For all of my life, I never knew what my grandfather looked like as a young boy, or even as a young man. Dutchie had some wonderful photos and later my father and uncle found some photos for me. I think it is hard for some people to imagine their grandparents as youngsters. It was especially so for me, since I had never seen any photos. Through these photos, I found that my grandfather was quite athletic and handsome too. As a young man, he excelled at all kinds of sports, loved to swim, and was even a volunteer fireman.
He was quite good at gymnastics and was a regular member of the local Turners. We all went to the Turners for gymnastics when we were kids, but I never really understood what the term Turners really meant until I recently visited their website: http://www.kcturners.org/amhistory.html
Grandpa married a nice Polish girl named Veronica (Verna) Ference and they had 2 boys. Like any good Polish man, my grandfather knew what the tavern meant to a Polish community. So he opened Ted’s Ravine Tavern, a popular hang out for local steelworkers. Just this year I found out that his older sister Stella also had a tavern, almost directly across the street! Now there’s an interesting case of sibling rivalry! Grandpa loved to sing, and if you attended his church, you could not miss his wonderful voice as it rang out from the midst of the congregation. His passion as an adult was hunting and whenever I visited him, I begged him to take me to the storage room to see the bearskin rug he had in there. That’s how I remember him best; a big game hunter with a voice like a Broadway star. I will never forget his voice teaching me to spell Constantinople. He’d sing the word and then spell it out in his singing voice. I loved it and I’ll never forget it. I never realized until I started writing this story that this was part of a real song! And, of course, I found it on YouTube: watch?v=10SvHhGG3Xg
I am positive that if he were alive today, my grandfather would love singing Karaoke with us!
Up next: How I found my grandfather’s birthplace.