Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

June 27, 2012

The smartest man I’ve ever known turns 100

By Keith Kappes - Publisher
Journal-Times

June 27, 2012 — He didn’t go to college but he read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books in his lifetime. He consumed two daily newspapers from cover to cover for much of his adult life.

His vocabulary was so extensive that he found no challenge in crossword puzzles and word games but he often tested his wife and kids by misusing words on purpose.

He traveled from coast to coast several times – free of charge – as a railroad hobo with a purpose – to see the world.

He told me that he once bragged to his pals as he left his small hometown that, when he returned, it would be in a car so large that it couldn’t turn around there.

And then, with a twinkle in his blue eyes, he told me that he was right because he rode home in a railroad boxcar.

He never had a course in accounting but his family and neighbors relied on him to prepare their income tax returns.

In a time long before computers and calculators, he could work math problems in his head faster than most folks could do them by hand.

He would not have been allowed to gamble in Las Vegas because he actually could count cards in a game of blackjack.

He was not a leader of men by choice but his co-workers in a railroad union insisted that he be their spokesman.

He could dress like a dandy on occasion but was more comfortable in his bib overalls, railroad cap and work shoes.

He was a patriot who would not tolerate criticism of this country. As the father of two baby sons at the time, he was not eligible for military service in World War II so he went to California and helped build Liberty ships.

His strength of character equipped him to survive horrible withdrawal symptoms as he singlehandedly detoxed himself from a lifetime of alcohol addiction just a few years before his death at age 65.

He had no respect for a man who wouldn’t support his family, pay his debts or honor his parents.

He was proud of his kids and told others but could not bring himself to tell the children themselves. Neither could he easily show or express affection.

He was a complicated person but he was my dad and I loved him in spite of him. Earlier this month, he turned 100.

He was the smartest man I’ve ever known. Happy Birthday, Pop.