Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy birthday, Dad

My dad would have celebrated his 80th birthday today. I wrote a version of the following a few years back and I'm reposting it here today, with just a few edits here and there.

May, 1933 was a pretty grim time in our nation's history. The Great Depression was in full swing. On the 10th of the month, a monstrous tornado tore through the town of Beatty Swamps, Tennessee, killing 35 people. The World's Fair was about to begin in Chicago, promising a "Century of Progress." It was in this milieu, on May 19, 1933, my father was born in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Dad was the 4th child of Joe and Julia Heuring. He was to grow up in Kimberly, Wisconsin, a small town on the banks of the Fox River just to the east of Appleton. The fame of Kimberly rests with the paper industry and the village's name lives on in the name of Kimberly-Clark, which is most famous for Kleenex. Dad's father was a millwright and worked for the Institute of Paper Chemistry, which served as the training ground for many of the people who made the Fox River Valley the paper capital of the world. Dad had a fairly normal childhood in Kimberly and graduated from Kimberly High in 1952. After a few years of harmless young adult shenanigans, Dad went into the service and served in Europe during the late 1950s. He then came back and got his degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1963. In between all that, he managed to meet and marry my Mom in January, 1963; I arrived at the end of 1963.
Unfortunately, Dad isn't here to celebrate this milestone birthday, as he died in 1990. Dad's generation came of age at an interesting time in our nation's history - he came of age a few years before rock and roll arrived in earnest and his generation wasn't considered part of the "greatest generation." Like most people his age, Dad simply went about his business and tried to provide a good life for his family. For the most part, he was successful. It wasn't always easy, especially given the challenges that life put before him as the father of 7 children and the husband of a wife who struggled with mental illness, but he always approached his life with generosity and a sense of humor.
You don't get to choose the circumstances of your birth and while Dad came around at a tough time, he was a tough person in part because of it. Happy birthday, Dad.

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