How My Grandpa Harry Inspired Me | from October 21, 2011
Update 10/24: Grandpa passed away peacefully late last night, surrounded by loved ones. He will be greatly missed. This was a tribute that I wrote to him a few days ago.
10/21: I'm writing this bittersweet post during what might be the last few days of my Grandpa Harry's life. Normally I write about happy things like weddings and flowers; today I want to share with you the story of how my 94-year-old grandfather somehow instilled in me a love for all things sparkly.
Like many of our grandfathers, mine fought in WWII. He was a ball turret gunner on a B17 bomber, which meant that he was the guy who crouched into the small plexiglass bubble hanging below the plane. His ball turret swiveled 360 degrees so he could shoot the and destroy the enemy's factories, disabling them from creating tanks and bombers.
On his 13th mission, Germans shot down his plane near a convent. If the wind had only blown his parachute closer to the convent, perhaps he could have been given shelter. But it didn't, and he landed in a field full of Nazis pointing guns at him- a Jewish soldier. The Germans held him for 14 months in a Prisoner of War camp. He was forced on a death march for 80 winter days from Lithuania to Poland before he was liberated. He was later decorated with a Purple Heart, as well as other medals, to honor him for his sacrifices and injuries endured during his service.
Shortly after arriving back in New York, he met my Grandma Marilyn, a beautiful 19 year New York college-student. They fell in love and were soon married.
Grandpa joined his brother Arthur in a family business in Manhattan. They designed rhinestone decoration layout on ladies compacts and fancy combs, and sold them to department stores. Grandpa imported millions of rhinestones from Czechoslovakia for his items.
We still have several packages of the Czech stones. Each package has 1,440 pieces. They are bundled by size and color (we have red, aqua, sapphire, emerald and crystal).
Grandpa told me his technique for placing the stones. He'd dip a tooth pick in a little glue, touch it to the back side of the rhinestone, and then place it in the compact or comb. As messy as I am, this is the only technique that doesn't leave me covered in glue! Every time I place a stone, I think of Grandma + Grandpa working as young newlyweds in their shop on 5th Avenue in the 1940s!
One of his combs
Fast-forward seventy years later, and I seem to have started a business where I can actually use his stones! Since I always buy vintage pieces of jewelry, often there are some stones missing. My family has given me several packages of the stones- I would never use them all (I cherish them!), but every once in a while I replace a missing stone in a piece of jewelry for a client.
Left: Suzanne with Harry outside of his Monsey, NY Home. Right: Me, Dad and Grandpa.
Me, my little sister, Granda and Grandpa.
These two love-birds have been married for over 64 years!
Grandpa raised 3 beautiful daughters: Susan, Deborah and Roberta. He has seven loving grandchildren: Suzanne, Stephen, Jen (me), Aleah, Josh, Jacob and Hannah.
As Grandpa's health has been declining, the whole family came together last week to be by his side, which was really wonderful. We traveled in from Seattle, Japan, Massachusetts, DC and Ohio. At the end of the week, we all returned home, and didn't know if we'd see him again. But we all got to be together and tell him how much we love him.
I just heard from family that Grandpa isn't doing very well today. We all hope that he continues to fight and stays with us a while longer, but either way we know that he has lived 94 wonderful and very full years. I wanted to take this time to celebrate his life, his love (for my grandma, and for the wonderful family that he raised), and his brave service to our country. I love you Grandpa!
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