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Monday, August 11, 2014

In Memory of My Grandpa

I don't like starting a post on a sad note, but my sweet Grandpa, the one who turned 95 the end of January, passed away on April 8. His memorial service was a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to share some of his remarkable life with you.

He lived a full life and traveled the world. Born in California to Scottish parents, he lived in Chile, South Africa and Puerto Rico growing up (along with a few other places). His family settled in Scotland when he was in high school. He returned to the states to finish school, which was extended a year because Grandpa hadn't taken Civics and Government. Apparently, this didn't sit well with him as you can imagine! After finally finishing high school, he went to Virginia Tech and graduated in 1940. It wasn't called Virginia Tech at the time, however. In 1896, the Virginia General Assembly changed the school's name from the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College to the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute. What a mouthful! Popular usage shortened the name to Virginia Polytechnic Institute, then to VPI until 1970, and finally to Virginia Tech.

After graduation, Grandpa began working for Grumman Aircraft (now Northrop Grumman Corp.) and moved to New York. He met Grandma while on Long Island, which was purely by chance since she was only in town from Minnesota to visit her brother, who just happened to be Grandpa's boarding house roommate! Grandpa and Grandma were married on October 7, 1941, and eventually moved to Florida due to Grandpa's job.
Grandma & Grandpa
October 7, 1941
While in Florida, Grandpa also worked as a water ski instructor, which makes me giggle because I can't see Grandpa water skiing. I think it's hard for us to picture our grandparents young, after all they are grandparents, right? They're not supposed to be young. Well, except for some of us who happen to be young grandparents, ah hem. But I digress...

In 1953, Grandpa was hired by Champion Spark Plugs to handle sales of aviation spark plugs. He was promoted to aviation sales manager, and in 1959, the family moved to Perrysburg, Ohio. After retirement in the early 1980s, Grandpa and Grandma opened a Quickprint franchise, the Big Red Q.  One of the best memories I have of their first store (before they moved from beside the railroad tracks) was when President Reagan stopped almost in front of the Big Red Q while on his Whistle Stop tour through Ohio on October 12, 1984. I didn’t know at the time that the car he rode in was the same one President Truman used on his Whistle Stop tour in 1948! Cool, right? Something else really cool about the stop President Reagan made in Dayton, Ohio (his first stop on the tour), was that he spoke via phone with the astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger!  The speeches that President Reagan gave during the stops have been transcribed here, and there’s an article by the NY Times here.

Grandpa loved boats, the Great Lakes and Great Lakes lighthouses. He was a founding member of the Western Lake Erie Historical Society, and he and Grandma were also members of the Maumee River Yacht Club and the Perrysburg Boat Club. Even though I was quite young, I can remember having nice lunches at the yacht club when we went to visit. I remember looking out the big windows watching the boats go by. Grandpa’s love for the water is definitely in my blood. While the mountains are beautiful, there’s just something that calms me, something almost intoxicating, about the sight, sound, and smell of the water. Ahhh. Grandpa was also a member of an organization of Great Lakes boat captains, and he was able to take a trip with them on a freighter to Lake Superior.

Grandpa was a hobby draftsman as well, and having the Quickprint store enabled him to reproduce drawings and blueprints of the ships he drew. Grandma wrote about the history of the ships, and Grandpa drew the ship's plan. His plans were used by model-makers, and he sold them to museums. I found a website that lists a few of the plans Grandpa did (here's one more site, just in case you're interested). He talked about the freighter Willis B. Boyer often, and I was fortunate enough to go aboard with Grandpa and Grandma once in the early 1990's. You can find an article about the Boyer here. Grandpa is in the first picture.

I have wonderful memories of Grandpa and Grandma. She passed away in 2003, but Grandpa continued to stay active until the last few years when mobility became an issue. I have a lot more I could tell, but this isn't a biography so I'll leave it at what you read here. Grandpa was greatly loved and he will be greatly missed!

Harry C. Archer
January 31, 1919 - April 8, 2014

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