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“What a great and good man–so guileless.”

Crossposted–with minor edits–from Street Prophets, in the belief that this extraordinary ‘ordinary man’ deserves wider recognition, and in the hope that my brief and incomplete account of his life will prove to be of interest.

He wasn’t wealthy, or powerful, or famous. (Though he did leave his mark on one city’s landscape; more on that below). He was merely an exemplar of that ‘Greatest Generation’ we’ve learned to revere and respect. And he was my father.

Born in Bismarck, North Dakota in 1922, he was a true son of the West. His father was a jack-of-all-trades: mechanic, fireman, cowboy, lumberjack (a man who left his parents’ home–and their harsh evangelical faith–as a teenager, never setting foot in a church again–though he carried a pocket New Testament with him for the rest of his life). His mother was the daughter of immigrants who left the German empire as that country became increasingly rigid and militaristic under the second Wilhelm.

The family wandered throughout several western states before finally landing on the Oregon Coast at the beginning of the hard years of the Depression. At one point they lived on a houseboat and were so poor that the only food they had was what they could catch off the side of the boat.

Dad graduated from high school, joined the Air Force in 1942, and served in the South Pacific; like many veterans, he spoke little of his wartime experiences, except to say that ‘we did the right thing.’