Monday, August 24, 2009


My grandpa died at the age of 99 last week. It really wouldn't be appropriate to be sad about it. I did cry, but mostly because this kind of situation brings many feelings to the surface. How I feel about being so far away from my family at such times, how I would feel if my own parents died (omg, don't even want to think about that, but I would truly devastated and depressed.), how fun it would have been to attend his funeral and hear all the stories about him (and how I will miss out on that), how I will feel when my grandma dies, which probably won't be for quite a while, but I wish I could have known my grandpa better.

Well, here is my tribute post to Grandpa, and I will tell a couple stories about him. I am sure my sister or brother could tell it better and they have more stories about him, but I will try anyway. By the way, the photo above was taken about 12 years ago by Amy Oya (then Mortimore) when she came up for a visit during university. She must have thought Grandpa was photogenic because she wanted to practice her photography skills on him. It worked because my family has always loved this photo of him. It captures the essence of who he was.

First, the facts. He was born in 1911 and lived through 2 World Wars and several other smaller ones. He also witnessed the Prohibition, the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement. He saw so many great inventions including television, and sometimes spoke about the going to the World's Fair in Chicago which seemed to make a big impression on him. (I checked, and it seems the World's Fair he attended was sometime in the 1930's.)

Then, more personal stuff. His name was Edward Smitmajer. His parents were immigrants from Bohemia (now part of Czech and Slovakia) who met in Chicago and then moved up to Northern Wisconsin when Eddie was a child. He had two sisters, whom he never got along with well even later in life. He got married late in life (in his late 30's) to Violet Ingalls (a 20 year old hottie) whom he had met on his milk route. She was living on a farm with her foster family at the time and they dated for 5 years before getting married. Rumor has it, though, he was a hound dog who liked his women and his booze. Experiencing life was important to him, and it took old age to force him to settle down more than anything else.

He had many jobs. He owned a truck and hired himself out to help move things for people. He owned an airplane and enjoyed flying. He sold moonshine during the prohibition. He did farming for a while, but never really liked it. He tried to join the military so he could fight for his country, but was turned down because of his foreign accent. (Never could shake that Eastern European accent.) He was a bouncer at a night club, and he drove the school bus.

He and Violet had 2 children. Holly, my mom, and Cindy were 10 years apart. HIs hobbies included fishing, hunting, polka dancing, reading and saving just about everything "for future use." A true depression era man.

The funeral was just today (USA time), and I was thinking about my family at that lucky they are to be together and share their memories about Grandpa. I'll wait a few days before I post about some of the stories because unfortunately, I am very sparse on the details. My brother and dad knew a lot more since they heard the stories over and over. I have to admit that while growing up, I wasn't always listening very closely...shame on me.


Girl Japan: April Marie Claire said...

I am happy to hear your grandfather lived a full LIFE, but I am also sorry you lost him = (

ha2k said...

Hi, we have found your blog by accident...our name is Smitmajer and we come from the Czech Republic, Bohemia. Our grandpa turns 90 tomorrow. We would like to find out whether this is just a coincidence and name similarity or whether there are some family connection between us, so if you could send us an email it would be great. we are excited to find out :)