As a small child, my grandfather cast a very long shadow. He was very tall and stood with an imposing military officer’s posture. He used to point his fingers at whomever he was talking to in order to get a point across. His voice could command a room. Everyone respected him and seemed to know him where ever we went. The few times that I was left in his and my grandmother’s charge, I always felt that I was doing something wrong.
Apparently, I was too young to remember how he would put me on his lap and read to me like in the picture below.
I knew he loved animals because when my mom and her siblings were young, they had dogs. He and my grandmother had a dachshund – Lisa – when I was little – she was the offspring of our mama dachshund, Gretchen and sister of Bridget. After Gretchen passed away, we bought another dachshund – Gretel (Bridget and Gretel in picture below). My Granddad enjoyed putting the dogs on his lap whenever he visited.
Glen Roy Johnson was born on November 21, 1898 in Anderson, Indiana to Katie (Blazer) and John Lafayette Johnson. In fact when his birth certificate didn’t even list his first or middle name. He had to send away years later – along with an affidavit from his cousin – to get an amended birth certificate. He went into Army Signal Corps at the age of 19 years old in 1918 and remained in the military until he retired from the USAF as a Colonel on December 1, 1958 – several years before I was even born. During his military career, he had been to France in WWI, Germany after WWII, and many other countries. He always considered the area of Fairborn and Dayton, Ohio his home as he had lived in that area since 1923 when not stationed somewhere else.
That man – the retired Colonel of the Air Force – that was the man that I knew as a young girl. I don’t remember any jokes or any overly affectionate gestures. I wish I had know the man he really was – the man I met through letters he and my grandmother wrote to one another as teens who were dating and then later when he was so far away from her and their newborn son during WWI. I wish I could have been a party to the pranks and jokes he pulled as a young man. I wish I had looked more closely to see the deep love and affection he had for my grandmother. His letters always began “Dearest” and he signed them “your loving sweetheart” with tons of X’s and O’s for hugs and kisses. Love just seeped off of those pages.
Finding that haul of letters – from their courting days through WWI through all the years they were apart due to his military service or my grandmother’s travels to visit relatives – I learned that the man that I thought I knew as a child was completely different than the man he really was. He loved – deeply. He could be hurt – deeply. He loved life – fully. He was honorable and ethical and funny! I heard stories from my mother about all the jokes and pranks he pulled as a young man.
I wish I could have one day with him again so that I could talk to him as the man I now know that he was.
Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! The theme for this week is “Different.”