Saturday, February 23, 2008

Never quit running too soon

Never quit running too soon

In 1949 with a forestry degree in hand, a man named Ted Haskell was hired by the city of Lansing, Michigan to work in the parks and forestry department beginning what was to be a long and enjoyable career with nature. His first job was trimming trees and he always joked that it was "One of the few jobs where you start at the top and work your way down." I had the privilidge as knowing him as my Uncle Ted. He died this past week and is sadly missed by many.

He was one of the most creative people I've ever known. He was a paratrooper and demolitions expert in the Army and was also a writer, painter, college professor, golfer, bag piper, public speaker and many,many other things. He was also a man with great devotion to his family and to his faith. The minister, Rev Peter Robinson, joked at his funeral that for a guy who jumped out of planes with explosives, he had to have possessed a lot of faith.

His life was truly well lived and he was an influence on many as a teacher, father, grandfather and friend. To say he influenced and inspired the love and excitement I have when I write would be an understatement. With careful thought, he began writing our family memory book at our cottage in Wisconsin in 1960. It's become a staple of reading material and muse for all who visit our cottage each summer and there have been hundreds of additions since his humble beginning. It's possible he was inspired by the writings of my Great Grandfather in his journal, which began in the 1800's. If so, it's an inspiration which has sustained itself for decades as I am about to have a book published about the area in Delavan, Wisconsin where you'll find our cottage, titled "Between The Cottages." A second book is already in the works, which will focus on my family cottage as it approaches its 100th birthday. It will also detail our deep family lineage and the connection we share to our ancestral home.

Uncle Ted didn't let life's obtuse hang-ups or obstacles get in the way. He was a man of meaningful thoughts and words and was famous for his sayings such as: "Keep calm and keep moving." This was exemplified when, during his funeral, an elderly friend of his became unresponsive, presumably suffering a heart mild attack or stroke. When it was clear something was wrong, Uncle Ted's oldest Grandson, Kyle was first into action calling 911. He summoned my cousin Nancy who is a doctor and she calmly got up and took over. She revived than man with CPR and he bounced back quickly. In fact it was so quick that his wife who had just sung a beautiful version of the Lord's Prayer, scolded him for missing it. She even chided him as he was taken from the church on a stretcher.

He's also remembered for his ability to quote or have on hand a quotation for almost any occasion tucked inside the pocket of his coat. Being a man of trees, one might say he was the Johnny Appleseed of philosophy. He thrived on whatever life offered.

My generation (his 3 kids, my siblings and my cousins) no doubt moves forward with his enthusiastic voice and his wisdom ringing in our ears. The next generation is in good hands, confidently led by my cousin Bruce's son Kyle, a student at MSU. He's already hit the ground running and I know it would be Uncle Ted's wish that as we all keep movingin life, we will never quit running too soon.

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