I lost a very dear family member last week. Julius Robert Johnson; J.R. or Jay, as everybody knew him, was my Grandfather. He was the patriarch of our family, the man everbody in the family looked up to, the foundation. I’d been struggling with a way to describe Grandpa, when I read my brothers weblog on Friday.
My brother described Grandpa as “A tough man, but not hard.” That is the perfect description of our Grandpa. When you’d visit him he’d greet you with a loving smile and a warm greeting, often “Well, lookie here!” It was sincere, and full of warmth and love. Grandpa was a man’s man, but was extremely affectionate, and put God and family above all else. He walked the walk.
As a young man Grandpa worked the railroads, was a cowboy; yes, the kind that actually roped cattle, as a part of The Greatest Generation he answered the call to action in World War II where he was a gunner on a Navy ship and a Seabee in the South Pacific. After the war he eventually found his way to Lindsay, California where he met Grandma and eventually married.
There was no doubt Grandpa loved to work. He loved turning wrenches and spent the better part of his life repairing Caterpillar equipment in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Mike Rowe couldn’t keep up with my Grandpa. Grandma claimed that “J.R. bleeds Cat yellow” and “J.R. will drop dead some day behind a Caterpillar with a smile on his face.” Grandma wasn’t too far off the mark, you see, Grandpa continued turning wrenches until about eight weeks ago, when he was diagnosed with cancer. Did that slow him down? No, it didn’t. He was certain he’d go back to work as soon as his chemo and radiation treatments concluded. That day never came. Grandpa passed away June 29, 2010. He was three days shy of his 83rd birthday, he will be greatly missed.