Almost a month ago, I lost one of the most dearest men in my life, my sweet grandfather. He was 91 years old and lived an amazing life. But no matter how much we tell ourselves that, the it still doesn't make it acceptable to lose him so quickly. I was honored to be asked to speak about him at his funeral on February 20 in San Antonio, Texas. I wanted a written copy of what I said, though I spoke from notes and most definitely from the heart. I thought here would be a nice place to have record of my words.
My Grandfather – Ralph Murray McBeth
My name is Rebecca, and I am Ralph’s oldest grandchild, daughter of Ron. But he was never Ralph to me. He was simply Grandpa. So that’s how I am going to refer to him today.
I feel so honored to be able to tell you more about the man I knew as my Grandpa. You have read the amazing tribute to his life that Nancy wrote in the program. And you have heard stories about the heroic career he has had. As a child growing up, I heard many amazing stories of all the moves he and his family had endured with the Air Force but I never came to realize the one common thread all his stories came back to – and that was family.
Family was the most important thing to Grandpa – the MOST important thing. And I am happy that I have the opportunity to tell you a few stories that illustrate that today:
I used to ask Grandpa again and again how he had met Grandma. I loved to hear him tell the story- he always had a twinkle in his eye. He would refer to the “nice tour he had in Miami Beach because he had met “his Gal”. Grandma used to got to USO Dances with a group of girlfriends but one night, they stood her up. Come to find out, they had stood her up because they had met a group of handsome boys in a convertible. They had the perfect guy for her - G&G me on a blind date!! They went to a big dance hall and Grandma said that Grandpa didn't dance one time with her! But that didn't seem to matter as they fell in love and were married soon after!
They were the ultimate example of what a strong and loving marriage was. They would have celebrated 70 years this August - 70 YEARS!! When I was going through pictures last week, I came across this beautiful one of Grandma from 1940s – On the back was inscribed a love note – their first anniversary – the corners are wore down and the back is faded – Grandma said she had sent it all the way to Italy and you could tell that picture had remained in his wallet for a very long time. I guarantee that if you looked in his wallet today there would still be a picture of Grandma.
He was an incredible father to Ron, Randy, Nancy & David. Here are some words that his youngest son, David, wrote on his behalf:
When I think back on the life my father had on this earth, I believe it to be remarkable. Who would have thought a young man born in Rising Star Texas would end up traveling all over the world, defend his country in two wars, live through the Great Depression, experience the largest earthquake in the North American Continent in Alaska, travel pulling a trailer from one end of the United States to the other, put four kids through college, raise that family with his lovely wife and be married to her for almost 70 years! That is an extraordinary life. Truly my father was a part of what has been called the “Greatest Generation”. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny”. We may think we have it hard today, but my parents lived through some of the toughest times our country has ever faced. They sacrificed and worked hard so that their children and their children’s children would have a better life. Thank you Dad for being a wonderful father. For teaching us about hard work, love of family, being a good husband, faith in God, and enjoying life. We will miss you greatly on this earth, but know that your place in Heaven is secure, watching over us as we continue in this life. Love, Your Son David
My Grandpa had the most amazing memory – I often looked at him in amazement at some of the things he could remember, as I can hardly remember what I have had for breakfast.
One of my favorite stories came out of WWII. The war had just ended and they were flying out of Italy to come home. Someone had found diesel generators to run the lights to the tents and barracks while they were there. They turned all the lights on in the tents & bunkers and just left. He remembers flying away and looking back at the glowing field and remembering the smell of diesel. He always wondered what had happened- did someone just turn the lights off?
He also could remember exactly what Grandma was wearing when he got home from the war, right down to the shoes and her short hair (he liked it long).
And he always asked about your extended family & friends when you saw him - he cared so much about everyone.
Grandpa was the best conversationalist – He never knew a stranger- could talk to anyone. As a teenager, I used to roll my eyes at it – I mean really, do you have to talk to everyone Grandpa???? As he talked to the guy sitting next to him while we waited for a table at the Red Lobster.
But as an adult, man I appreciated it. I had some of the best conversations with him - I learned so much about him. He just loved to talk. He could outlast me in a conversation – sometimes into the wee hours of the night, where I was struggling to stay awake.
He wasn’t your typical stoic grandfather, who watched from afar. He was hands-on – wanted to know what was going on in your life. He expressed immense joy, so much pride, and pure sadness at times. He never hid his emotion, was never ashamed to show it to us and I believe it all showed us how to love better.
That said, he was the gentlest man I ever knew. I never ever saw him cross with another person. Never. Now his children may tell you another story, but he loved his “sweetie-girl” and spoiled me rotten. Every time I saw him, he told me how proud he was of me.
And I know he was, as he was there for every single important moment of my life. He was there for my High School graduation in Nevada. And he drove out to Nevada again for my Wedding. He and Grandma were there for my college graduation in Illinois. And he was there within a day or two to meet each of my 3 sweet babies after they were born.
After he retired, he & Grandma took up traveling the country in a Winnebago – I thought every grandparent did this. Nope, they were unique. He loved to explore and travel - I picked up that trait and hope that one day Matt & I can travel around the country as he and Grandma did.
He also was an avid golfer and we he had to give that up, he took up a new hobby........shopping.
This man LOVED to shop!!! He went to Marshalls so much, I am sure they welcomed him each Tuesday as those were the "best days to go to Marshalls, Rebecca!"We were the sharpest looking family around – am I right Uncle Randy?
He was also a GREAT BBQer- I will miss his amazing BBQ. My favorite meal was his BBQ chicken. My daughter learned to love ribs because of his BBQ. She used to compare all over ribs she would get to “Grandpa San Antonio’s ribs”.
Last fall, we were over for dinner and Grandpa was outside BBQing. I went outside to sit with him not realizing that BBQ is a long process. And I asked him to teach me. Tried to turn the pork and chicken too soon. He kept having to tell me to have patience, BBQing is a slow process - good things come to those who wait – have patience Rebecca.
Only now do I realize Grandpa has patience in everything he did – he took his time and did things well. I think we can all take a lesson in that.
While we were grilling, we talked and he told me a story that I want to tell you today. As a boy, he used to plow peanuts til 2-3 am in a big tractor and it was hot. I asked him, “What did you do while you were plowing for hours? No cell phone, no iPad, not even a book?” He told me, “I didn’t need all of that – I was alone with my thoughts – there’s a lot to be said about just being alone with your thoughts Rebecca.”
I’ve spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts this week Grandpa – thinking of you and I’ve had the best memories because of it.
About 7 years ago, I spent an evening video-taping a conversation with my grandparents. And I spent this past weekend watching it. At the end of the 2 hours, I asked Grandpa what he wants to be remembered for. And he said – His Family. He hopes his family will remain as close as they are today and not drift apart. He wanted us to remember to not let little things get in the way of our relationships and slow down, interact with one another.
That is the life my grandfather emulated. Family always came first – He wanted to celebrate every holiday together, he loved going out to Randolph for brunch for all the birthdays, and he never went longer than a few weeks without getting in contact with all of us.
He lived an amazing life that was dedicated fully to his wife, his children, Ron, Randy, Nancy, & David, his grandchildren, Macy, Ryan, Colin, & Spencer, and his great-grandchildren, Morganne, Jack, Ian, and Elle. And it is up to us to continue that legacy – to remain the strong family that he taught us to be.
The last thing he said about his life was that “We Were Blessed.” Grandpa, we were the ones who were blessed by you.