This has always been my most favorite picture of them, taken at The Barn in Wooster, 2004.
He died Wednesday at 85. It wasn't unexpected, but that doesn't make it any less sad. We're all terribly sad.
He drove the first tank into Langenstein concentration camp in April 1945, 65 years ago this month. No one was prepared for what they found there; his division liberated the camp and spent the rest of their years living with memories of the horrors of what they saw. In 2003-2004, Matt and his grandpa emailed back and forth questions and answers about his service in WWII, and his account of this day plus answers to many other questions are priceless. I compiled them into a small scrapbook in 2004, with this as the last page:
He arrived home from the war on St. Patrick's Day, 1946 after a five month journey home. He married Corrine, had three children, and worked as a drycleaner, eventually owning his own drycleaning store (ABC Cleaners) in Akron, OH. His original dream was to be a teacher, but life turned out differently, as it did for so many returning veterans. I can't remember when he and Grandma Elliott closed it and retired, but I remember visiting when Matt and I were first dating.
I'm so thankful that Old Grandpa (and Old Grandma, too!) were both able to hold Maddie, Gracie, and Bridget before their first birthdays, and to know them as little kids, too.
We always had lots to talk about—books, as he was a voracious reader; his days as a speechie on the speech and debate team at Wooster High School in the late 1930s and early 1940s; music; our shared love of the Cleveland Indians; stories from his family's history... he was also one of this blog's most faithful readers, and one of the primary reasons I stuck with it after I started five years ago. I liked knowing that he was reading each week, year after year. My own grandfathers died in 1957 and 1986, so he was definitely more than just Matt's grandpa to me.
He was buried this morning at Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, Ohio. We will miss him.