Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandfather. He passed away only four-and-a-half years ago and was the only one of my grandparents still living by the time I finished graduate school. He was, therefore, the only grandparent I really felt I got to know well when I was an adult. And having returned to Columbus for a position at Ohio State, I lived nearby during the final dozen years of his life.
My grandfather's life was very much shaped by circumstance, especially the Great Depression, which began while he was in high school. Ironically, the Depression enabled my grandfather to achieve greater economic success than he would have otherwise. A graduate of Cleveland East Tech (where he attended school with future Olympian Jesse Owens), my grandfather would have been content to work as a machinist, had such work been available.
Instead, after a year of working evenings as a delivery man for a drug store, he was convinced by relatives to attend Ohio State, and he became an engineer. Although he was initially unable to find suitable employment after graduation, as World War II began to loom, the need for engineers became acute, and my grandfather ended up working for the same company for 42 years, retiring as vice president of engineering.
A calm and unassuming man, he enjoyed work, and at home, he was happiest in his basement workshop, where he fixed gadgets and built small pieces of furniture. And I was privileged to appreciate my grandfather as a role model for living life with respect and quiet dignity.