Life Lessons From GrandfatherJune 16, 2018
While Father’s Day is a day to honor our fathers, it’s also a day for our grandfathers. From stressing the importance of hard work to teaching how to make the perfect jerky, grandfathers are full of all sorts of wisdom. And we recognize that. So for that and so much more, thank you, grandfather.
Photo essay by Marlena Sloss.
Mike Steckler of Huntingburg, 63, has spent most of his life in the agriculture business with his family of nine children and now 12 grandchildren. While farming, Mike has strengthened his faith and learned humility. “If you farm for a while, you become very humble, he said. “Because, whether you want to accept the lesson or not, we are not in control of much of anything. In two years, we can invest the same amount of energy, and one year, He allows you to have a bounty, and the next year you end up with nothing. It’s not up to us. What He gives us is a gift.” For Mike, farming is part of his faith journey that has allowed him fulfillment in life. He wishes to pass along to his grandchildren the importance of discipline and hard work in life and faith. “If our children learn anything from us, it’s that the hard road is not to be escaped from. It’s to be embraced,” he said.
“On the farm, grandpa taught me how to stack wood, and about the animals.”
—Avery Gogel of Bretzville, 8
John Gehlhausen of Jasper, 81, is a father to four, a grandfather to eight, and a great-grandfather to one. He is a passionate community volunteer through his church and the Knights of Columbus, and teaches his grandchildren a commitment to helping others. “Every time (my grandchildren) want something, we always help them out,” he said. “So, I hope they would just take from us, that you just help. When somebody needs help, just go there and help. That’s what I try to get across to them.” John has passed his faith along to his family, including his grandson, Eric Gehlhausen, 22. “It was never a written rule that we had to go to church, but growing up I always knew that it was a very important aspect of my life,” Eric said. “I see my grandfather go to Mass and pray a lot.” John has always made sure that he and his family go to church every Sunday, even while traveling. “I mean, you have to go to church and thank God for what you’ve got, otherwise you wouldn’t have it,” John said.
“He doesn’t think twice when it comes to helping others.”
— Eric Gehlhausen of Jasper, 22
John Schott of Dubois is a father to five and a grandfather to 16. John grew up spending time outdoors and started hunting young. He was given a gun at age 7, which hangs above the mantle and the 16 photographs of each grandchild in his home. John hunts turkey, deer, squirrel, turtle and teaches his son and grandsons to make jerky and prepare the meat. He remembers fishing trips when his grandsons, Sidney Schott, 19, and Eli Schott, 16, were young. “They really liked it for the first 10 to 15 minutes, then they started throwing rocks and everything else. So our first fishing trips didn’t last too long,” John said. But the two have outgrown that stage, and now both brothers love spending time outdoors with John. “Sidney, you can’t hardly get him out of a blind,” John said. “When he goes out there, he just wants to stay there all day long.” John simply loves being out in nature, escaping telephones, and seeing wild animals. “I always say a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work,” he said.
“He taught me that nothing is better than the outdoors.”
— Sidney Schott of Dubois, 19
Bertin Dubón of Jasper, 63, grew up in Chalatenango, El Salvador. He moved to California when he was 32, and to Jasper when he was 46. Bertin remembers his childhood when his family grew beans, corn, rice and sugar cane, raised a cow for milk and kept a horse for transportation. When he was 22 years old, in Sonsonate, El Salvador, he worked for five years on a chicken farm and took care of 5,000 chickens per day. Today, Bertin continues to grow crops in his backyard — beans and corn — and raises chickens. He loves gardening because it allows him to “remember (his) origins.” Bertin, a father to five and a grandfather to 12, would like his grandchildren and children to continue his family’s tradition of growing their own food.
“From my grandfather I have learned to share with others.”
— David Martinez of Jasper, 10
Louis Sloss Jr.
Like many grandfathers, my own grandfather, Louis Sloss Jr., is full of stories. At age 95, his wrinkled face is one of wisdom and happiness. Yet, like many humble and thoughtful people, he is not always quick to share unless asked. My invitation to hear his stories has always been the row of photo albums that fill the wall in my grandparents’ living room in Forestville, California. The faded, yellow photos offer me a visual window into parts of my parents’ and grandparents’ lives.
Looking at old photographs of San Francisco, I see him as a chubby-cheeked child, a soldier in World War II and in a suit on his wedding day. I laugh with him about his once-full head of hair and imagine him meeting our grandmother. I learn about my grandfather’s childhood as he tells me about the days when streetlights were gas-powered and his family received a weekly delivery of a 20-inch block of ice to keep their food fresh. I experience the differences in our upbringings and how quickly technology has changed.
Photographs from World War II allow me to learn about my grandfather’s 1945 deployment to Germany in an artillery battalion. As a forward observer, one day he was positioned at a distance from his own troops. When he stood up to get a better view, he was shot at by the enemy. His own troops saw his silhouette, and opened fire, hitting his elbow. He received a Purple Heart after his friendly-fire injury.
“I was just lucky that nobody was a terribly good shot,” my grandfather added with a smile.
I have always been struck by a photograph’s ability to transport people through place and time. Learning about my family through photos taught me the importance of documenting life’s moments, and is part of the reason I chose a career in photojournalism. Years ago, my grandfather gave me a box of his old film cameras, including a German-made Rolleiflex 3.5F medium format film camera, manufactured between 1954 and 1956. This project is the first time I have used the camera. It is my intention to honor my grandfather and all grandfathers with this project, and to reflect on the lessons they teach us.
— Marlena Sloss, Herald Photography Intern
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