of the great depression. He used to watch his own dad collect potato peelings from diner to pack for lunch the next day.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor my grandfather, then 17, adjusted his age and signed up for the Navy. Doc was the helmsman on the USS Peterson a Navy Destroyer escort. The Peterson escorted merchant ships across the Atlantic and chased German U-boats up the US East coast.
After the European theatre, the Peterson with Doc was sent to Pearl Harbor and was prepping to be a decoy for the invasion of mainland Japan. During this time, the atomic bomb was dropped, ended the war and Doc went home.
After the war Doc moved to Leroy Minnesota a small town on the Iowa border. He married my late grandmother Loraine, had six kids, ran a pool hall, was a volunteer fireman and worked for a new computer startup, IBM. In 1965 he transferred with IBM to Boulder, Colorado.
I remember Doc to be strong, stoic, steely eyed, smart and a craftsman. My dad tells how Doc never once called an electrician, plumber or contractor for any reason. He was uneducated by today’s standards but was one of the smartest people I have ever met.
I remember hearing about how he read the encyclopedias, all of them. He was the volunteer librarian on the WW2 battleship, because “he got first shot at the new books”. His basement book shelf had hundreds of national geographic and popular mechanic magazines that he frequently read. I remember him listening to NPR on a small silver radio and always seeing a stack of books next to his chair. Doc educated himself because he believed knowledge to be paramount.
Doc and his generation were born to endure a depression, save the world and build a country. The only long sleeve shirt I ever saw him wear was a crew neck sweatshirt. Our fourth design was made tough enough for Doc but fashionable enough for the world he built.