Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 26, 2013

Keith Kappes: Memories of those who shaped us

By Keith Kappes
CNHI News Service

---- — Few men have borne the responsibility of being the trustworthy patriarch of two families for most of their lives — an immediate family and an extended family.

I’m sharing this story because it’s family reunion time here in the country and many of my favorite, older relatives aren’t around any longer.

My oldest uncle was a bright, witty man whose sense of humor, bravery and dignity never faltered in his 92 years of living.

As the oldest of eight children, he stepped up when his father died and his calm, unruffled demeanor and sound judgment helped his widowed mother make important financial decisions for the rest of her 100 years of life.

That bond of trust between a mother and an obedient son remained unshakable as he became the person looked to by his brothers and sisters to take the lead on her care and comfort.

The love and patience he demonstrated time and time again with that strong-willed lady were among the many stars in his crown.

Every large family should have someone like him whose wisdom was sought by most, if not all, of his seven brothers and sisters as he helped them cope with the personal and professional challenges of their lives.

My dear mother trusted him unfailingly and no major decision was really finalized until she could talk with him.

And just as he was a respectful son and a loyal brother, he also earned love and respect as a kind and attentive husband, as a loving father and as a proud grandfather and great-grandfather.

Many lives were touched by this courteous and cheerful man who was always larger than life to his family and friends.

In the home where I grew up, he often was cited as the model of how a cultured gentleman should dress and deport himself.

It says a great deal about a man that would serve 37 years as a volunteer for the Boy Scouts.

To me his life personified the 12 points of the Scout Law — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

He had a good-natured, running feud with city officials in the little town where he lived over his favorite pastime of burning leaves in the fall.

At his funeral, his widow smiled through her tears when I told her that she wouldn’t have any trouble finding Uncle Pete when she got to Heaven.

All she had to do was to look for the white smoke!

Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News.