There are people in our lives that are oh so pivotal, that it seems impossible to think of your life without them. They are like the glue to your whole world. That person for me is my grandfather, Frank Smith, holding things together in his giant hands. And sadly, this world lost him Sunday, November 19th around 8:45 AM Pacific.
Born in Missouri in 1928, his family traveled west in search of jobs. Working at a young age, he would pick fruit with his brothers and sister to help the family earn money. He gradually made his way up to Washington where he graduated high school, met his wife, Eunice Williamson and began his family. Together they had two daughters, Vicki and Jeanne, and a son Frank Jr (my father).
Working in a dynamite factory isn’t the most glamorous job, but he enjoyed it despite the hazardous work environment. But when he heard of an opportunity to get on with a railroad company down in Central Oregon, he packed everyone up and they moved to Prineville around 1964 where he lived out the rest of his years.
Flash forward to 1980. Not a huge milestone in his life, but one for me. I was born. His fourth grandchild, and first grandson. And while I heard that he was a good dad, he was a phenomenal grandfather. He loved making kids smile and laugh. And he was able to do so under most any condition. When I was eight months old, I was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Thankfully, it was caught quickly enough but I was pretty sick kid for a bit, but yet I still have a picture of my grandpa coming to see me in the hospital and I’m all smiles.
Standing at 6’1″, with broad shoulders and hands so big that he you can pass a quarter through his wedding band, he was the gentlest of giants. When he wasn’t working as an engineer for the City of Prineville Railroad (where he retired), he was enjoying the latest Louis L’amour western, watching Wheel of Fortune, or playing with his grand-kids. He gave the best horse rides on his knees, talked like a duck, or was making faces while shooting his dentures out of his mouth. Anything to make you laugh. He loved us kids so much, that we could always rely on him.
My mom and dad split up when I was ten, about a year after my dad’s multiple sclerosis put him in a wheel chair. Without hesitation, my grandparents welcomed my father back into their home, helping take care of him. My grandmother passed away about a year later, but my grandfather still made sure that my dad was well taken care of. While helping out with my dad’s care, my grandmother from my mom’s side started spending more time with my grandfather. Next thing I know, I’m my own step-cousin.
His generosity didn’t stop with our family though. He was an active member of the Lions Club, as well as the Shriners. And also volunteered for the St Vincent de Paul Society in Prineville. Turns out that the only thing bigger than his massive hands was his heart.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were waking up at 6 AM Saturday morning to watch “rassling” with Grandpa and him making flapjacks. He loved explaining what happened to my brother and I, and we always ended up cheering for the bad guys because they always made my grandpa laugh. Take for instance, when my grandpa helped arrange a charity wrestling exhibition with the Portland Wrestling Federation. Apparently, a young Jesse Ventura didn’t take too well to my grandfather’s heckles as he called him a “bald sonuvabitch.” If only Jesse knew the future that lay before him.
I love you, Grandpa. And I hope that one day I’ll be a fraction of the man that you were. Tonight, I’ll want to sit down and have a cup of coffee and piece of pie in your honor. What kind of pie you ask? The only kinds you liked: hot or cold.
Here is a song that my aunts,uncles, and dad performed for him.