Saturday, 27 October 2007

Remembering Milton

Today, we take a break from our typical research, in order to pay tribute to a great man, my grandfather Milton, who would have been 100 years old today. This is the follow up to our June 16 piece: Remembering Clyde. Both Clyde and Milton played a large role in my life, and Cheap Stocks is dedicated to their memories: Two extraordinary men who exerted influence they never comprehended. (If anyone still wonders where my pen name Clyde Milton comes from, mystery solved.)

My grandfather was an Englishman, through and through. The son of a potter in Trenton New Jersey, his dry sense of humor, the jokes he told, the scotch he drank, and his calm demeanor-nothing rattled him-all pointed to his English roots. Times were generally tough during his youth-the Great Depression left its mark on nearly everyone who experienced it.

Like many in his generation, he came through it fine. Milton worked hard to put himself through college-The University of Pennsylvania-and graduated at age 25 with a degree in architecture. He was very talented, and had genuine skill as an artist; paintings from his Penn days adorn our walls. (I often wish that his talents had been passed down to yours truly.) He ultimately became President of a well-respected NJ architectural firm, a position he held until forced retirement at age 65.

My grandfather was a quiet man…usually. Other times, he could talk your ear off. But his calm presence was very soothing. I never saw him get mad. Never saw him blue, or down. He whistled constantly, and the trials and tribulations of life never seemed to get to him…(another trait that skipped yours truly!) He dealt with some tough issues, but seemed to always come through it smiling. Although he did not talk about it, his faith was strong.

The Englishman was also stubborn at times. When he built his house in the late 30’s, all the houses on his block were numbered in the 300’s. This made no sense to him given the numbering of houses on parallel streets in the neighborhood. He believed his street should have naturally been the 500 block. So what did he do? He changed the number on his house to 523, while his neigbors houses were all in the 300’s!

Stubborness was one thing, respect was another. While Grandpop liked his scotch, his parents were opposed to drinking. When he learned one day in the late 1950's that his father was heading down to his shore cottage to do some repairs, Milt remembered that there were liquor bottles in a kitchen cabinet. Out of respect for his father, Milton, a 50+ year old successful businessman, ran out of his office like a bat out of hell in order to head his father off, and dispose of the alcohol! All of this, out of respect for his parents and their beliefs.

My grandfather had the foresight in 1956 to do something that has impacted many in my family to this day. It was then that he purchased a small cottage on Long Beach Island, a skinny strip of sand off the NJ coast that is still a huge part of our lives. More than 50 years later, that cottage is still in the family, and has been the site of some amazing family time over the years. We’ve laughed there, we’ve cried there, we’ve forged bonds and strengthened family ties, and been the beneficiaries of a gift that fewer and fewer extended families have these days….we remain close, and genuinely care about one another.

Grandpop would no doubt be proud to know that what was once one house in the family on this little island, has now grown to three. LBI is our home in the summer, and we flock to it like moths to a light. It is our refuge, our place to find peace, to laugh, to love, to enjoy one of God’s beautiful creations. The times we’ve had there, the relationships we’ve built, and the wonderful memories that are continually made are all a result of my grandfather taking a chance more than 50 years ago, and putting $11,000 on the line. He loved that little cottage, that little island, and I’d like to think that the old Englishman would be smiling if he knew how much we loved it as well. He would laugh if he knew that my son is named after (middle name) our little LBI beach town.

I’m sure he would be proud of how his family has blossomed. When he passed away, there were two great-grandchildren. Now there are 13 and 1 more on the way! He would have been proud of how his children have conducted their lives, and how their children have grown up.

I was fortunate to spend a summer with him in that little beach cottage in the summer of 1986. I worked there that summer, kept an eye on him, and made sure he was well fed. Too well fed, I later found out. Grandpop was diabetic, and his blood sugar skyrocketed the summer I spent with him. Thankfully, there was no long-term effect of our "debauchery", and I am fortunate to have experienced a summer with my grandfather.

As grandchildren, we found in him a sense of peace, and of calmness. We have very fond and distinct memories of our grandfather. Long walks on the beach, the daily Grandpop "death float" in the ocean, the little jokes repeated over and over, his presence in our homes, at our ballgames, in our lives. He was Grandpop, we loved him dearly. How I wish he could have been present at his grandchildren's weddings, at the their children's christenings, and all of the other events he truly lived for.

When he passed away at 84, we celebrated his life. This weekend we will celebrate it once again....on Long Beach Island, the place he loved so dearly. We miss you Grandpop. You meant a great deal to all of us, you influenced us all, and we are blessed to have had you in our lives. Happy birthay.

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