It still doesn't seem real. For almost 30 years, I've always had him there. Always been able to hear his voice when I wanted to; always been able to see his smile or hold his hand. My grandpa was incredibly special.
There are thousands of words I could write about him, but I'll simply share here the words that I shared at his service today.
My grandfather was born in Los Angeles on March 13th, 1925, (Friday the 13th, which he often pointed out) the firstborn of George and Isabelle Watrous. At four years old he became a big brother, welcoming his sister Gerrie to the family. Their family remained in Los Angeles, and he graduated from George Washington High School. Not too long after graduating from high school, he received his draft letter in the mail. Thinking that perhaps the army wasn't the best fit, and noticing that his draft number was going to bring him in sooner rather than later, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was soon sent to sub-base Pearl Harbor. Though he was stationed there after the bombing, not a December 7th passed that he didn't look me square in the eye and ask, "Do you know what today is?" I learned. And never forgot, just as he'd hoped. He spent his time there working on the submarines in the harbor and doing his best to be invited into the officer's club for decent meals.
After the war, he came home and made a very natural transition by joining the Los Angeles Police Department. I really wish that I could retell the stories that he told about his time on the vice squad, his experiences with some old Hollywood celebrities and other wacky things that he experienced… I could never tell those stories the way he told them, but I assure you- they were hilarious!
He also came home and met, dated and fell very much in love with Kathryn Kanouff. On August 19th, 1949, he married the woman of his dreams. They had a camping honeymoon at Lassen National Park, where they weren't left to themselves- they were joined by friends and family. He always laughed that his honeymoon was an excuse for vacation for everyone else, but he spoke so fondly of the time they had there and the smile on his face in the photos shows how much he truly enjoyed being around those he cared about.
He and my grandma, his Katie, raised their two children, Steve and Pam, with much love. She was an elementary school teacher, so they spent their summers camping, fishing, taking road trips in their Vista Cruiser and building amazing family memories- always something educational, thanks to my grandma; always filled with laughs, thanks to my grandpa. He was so proud of both of his children for their many talents and accomplishments, and he told anyone who would listen about his son and his daughter.
He remained on the LAPD for 30 years until retirement in 1977. Wanting to stay close to his Katie and stay active, he began working part time at Hermosa View school in Hermosa Beach as a teacher's aide. He loved the Olympics, so when Los Angeles hosted the big event in 1984, he quickly signed up to volunteer and found himself helping out at one of his favorite events, basketball. He loved to travel and he and my grandma had a great time seeing new and different places together.
He became a grandpa in 1982, to me, and I can say, pretty confidently, that he enjoyed that role, too. He was an amazing grandfather and put a great amount of love into caring for me and helping raise me right.
The love of his life, Kathryn, passed away unexpectedly in 1987. While I was only four at the time, I grew up knowing there was no question about his deep love for her. The words he spoke when describing her, the sound in his voice when he talked about how much he missed her, and his reminder every year on their anniversary that he had no doubt they would have still been happily married on that day was a testimony to the love they shared.
Through the years he was a faithful husband, a loving father, a generous friend, a beloved brother and uncle, an amazing grandfather and a very proud great-grandfather.
While I was trying to stir up some words to say today, I kept thinking about the phrase "Live. Laugh. Love." that has become so popular on home decor items and signs now. It kept ringing in my head, because those three words truly speak to who my grandpa was.
He lived! He was not one to sit back and let the world pass by. He was adventurous and curious… his time in the Navy and his 30 years on the LAPD were exciting and fulfilling for him. Even far after his retirement, he'd still get this glint in his eye when he would retell those stories from his time on the force. He was thrilled to be a family man and lived to take care of them. He spent much of his time traveling to new places- all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Baltics, Europe, and even strange destinations like Siberia (who goes to Siberia?!) and even Antarctica. I can remember him mentioning that he wanted to take that trip to Antarctica and thinking, "Of course you do…" That was just his kind of thing- different and exciting. He traveled with those he loved when he could. He loved sports, meeting new people, collecting interesting things and talking… oh how he loved talking! He became notorious for talking the ear off of someone he'd just met. He had a general love for life that was evident in the way he interacted with people.
He laughed! And so did everyone around him. My grandpa was not someone who took himself too seriously, and I have a great amount of respect for people like that. He was witty, goofy and most definitely a smart-aleck. His smirk was one of my favorite things about him! He had a sharp sense of humor with a very definite cheesy side. He was the king of the pun! I'd always roll my eyes… but I always got a kick out of it. In the days leading up to his passing, my mom, Steve and I sat in his room, remembering funny stories and laughing together as we remembered what a funny guy he was. It must have started early, because I've heard my Aunt Gerrie, his sister, tell funny stories of his antics as a kid. He was all for a good prank, too. Steve told me the other day that when his friends would come looking for him at the house, my grandpa would come to the door- with a totally straight face- and ask, "Steve who?", just to mess with them. This was SO like him. Must have been one of his favorites, because he'd do it to my friends when they'd call the house. And his laugh was so contagious- I think some of the times I laughed the hardest were times that he cracked himself up… you couldn't help but laugh along with him.
And he loved. He cherished his beloved wife, and missed her every day after she was gone. He always talked about how beautiful she was and about how their love was something very special. He took great pride in his children. He admired Steve so very much, and while he missed him, being that Steve lives in Georgia, he was proud of Steve's accomplishments and of the man he is. He loved his daughter in law, Christy, too and enjoyed her company. He doted on his daughter, Pam, and would often tell people about how talented she is and how wonderfully she took care of him. He'd tell me that he knew he didn't say it enough, but that he was so lucky to have both of them… his perfect pair- a son and a daughter.
I may be biased, but I think I got the best blessing of all in my grandpa. My grandpa was my guy and was so selfless in the way he took care of me. It wasn't until I became a parent myself that I realized what a sacrifice he made for me each day… he was always willing to help me, to entertain me, to chauffeur my friends and I, to feed me and to care for me. He did me the great honor of walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, and the smile on his face that day was something my heart will never, ever let me forget. It was the same smile I saw the day he held his first great-grandbaby, Kathryn, then his second, William. Even though he was nearing the end of his life when his third great-grandchild, Kennedy, was born, I saw the smile that told me he knew she was here and that he loved her so much.
My grandpa was the first man to have my heart, and he will always have a piece of it. Not a day will go by that he will not be missed, but the memories we have of him will bring us a deep joy that will hold us over until we're reunited in God's heavenly kingdom. I have great faith that our God is NOT in the business of breaking promises, and that he is resting in the care of the one who loves him most.