On August 29, Granddad passed away suddenly at 86 in his home on Terrapin Creek. As the public obituary shows, Granddad was a legendary man: a Professor of Soil Science for 39 years at University of Wisconsin – Madison, he led the green revolution in Indonesia and Brazil (for which he received doctorates in 1985 and 2014, respectively). As President of the Midwest Universities Consortium on International Activities (MUCIA), he helped many other institutions and countries coordinate humanitarian aid. After retirement, Granddad still traveled to Indonesia every year and worked on the Ponderosa through his last day.
At his funeral, all his grandchildren were given the opportunity to speak and my eulogy is below.
After Grandma passed away, Granddad started a new tradition of writing his grandchildren a Christmas letter every year. In them, he told us his life’s story – from childhood on Terrapin Creek to finding the love of his life to moving away for school and then his first job. Throughout everything Granddad’s letters were filled with love and his profound sense of finding home, wherever he was.
In the past two years, Granddad and I recognized that I was following in part of his footsteps by becoming a PhD student. This Christmas, I made plans to see him in Indonesia. Granddad and I arrived in Jakarta within an hour of each other. He had just come back from the mission field in Sulawesi, and was undeniably sick. Granddad’s health was never a complaint, it was just a statement. When his lung stopped working almost a decade ago, he didn’t. When he visited the doctor in Indonesia, the doctor asked to take a picture of him. Granddad asked why and the doctor said “My dad is 84 and giving up on life, you’re 86 and your life is just beginning!”
Granddad’s life always was just beginning – he started every day in gratitude and as his letters showed us, even recollections of the past started with thankfulness for the day he was given and the future he had created for his family and the world.
As he was feeling better, he started whistling again as he was in the house. One morning I asked him to take me to IPB – the Bogor Agricultural School – that he worked at for 7 years. Twenty minutes later, in a moment that was very Granddad, he said “car’s out front, let’s go.” Now, I was expecting him to take a few days to make arrangements, so I hurried off to get shoes. When we got in the car he started telling me all about the work he had done there restructuring the curriculum and I hadn’t realized he literally designed the university – from the library to offices to fields to chapels. They had set a goal of 20,000 graduates by the year 2000, which they met early!
Granddad made an immediate impact on so many lives, but the life and work he created was built to last. We each saw that first-hand as he mentored so many of us. Now, as his letters stop, we are left to find our own path, but the lessons he gave us of love and dedication will live on forever.