Friday, November 7, 2008

Bernard Donald Schuster, 1919 - 2008

Yesterday I lost my last remaining grandparent, my grandfather, affectionately known to me as "Gramps." He lived a long, good life to the age of 89 and died in a suburb just outside of Chicago. I was so fortunate to have him around, and live close by to him for as long as I did and was glad to have just visited with him last weekend since I am back in the US for a visit. For the years that I had him in my life, I could not be more grateful for such a gift. My sister, Carrie, my cousin, Cory, and I were all lucky enough to share him as our grandfather and each loved him for different lessons he taught us and stories he shared with us along the way.

Bernie, as he was known to others, had a strong wit and a dry sense of humor about him. He kept his sharp mind until the very end and used it to keep all of his caretakers on their toes in his last few years. He could sniff a faker out from the crowd, including knowing when the care center that he lived in for the last few months had tried to pass off bran cereal with added raisins in it to him as the true raisin bran cereal, instead of the "real" Kellogg's brand Raisin Bran cereal. As soon as he would taste the "fake" cereal, he would surely inform the management of his findings!

In his earlier years, he was an accountant by trade, but a tremendously skilled wood-worker, gardener, active masonic member, and family man at leisure. As a young child, my sister and I befitted from the MANY hand-crafted beautiful gifts he made us, including stunning doll chests and wardrobes, little table and chair sets, wooden games, and even a crib that we slept in as babies. The basement of his house was his wood shop and one that was always impeccably organized and methodically laid out. His organization and skills carried over into his backyard, where each year he would transform the back third of his yard into a fruitful and delicious vegetable garden. Although we lived in St. Louis and he in Indiana, we still benefited from these fresh vegetables that would melt in our mouths upon arrival, the day after he would pick them and then ship them to us via UPS.

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Bernie entered the army air force after high school and served in World War II as a glider test pilot. His experience in the army air-force actually was one that was of interest to an author in the 1990s and so a book, SILENT ONES, was written about such experiences, and Bernie's troop was featured in it. After the war, he met my grandmother, Martha, via the phone, when she was a receptionist and he was placing a call to order concrete from her company. They married soon after, and were blessed with two daughters, and they built a simple yet rewarding life as a family in a town just outside of Chicago.

Gramps was full of stories, good humor, and more patience than I will ever know. I obviously knew him only in his older years, but loved the stories he would tell me of his experiences at all ages. I watched him age gracefully and his complaints about life were really few and far between. All who knew him, know he was a respectable, caring, witty, yet private man, who lived as long as he was able. I love him dearly and know he is in a much more comfortable place but will surely miss him.

My maternal grandparents (Granny & Gramps) and my parents with me at my baptism.

No comments: