Thursday, April 15, 2010

Smile, you're on candid camera!

Chester Eugene Root, Sr (September 14, 1921 - April 12, 2010)

It has been a long week and it began with some sad news about my Grandpa’s death. His death represents many things to me. One of them being that he had the same name as my Dad, and it seems strange to say that the only Chester’s I have known have passed away. They both were very different from each other and yet very influential people in my life. Now my Grandpa is going to be buried next to my Dad which makes me smile.

The two Chester Eugenes.

This blog is a knitting/DIY blog and I don’t want to divert from that agenda. However, I began this blog with the intention to share what is keeping us inspired. So, sticking to the over arching theme of inspiration, I’d like to send out a little tribute of my Grandpa whose outlook on life was inspiring to me.

--When my Grandpa moved from California to Northern Minnesota, he had these business cards made. This is by far the best business card I have ever seen!

So, who was my Grandpa? It is hard to say in words who exactly he was other than terribly quirky, kind and always ready for a good time. He had this way of making life seem so easy and wonderful. The way he was patient to find joy in small pleasures was infectious. It was hard to leave his presence without a smile on your face and a skip in your step. He wasn’t willing to give into the complexities that are part of being human rather he was determined and at times very stubborn about never giving up on the small bit of joy that he had uncovered. He was always trying to win the lottery and was forever searching for the pot full of gold at the end of the rainbow. But, I always thought he lived his life as though he had already won the prize.

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I would realize my Grandpa's joy in life had come at a great cost. Sometimes memories can get muddled up and become translated and perfected into how you want someone to have been. I want to be honest and say that my Grandpa’s character was not perfect and, at the same time, I want to recognize that I can only tell my part in this story. From what I know, there are certain events that took place early on in my Grandpa’s life that deeply shaped who he was. He grew up during the depression in Southern California and joined the Navy at the age of 21 in 1942. Before he was even 25, he had said good bye to many close friends, received a purple heart and had acquired a body full of shrapnel—wounds and shell fragments that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. By the time my Grandparents met and were married they both had endured a lot of pain and sorrow. As a result of these events, my Grandpa wasn’t always able to give to his four children the presence that they needed. However, this does not mean his love for them was any less. I know that his children brought him immeasurable joy.

This week I’ve been looking over a copy I have of a newspaper clipping entitled “Park Marine Returns to Duty Pierced with 300 Shell Fragments,” it is unbelievable to me that the man they were reporting on was my Grandpa. His courage and the lives that he saved because of this courage should not go without mention. He was a veteran of Tarawa, the bloodiest battle of World War II, and received a promotion for heroism. To quote the news article, “he performed outstanding work throughout his entire campaign.”

The stories that make up a human life are many, but by the time I was able to know my Grandpa the signature story of his heroism had been replaced by one of joyful resilience. He was fun and a friend to everyone. As a kid, he was the person who was always there at the end of my musical performances asking for my autograph, making me feel like I was a star. Thank you Grandpa for being so much fun and for sharing your joy with all of your grand kids and great grand kids.

Finally, there is one more thing I’d like to say, my Grandpa was a collector of many things and was very proud of his collections. I think it is imperative that I list and show just a few.

My Grandma is holding me, my Grandpa is holding a small bit of his stamp collection.

Rare Coins.
A lucky benny penny he gave to me when I was in 5th grade

A handful of his polished rock collection.

And, on a less physical note, my personal favorite, he collected catch phrases that he would repeat over and over. “Another Day Another Dollar.” “See you in the spring.” “Smile you’re on candid camera.” Well, Grandpa, smile…

(This must have been before he met my Grandma!)


  1. Dear Liza, for some reason this post of yours actually made me sob out loud. I still have trouble seeing the letters through my tears. I'm not sure why, but it was kind of like a sermon to me. You certainly have a gift, and it came from somewhere. I am sorry you have lost your dear grandpa, but I rejoice with you that you have so many good memories of him.

  2. Oh, Liza. This is so touching. I'm crying, too. I'm so sorry he's gone; you're so lucky to have had him in your life. Take care, Neva

  3. Don't take any wooden nickles, Lize.

  4. What an awesome tribute to your Grandpa. It is so incredibly moving to read - I'm so sorry for your loss.

    I held it together till I got to this part:

    As a kid, he was the person who was always there at the end of my musical performances asking for my autograph, making me feel like I was a star

    and then I sobbed through the rest. I didn't have any of my grandparents in my life growing up, but if i had, I'd have wanted a grandpa just like yours.

  5. Liza - My condolences & prayers to you and your family. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandpa! Those memories are so important not only to you, your siblings & cousins but also very important to the next generations as well. Keep remembering, writing and sharing. God bless you all - Brenda Tibbetts

  6. Liza,
    He truly was a gem. I have fond memories of visiting your Gramma and Grampa as our kids were growing up. We enjoyed his stamp collection too along with your Gramma's brownies.
    We are thankful for his service to our country and for his kind and generous ways.
    The Chapmans