So far I haven't blogged about anyone that I have any recollection of - most of my "subjects" were long dead and gone before my arrival on Earth. As I've dug through boxes upon boxes of more "recent" keepsakes I've decided the time has come to blog about a few of those that I knew.
My father's maternal grandfather was born Nicholas Paul Denhof 8/30/1901 at Conklin, Ottawa County Michigan, the 10th and final child of Nicholas Denhof and Margaret Cook. If you recall my first real blog post about why I got into genealogy, you read that my great grandpa gave me their names, that they were from the Netherlands and wouldn't tell me anything else. So, via stories and pictures and my personal recollection this is what I know about him.
Nicholas was baptised at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Conklin. I spoke with the secretary there via telephone several years ago and she looked some records up for me but I failed to write down the baptism date. His godparents were Frank and Gesina Hug. In the course of my research I discovered that Gesina was born Gesina Kock, daughter of Henderikus Kock and Catharina Drieborg with Henderikus being an uncle to Margaret Cook Denhof, Nicholas' mother. Her parents died young and from census records it appears she lived with Margaret's parents.
I don't know how or when but he met my great grandmother Doris Colson and they were married 2/6/1926 at Grand Rapids, Kent County Michigan. I'm not sure what church it was in but they were married by Father A.M. Fitzpatrick and the marriage was witnessed by Nick's brother and sister in law Peter and Florence (Armock) Denhof. They had my grandmother the next year but didn't have their next child Duane until 1932. There is then a 3 year gap followed by another 6 year gap. I found this odd given that they were Catholic but my grandma said that her mom left him quite a few times.
Nick and Doris spent many winters in Florida - I don't have the city handy but I want to say it was Bradenton. I've found pictures from the 1940s through the 1970s so I'm guessing they made a lot of trips down there. He loved to fish down there and was quite successful.
This picture was taken at their trailer. Doris was horrible about looking at the camera when photos were taken so she's always looking the wrong direction. I don't remember grandpa smoking but everyone did back then.
I'm sure the picture doesn't do it justice but trust me, that little patch of green was immaculate and the flowers were tended to daily. Gardening was a passion of Nick's.
I'm told that Nick softened up a bit when it came to his grandchildren and as he aged. He and Doris were blessed with 10 grandchildren and they all thought so highly of him.
This was taken Christmas of 1961 - his youngest son Darrell wasn't married yet so it's only 8 of their 10 grandchildren. In my eyes they look like the prototypical grandparents and he certainly looks happy in the role!
On his 75th birthday I came along. He'd already had a granddaughter born on his 64th birthday and a grandson born a day before his 50th birthday so we had several birthday parties celebrating them all at once.
The left picture is one of my favorite pictures. He's there with his Hills Bros coffee and Copenhagen snuff (that he used until his death). In the right picture he's a proud great grandfather again (I was his 3rd out of the 13 he met).
I mentioned gardening was a passion of his. He had the most immaculately kept lawn. He was always outside watering and mowing and tending to his flowers. On the side of his garage he had the biggest tomato plants I've ever seen and he always had bags of fresh tomatoes.
As he got older he started developing quite the shake in his hands. I remember his coffee spilling as he drank it but otherwise I can't think of any (unexpected) age related maladies he had. He never had heart issues (in spite of his eating lard sandwiches and dipping his toast in his bacon and sausage grease every morning). I think he had surgery for a prostate issue and that's literally all he had. He loved playing cards but loved garage sales even more. This man knew how to dicker with someone on price. He had a year round garage sale at his house that was the result of his purchases at other sales. He'd talk someone down to $6 on the bike they were selling for $10 and then bring it home and put it in his sale for $10. I remember once someone made him an offer on his car and he sold it to him, in the garage sale. I often wonder how my great grandmother didn't get sold!
Their 50th wedding anniversary photo.
I knew something was wrong on Thanksgiving 1994. We arrived to my grandparent's house as normal and great grandma and grandpa weren't there. My parents took plates of food over to them and when they got back they were both crying. His arthritis had gotten so painful that he was just sitting in a corner crying. He stopped eating because of the pain and ended up over at the Home of Hope Hospice with kidney failure. At my age I just couldn't wrap my head around why they weren't doing dialysis. I remember my grandpa saying "sometimes people live too long" and in this case he was right (and I'm old enough to see it now). What had once been a vibrant man, so full of energy and life had been reduced to a shell of himself. Thankfully, the regression was only a matter of months and his quality of life was excellent almost til the end. I feel when someone lives that long they should be able to just go in their sleep, not be dragged into a nursing facility but obviously we don't have control over that. Nick's cousin Bernie Boomgaard had a heart attack and died while eating with him at Fat Boy Burgers - was sitting there talking and just bam, face first into the table dead. My dad says his grandpa said "way to go Bernie" (as in if you're going to go that's the way to do it, quick).
While in hospice he often visited other rooms and sat and talked with the other residents. I don't think these were "welcome" visits so to speak but it drove him nuts to be there. My dad was recovering from a knee surgery and was always visiting with him and Nick always begged him to just take him home. A moment of levity came when he asked my grandmother if she saw the butterflies flying around in his room (his meds had him loopy) - she went along with it and said yes. Later her brother Duane came in and he asked him and he told him there weren't any butterflies and he said "that's funny, Devonne saw them!"
He was a tough old man with a soft spot for children. My mom didn't know either of her grandfathers so Nick filled that role for her. He was so good to her. He confided in her that it was scary being the last sibling left after the death of his brother Peter. It's probably the only fear he ever verbalized. Nick passed away 12/18/1994 and was laid to rest at Fairplains Cemetery in Grand Rapids. His widow Doris was 91 and would live another 7 years without him. I remember at his funeral when they walked her in - I couldn't fathom spending that much time with someone and to then face your remaining days alone. In her case dementia had set in and I'm not even sure she knew why she was in the church that day.
I wish he could have met my children but no one can live forever. I know he sees them and I will make sure that when they grow up they get a glimpse into his life and who he was. We even gave our youngest son the middle name Nicholas, as an homage to both of my dad's grandparents but since I didn't know the other one it's more for this Nicholas. I'm glad I got to know him as well as I did and I am proud to have been called "Bub".