An Unsung Hero

2004, 60th Anniversary

60th Anniversary, 2004

Every now and again, as in this past week, the media is swamped with news covering the death of a famous or influential person. Talking heads debate the impact of the person’s life and what their legacy will be. The major networks will air specials and documentaries on their life story and replay footage of their best moments.

Today the world lost a great man. He slipped into the next world with no pomp and no flurry of media. My grandfather, my namesake, Eugene Roland Carlson, died at age 87 in the home he and my grandmother raised four children in.  The evening news will not speak of his achievements, most people never knew him, yet for me, he was one of the greatest men I have ever known.

Setting up Christmas decorations in Wrightwood.  1984

Grandpa and me setting up Christmas decorations in Wrightwood. 1984

Strong, brave, loving, softspoken, and with a twinkle in his eye, he loved life and those around him.   I never heard my grandfather say a mean thing about anyone and he was always quick to lighten the mood with a witty remark.  Even when I last saw him a couple weeks ago, frail and with barely the strength to eat, his sence of humour still shown threw.  He loved wife, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; and they loved him.

My earliest years were spent in a stroller watching my grandpa and the rest of our family build a cabin in the mountain town of Wrightwood. These early memories may have subconsciously contributed to my desire to enter the building industry. We spent many holidays and weekends at the cabin and I always looked forward to spending the night in the attic bedroom. We would stay up late playing games and then we would climb up the retractable ladder to our fort in the attic. These times, and the many Christmas’ and other holidays we spent together were a great time to learn how to play horseshoes, start a fire, carve a turkey, and play Yatzee.

17 May 1944

May, 17th 1944

Besides building two cabins in Wrightwood, my grandpa built my grandma and his first home in Red Wing Minnesota.  Durring his career as a general contractor he helped with the moon landing mission managing the construction of some of the research facilities in the sixties and built hundreds of structures throughout Minnesota and California.

Prior to this, he served his country bravely in the Navy at the close and after World War II.   He became a Navy pilot on an aircraft carrier and did reconnaissance work throughout the Pacific theater.

What I didn’t fully realize until three years ago was just how much my grandpa loved his wife, Audrey.  When she passed away he lost a piece of himself.  The change was notable.  He loved my grandma more than anything else and their sixty-two years of marriage were a testament of that.  I don’t remember him ever telling her he was too tired to help, he never put her down, nor said negative things about her.  He was always the perfect example of how a husband should treat his wife.

My grandpa was my hero.  Through his selfless life and his persistent smile he has made me a better person.  For that I will be eternally grateful.

I love you grandpa, I can’t wait to see you again.