My dad

06 Oct

Dear Maisa,

I want to tell you about your Grampa Kramer. You were only two years old when he died, so you won’t remember the time you spent with him.

You won’t remember his wake or funeral, either, and that’s probably OK. (The day of the wake, you put about 10 miles on your little shoes by running all around Reiff Funeral Home, providing some comic relief to everyone in attendance).

Your Grampa Kramer was very easy-going. He never let anything rattle him, and he never got mad. Grampa raised his voice at me only a couple times in 34 years, and I definitely deserved it.

Grampa got along great with everyone. He followed the golden rule each day of his life — treat others with respect. Grampa refused to bicker with people who had different beliefs or backgrounds. His motto could have been “Live and let live.”

Grampa’s smile came easy, especially when he was around young children. He had seven of his own, and a baker’s dozen grandkids. That’s the image I’ll always have of him — showing off that big smile and laughing with the kids.

Maisa, your Grampa was very intelligent. In today’s era of educational opportunities, he likely would have been a tax attorney or a CPA. Grampa was gifted with numbers, and had an uncanny ability to understand complicated tax laws. As I remember it, he handled my Gramma’s financial paperwork for years.

Your Grampa was a loving, caring husband. Married to your Gramma for 52 years. There has never been a more faithful, devoted spouse.

He was strong, too. After his father died, Grampa led his family through some tough times. He was the patriarch of two families, really.

Grampa Kramer was not a rich man, but his children never went without. We always had enough to eat, warm clothes and a safe home. We had some toys, too — Grampa made sure we could enjoy some of the non-essentials of life.

“Papa” was the hardest-working man I’ve ever known. For most of my childhood, he had two full-time jobs — one at the Ertl Co. in Dyersville, the other at Uncle Earl’s farm in Worthington. Hard work was in his blood.

My Dad loved to get out and see things. He and Gramma went to Washington, D.C., for their honeymoon. They went to Niagara Falls a couple times. Arizona. The World’s Fair in Tennessee. New York City. California. Japan. Korea. Grampa saw a lot of the world. He also made countless “short” trips to places such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Wisconsin Dells.

Papa was a worrier — but in a good way. He never got on the highway without knowing the weather forecast. He always kept his eyes on the road, his hands in perfect 10-and-2 placement on the steering wheel. He unhooked his garden hose well before the first hard freeze. He covered his plants. He locked his doors. He checked his oil. He didn’t place too much trust in strangers. These strategies worked well for him for 78 years.

Grampa Kramer loved sports — especially baseball. He could watch baseball all day long and twice on Sundays. Didn’t matter if it was grandson Brett’s Little League games or Game 7 of the World Series. If a pitcher and a hitter were dueling somewhere, Grampa wanted to watch it.

Your Papa loved new cars. It was said that when the warranty expired on his car, it was time for a new one. He drove Chevys most of the time. He probably didn’t know what to think of his kids driving Hondas and Toyotas.

Grampa was proud of his service to the United States military. He was a proud Legionaire. He loved God and the Catholic church, and was heavily involved in his local parish activities.

Papa did not judge people. He did not cast stones. He assumed everyone was doing the best they could. He saw the good in people.

He never used profanity. Never used violence. He didn’t care for movies that showed too much skin. He wouldn’t listen to loud political rants.

Papa had a great sense of humor. I loved to hear him laugh. He was an excellent impersonator, a trait that I inherited.

Maisa, your Grampa Kramer was just about the best man this world has ever known, will ever know. I’m biased, but it seems that everyone who knew him would say roughly the same thing. The heartfelt expressions of admiration for him have been in abundance in the last several days. The church was full on the day of his funeral.

I am so thankful that he was able to know you, if only for a little while.


Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Uncategorized


6 responses to “My dad

  1. Mrs. Dodgerkramer

    October 6, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Very nice piece, James. Everything you said about your dad is true. So glad he raised a wonderful son that is my husband. 🙂 Love you.

    • dodgerkramer

      October 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm

      Thank you!

  2. Tom & Family

    October 6, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    James- this was a beautiful and fitting tribute to your dad. You are an amazing writer and your words brought me to tears. I see a book in your future……


    • dodgerkramer

      October 7, 2010 at 11:10 am


  3. Mike Brinker

    October 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Well said, Al! Leon was one of a kind!

  4. Steve

    October 7, 2010 at 10:06 pm


    Thank you for taking the time to so accurately summarize Dad’s life. Since you took the part of the writer, let m etake your normal role as editor. I find no errors or fabrications. This tribute is truly non-fiction. The title the biography could be, “How to be a great Son, Brother, Husband, Father and Grandfather”. I truly believe he was greeting at THE GATE, with the following phrase. “Well done, my good and faithful servant, Well Done!”


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