Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grandpa: My Hero, part 3

Continuing on with Grandpa's story… After Grandpa retired in June of 1984, he became a volunteer at Rochester Methodist Hospital. His first experience was to work in the Adolescent Chemical Dependency Unit.  He did this for three years. In 1993/94 Grandpa was elected president of the hospital's Auxiliary Board and he served as the first male president. By 2004, Grandpa had logged more than 4000 hours of volunteer work at Rochester Methodist Hospital and he still continues volunteering at the hospital to this day because he finds volunteer work extremely rewarding.

A Federal Medical Center (prison) was built in Rochester in the fall of 1985. Grandpa was the prison's first volunteer and he taught men to read and write. Grandpa had an interesting experience one day when he was sitting on a bench outside of the classroom.  A young man sat down on the other end of the bench and timidly asked Grandpa, "Will you teach me to read?" Grandpa replied, "Yes, if you are willing to read orally in the classroom." (The reason this young man had to be willing to read in the classroom was because there was only one classroom in this facility, and there was no other place to work.)

Grandpa worked with this young man for about 2½ years, and he was able to read at a third grade level.  Around this time, this young man was called back to the court from which he was sentenced.  As he was coming back to Rochester on a prison bus, he stood up and yelled, "Hurrah!" as he saw the sign for Rochester.  His fellow prisoners said, "What are you shouting for?" He replied, "The last time I came along here I couldn't read that sign, but now I can!"

Around 1993 many Hispanic men were sent to this prison facility.  The regular prison teachers had no experience working with foreign speaking men. Grandpa had taught foreign speaking children, so he started teaching these Hispanic men.  Most of these men were eager to learn English and were very hard workers. Grandpa really enjoyed teaching these men, and continued volunteering at the prison until 2001.

In September of 2003, Grandpa began volunteering at Riverside Central Elementary School, which had opened the previous year.  This school was built to replace the Hawthorne and Holmes Schools, both of which schools Grandpa had been principal at. Grandpa was greatly surprised when he went there and found that about half of the students were minorities.  When Grandpa had previously worked at these schools there were no more than three or four minority children.  Grandpa continued volunteering at this school for many years and impacted many lives.

Grandma and Grandpa lived in their house they built in 1955 until 1988 when they built a town house in the Oak Cliff area.  The address of their town house was 1222 NE 19th Ave.  They lived there until 2004 when they made their final move to Charter House, a 22-story retirement center in downtown Rochester.

Here are some other interesting and significant things about Grandpa's life:

Grandma and Grandpa's third child, Scott, passed away in 1994. They received a telephone call from Anita, Scott's wife, around 1:30 a.m. on March 4.  She said that Scott had collapsed in the parking lot of a pool hall in Billings, Montana, where he had been playing in a pool tournament. Scott had suffered from atrial fibrillation, and his heart was not beating when he was found lying in the parking lot.  The paramedics were able to get his heart beating again on the way to the hospital. Grandma and Grandpa went out to Montana on March 7 to be of assistance to Anita.  Scott never regained consciousness, and the doctors told them that Scott's brain had been deprived of oxygen for too long.

Scott had many tests to check for brain activity, but he was declared brain dead.  Scott had expressed to Anita that he would never want to live in that condition.  Although it was a hard decision, Grandma and Grandpa agreed that he wouldn't want to live in that condition, either.  Scott was moved to hospice on March 23 and he died on March 30, 1994.  His funeral service was held at the Methodist Church, and his ashes were spread in two places: by the cabin where he’d lived, and in the Alaskan waters where he did commercial salmon fishing. Grandpa said that losing a child was one of the most devastating experiences that he ever went through.

Grandpa has had many hobbies and interests over the years, so here's a little bit about some of his major pastimes:

Traveling: Although Grandma and Grandpa took family vacations each summer when their children were growing up, they have done some extensive traveling since Grandpa retired in 1984.  They have traveled to many places, but the most interesting are: Honduras, Australia/New Zealand, Alaska, Nova Scotia, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Canada and the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Grandma and Grandpa have also been to the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany and they've visited 42 of the 50 United States. Grandpa also had a very fun rafting trip at the Grand Canyon with Steve in 1997.

Sports: Grandpa grew up playing softball as this was the only sport that they played in his country school.  When he was a junior in high school his school started a baseball team.  They learned a lot that first year and they went on to win the county tournament the following year.  This was a big accomplishment since it was only the second year they’d had a baseball team. Grandpa was also introduced to another new sport his junior year... ping pong. Grandpa even bought a large piece of plywood to serve as a table and he put it in the upstairs of his house.  He still loves to play ping pong, but had to give it up several years ago since it's too difficult for him to see the ball.

Before going to college, Grandpa had only seen one basketball game and he’d never heard of tennis or football. Grandpa learned about tennis in his second year in college, and was an avid player until giving it up in 2005. Tennis is something that I will always associate with Grandpa since there was a tennis court in the backyard of his townhouse in Oak Cliff. When my family and I would spend summer vacations at my grandparent’s townhouse in Minnesota we would always spend time hitting balls against the fence at the tennis court.

Another sport Grandpa dabbled with was golf. He took it up in 1946 and played until 1956 when he decided to give it up because it took too much time away from his family.

Grandpa says that the best workout you can get in 45 minutes is playing racquetball, a sport he played and enjoyed for about 25 years.

Since Grandpa's move to Charter House in 2004, he’s learned to play pool.  The pool game that they play most often is 8 ball, and Grandpa has even won the monthly tournament twice, as well as being the runner-up once. 

Gardening: When Grandma and Grandpa moved into the house they built in 1955, Grandpa started a big garden and made it into a family project to teach his children the value of work and different gardening principles. He hoped that his children would enjoy gardening more than he had when he was a child. Grandpa kept this garden going for years and he grew many vegetables including: tomatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, squash, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, rhubarb, cabbage, spinach, leaf lettuce, chives and parsley.  He also occasionally grew things like parsnips, beets, kale, strawberries and raspberries.  In addition to the vegetable garden Grandpa also had several extensive flowerbeds.  At Charter House, he serves on the Green Thumbs committee which manages the greenhouse.

Photography: Grandpa began taking pictures when he purchased a red box camera when he was 12. He has taken thousands of pictures over the years with the four cameras he has owned during his life. Grandpa even went to the trouble of developing his own film and photographs in the bathroom of his house. Grandpa says that my mom was a good helper when it came to developing pictures.  Grandpa also made original Zimmerman family photo Christmas cards every year.

Collections: Grandpa collected stamps when he was a child and still has a small collection. Grandpa also started collecting carved animals in the early 50's when he visited the United Nations Building in New York.  This is where he purchased an ebony elephant that had been made in Africa.  When a teacher at one of the schools he taught at retired, she gave  Grandpa two shells that she had on display in her classroom. Grandpa had always thought shells are really beautiful and this started him collecting shells.  He also had a small rock collection that he would often display for the children at school in hopes that they would become interested in collecting things.

Now that you've read these posts about my Grandpa and know a little bit about who he is, you can see why I think he's so incredible. He truly was a man before his time and is one of the best human beings I know. His devotion to teaching students made him a wonderful teacher and principal. His love of teaching don't stop when he retired, as he's logged thousands of hours volunteering in different schools and hospitals.

Grandpa has always been such a caring and loving grandfather, too. He's always been so genuinely interested in my life and loved hearing anything I might want to share with him. He always loved spending time with me, whether it was playing games, taking walks or something else. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful grandfather and I love him so much and wish everyone were as fortunate as I have been to have such a wonderful influence in my life.


Kendra said...

Heather, you have written a beautiful history and tribute to your grandfather and it was a privilege to read it! I am amazed by all he has accomplished in his life, and especially by all the international travel! (this is a special interest of mine). He is really making the most of life and sets such a good example. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

HI Heather,
What a wonderful way to honor your Grandfather, beautifully written. You look exactly like your mom in that Season's Greetings 1968 card! :)
Well done,

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