A Tribute to a Great-Grandfather

I want to offer a short tribute to my wife’s grandfather, Ralph Friedrich, who passed away last week at the age of 97.

My remembrances of Grandpa Friedrich are limited, having come into the family at such a late point in time. My earliest memories are of a man much younger than his accrued years, who drove himself from Michigan to DC at the age of 90 to attend his beloved granddaughter’s wedding. A man with a quick wit and a sparkle in his eye, always with a smile on his face and a story to tell.

Grandpa_FriedrichShortly after that wedding, Grandpa suffered a stroke that took away much of his independence. Yet while his ability to move around was reduced and his speech became more and more labored, the twinkle never left his eye.

Three years ago, we were blessed to be able to take the kids (well, the three of them that were around at the time) out to Michigan to introduce them to their great grandfather. And while Grandpa struggled to speak, his eyes told the story of a man content with a life well lived, and a legacy that would continue well after he had left this world for the next.

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A Visit with Great-Grandpa Friedrich

A main reason for our decision to travel to Wisconsin via central Michigan was to take the opportunity to introduce our kids to their great-grandfather.

I was fortunate enough to meet Grandpa Friedrich while I was still dating Beth, and found him to be smart, winsome, and funny.  At 91 years of age, he drove down to Virginia by himself to be a part of our wedding.  A number of our guests made it a point to tell us how delightful it was to talk with him, and what a young spirit he had.  Alas, a stroke a few months after he returned to Michigan robbed him of his mobility, much of his speech, and required him to move to the assisted care facility where we were able to visit him.  But despite his physical limitations, there remains a man with a quick mind and a wry wit.

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