He was born in 1906 in Connecticut on a dairy farm, before there were many automobiles, before there were airplanes. He was born in the year that Teddy Roosevelt signed acts to regulate food and drugs and the inspection of meat. He lived through the First World War. His grandmother died in the great flu epidemic of 1918.
He went to school, and high school, which he never finished. He became a tradesman, sharpening knives for a living. He was good at what he did. He worked and saved and opened his own knife-sharpening business. He married. He had children. He supported his family. He voted. He was like one of the guys in those Norman Rockwell paintings. He always had blue-collar tastes; he was never ashamed of his origins.
Although my grandmother died in the 1990s, my grandfather continued to live on his own and to be as sharp as a tack. He was fiercely independent. He had pulled himself up by his own bootstraps but continued to contribute to society. When I last visited him two years ago he was still thinking about his role as a citizen--complaining about Bush and the war in Iraq. I wanted to order him one of those White House letters for when he turned 100--but am not sure whether, with Bush's signature, it would have been much of a present.
What kind of men are we making today, in this age of corruption? I'm pretty sure they will not be men like my grandfather.