-former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw
This Tuesday my grandfather (Pawpaw) Billy Joe Rose passed away at the age of 84 after a long illness. My Pawpaw was a very special person and will be missed not only by his family but by many friends.
As a member of the "Greatest Generation" he served his country in WWII as a member of the Marine Corps. He served in both the European and Pacific Theaters. He began serving 3 weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and his service included Normandy, South France, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
As a fan of History, I am well aware of how lucky we were that he survived being in 4 major battles on each theater of the war when so many lost their lives. He even received a medal from the President of France for helping liberate France. It was not until recently that he would talk about his experiences during the war and I doubt that I was around to hear them all, but those I heard made me appreciate and realize the sacrifice that was made.
My grandfather was not one to really sit still. In the evening he would be inside laying on the couch watching tv but most of the time he was outside tending to his garden, camping, exploring Falling Rock (an area close to where he lived), or simply sitting outside on the porch in the swing with my grandmother...to say the very least he was always on the go. I can remember when I would be in from school, if nothing else, just for a quick visit I would usually have to walk out to his barn or the workshed to find him. I can remember times when he would take me and my brothers fishing, hunting, swimming, or with him when he went to look for ginseng and yellow root.
Unlike me he had a "green thumb" and would always have a garden, although as he got older and it became harder for him to move they became smaller and easier to manage. Perhaps the funniest story was when he found a bag of seeds on one of his excursions into the back roads of Falling Rock and decided to plant them...and when they turned out to be marijuana, which he promptly cut down and tossed over into the creek. I can still remember that he was very proud when he had green beans or other vegetables to fix when we came up for lunch on Sunday afternoon. Speaking of food he had a very big sweet tooth. He would usually put small servings of food on his plate because was saving room for desert.
While he was never rich in a monetary sense, he was very giving of his time and the things he did have. When I was in college and graduate school and would stop and visit before I would leave to go back to school he would offer me a drink to take on the road and sometimes hand me $10, say here this will help you with gas on the way back to school and would not take "NO THANKS THAT IS NOT NECESSARY" as answer. He would also say that if there was anything he could do to help then to just let him know.
I also remember that when I was growing up he would drink and smoke (though not around us kids). When I was young I remember once telling him that drinking and smoking were not good for his health and believe that a few years later when he did quit both how happy I was that he had stopped.
Since moving to Albany I didn't get to see him as much as I would have liked too but made it a point to always make time to see him when I was in visiting.
I last saw Pawpaw when I was home in June a week before my back surgery. I stopped and visited with him for a good half hour which will stay with me forever. As always he was more interested in how I was doing and what I was up to then dwelling on the state of his health. I remember the amount of effort it took for him to get himself off the couch so that he could give me a hug...and as normal his last words to me besides "I love you and take care of yourself" were "be sure to grab a drink out of the fridge so that you have something to drink on the road" like he always would. I somehow knew as I was leaving the his house that it would be the last time I would get to see and talk to him and how I wished I didn't have such a long drive back to NY ahead of me so I could spend more time with him.
Unfortunately I will be unable to make the services for him due to the fact that I am not up to traveling due to back surgery almost 2 1/2 weeks ago. It breaks my heart that I will not be able to be there to honor his life, but I believe that given the circumstances he would understand, because that was the type of person he was.
I know I could share many more memories of the times I spent with my grandfather. I will miss you Pawpaw but know that I will see you again someday and that you are up there looking down on us and knowing that we love and will greatly miss you.
You will be missed but not forgotten...