This week my Aunt posted a few photos of my grandfather on Facebook with the note that this would have been his 100th birthday.
He passed away in December 1982 at age 67 when I was just 3 years old. I have just 1 or 2 small glimmers of a memory of him, but stories of Grandpa Rene have always been a part of our extended family's narrative. He had a dynamic personality and everyone talks about him with a smile. In addition to how much he was loved and being the patriarch of the family . . . that was a loss all it's own . . . but his death also brought a big blow in regards to the family business and would forever affect the course of my parents' life - who at that time were just starting out, essentially newlyweds.
In my perception, Grandpa Rene's death has always had a dark cloud around it (not that any death is cheery) but his was/is associated with many, many hard years of struggling and trying to get our feet back on the ground.
But this post is not about those hard years. I guess I just share that to illustrate what an important role he played in the family and when he was gone his presence was severely missed.
My memories of Grandpa Rene:
Near the end of his life - he was suffering from prostate cancer - they brought a hospital bed into my grandparent's home and set it up in the front room. This is where he slept, lived, everything. I remember coming over to the house one day (we lived next door) and visiting him while he layed in the bed.
I also have a memory (although I'm not entirely sure that it is a real memory or an image that I created in my mind after hearing my grandmother tell me this story so many times) . . . I would come over to their house and climb into bed with him and "read" books to him. Note that I was 2 or 3 and did not have the ability to read. I would simply hold the book open, turn pages, and share whatever story or jibber-jabber came to mind.
Stories of Grandpa Rene:
He had a special drawer - the candy drawer - and it was filled with candy (obviously) that he would give to the little grandchildren whenever they came over.
He played the organ. And from what I hear he would tear up that organ busting out boisterous, jazzy, upbeat tunes for everyone to hear.
My grandpa Rene first met my grandma at a party and began flipping watermelon seeds at her to get her attention. He was kind of a big tease.
He had a special love for Disneyland and thought it was important that every child had a chance to go. In addition to his own family members and grandchildren, he paid the way for numerous others to spend a day at the happiest place on earth.
He loved his granddaughters. He just loved children but the girls were special and he would do fun things like buy them pretty dresses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate for valentine's day (this is something that my dad does too).
I've heard that it was a regular occurrence for him to go out and purchase groceries and deliver them to families in need. He was always helping people and trying to give. After his passing many people came forward and shared times when Rene had assisted their families, saying that they didn't know what they would have done without his help.
He played a big part in establishing a new branch in the area I grew up in. He was the first Branch President, and later when we got a church building he donated his equipment to help clear the property and get it ready for construction.
He started a nut company - Andersen Farms - and that is the company that my dad and eventually his brother (who was on a mission at the time of his death) took over after grandpa's passing. They still run that company today and despite those HARD, tough years it is doing really well. This past week my dad and brothers prepared the pad/foundation to build their 3rd (or 4th?) warehouse to store all of the walnuts during the nut season. They keep running out of room!
He was a hard-working farmer and began farming early in life. This is what I call the iconic Grandpa Rene photo -- working the irrigation pipes in the tomato field. This photo was framed and has hung in the nut office for a long, long time.
There are many, many more stories of Grandpa Rene . . . these are just the ones I can remember from off the top of my head!
I can't wait for the day when I can meet him again and really get to know him. Even though he passed away when I was so young, he has always held a special place in my heart.