By Victoria Wienke
Dad’s goal was to make it to 90 so that he could say that he was retired for the same length of time as he worked. However, as we all know, life sometimes gives us a sucker punch and our plans don’t always succeed.
Dad’s 90th birthday would have been just a few weeks ago, but his 35 years of working with asbestos took its revenge and mesothelioma set in.
Dad wasn’t a fool. He expected this could eventually happen as he watched many of his co-workers go to the great beyond – many even younger than he. He told us that all of the plans for his funeral were made and in his bedside table.
Dad’s motto was “you have to keep moving because the alternative is not good” and he certainly practiced that.
Up until the diagnosis giving him two weeks to live, Dad was golfing, bowling, riding his bike around the neighborhood and going to every garage sale within a close proximity – many times getting out his maps to plan his routes. We bought him a GPS, but he didn’t believe that lady telling him where to go!
Dad was a regular on “Tradio” – the WLVL buy-sell-swap program where people call in their sale of the day – and he always ended his call with “keep the peace, pal.” The host called Dad Trader Tom and he proudly wore a hat bearing that name. In honor of Dad, the station still plays his “keep the peace, pal” voice at the beginning of each show.
Dad did his research on golf clubs, marbles, milk bottles, wood planes, tools, etc. He would read up on the value and condition of items so that he would know a “good deal” or be able to price his items accordingly. Dad absolutely loved garage sales and dickering with people over prices.
After Mom died, I picked Dad up every Thursday after work and took him to dinner. He called it our “date night” and he proudly told everyone that Thursday nights were reserved. We were always running into someone he knew at various restaurants.
The two-week prognosis stretched into three months, and Dad fought it until the end, saying the doctors were wrong and he would make it.
We were fortunate, because that extra time gave my three brothers and me a chance to spend some very special moments with Dad. We learned a lot about him and our family history, and had the opportunity to ask those questions you never get to ask when someone dies suddenly.
Dad impressed on us to make priorities – his were God, family, country and to love your neighbor. However, it wasn’t until after he died that we realized the impression Dad had made on so many others.
Soon after “Tradio” announced his passing in 2014, the calls and visits started. People we had never met told us how Dad had helped them – taking them for blood work when they didn’t have a car, giving their son a set of golf clubs because he wanted to take up the sport but they couldn’t afford the clubs, using his carpentry skills to help a neighbor or donating items to the church bazaar.
Dad was a people person and enjoyed helping others, and obviously he had helped more than we ever knew.
As Father’s Day approaches, I remember Dad not only for being a great father but also for the inspiration he was to his family and others to live life to its fullest, have faith in God and love your neighbor.
Thanks, Trader Tom. You are an inspiration for the world. Keep the peace!