My grandpa, Donald Hayes Hunt, was born November 17th, 1917 in York, Nebraska. He was the second son of William and Bertha Hunt.
Late one summer night, Bertha woke up my grandpa and his older brother and told them to run into town to call for the help of a family friend. They ran out in overalls and bare feet, but when they reached the phone in town, the number of the friend they were supposed to call was not listed in the phonebook. The friend lived across town, but my grandpa thought he would recognize her house. So they set out crossing streets, railroad tracks, etc without shoes. They finally arrived in the neighborhood and after knocking on several wrong doors, they found the friend that Bertha had sent them to look for. All three went back to Bertha and an hour later, their youngest sister Virginia was born.
Will Hunt left Bertha and her 7 kids (Dale, Donald, Harold, Francis, Marilyn, Darryl, and Virginia) when my grandpa was only 10 years old. My grandpa and his older brother were left to try to earn enough money to support the family during the Depression.
When Dale left home to work on the railroad in Las Vegas, my grandpa, as the oldest child at home, took care of his younger siblings teaching them to go to school, work hard, drive cars, etc. He had various odd jobs selling papers, babysitting, working in stores--anything to earn some extra money. One summer, there was a contest to sell subscriptions of the Omaha Chronicle. The winners would earn a free trip to the World's Fair in Chicago. My grandpa and his brother Harold won the competition and set out with $7 to Chicago. It was their first trip outside of Nebraska. They had a wonderful trip and made it back to Nebraska with 50 cents. They bought breakfast with the money they had left and then hitchhiked back to their town.
My grandpa met my grandma, Marguerite Geiken, in North Platte, Nebraska. She was a tall brunette with bright blue eyes. They fell in love and were married July 13th, 1940. Not long after they were married, grandpa was drafted into the Army to fight in WWII. He left my grandma, who was pregnant with their first child (Nancy) to train in Florida. He was about to be shipped into the midst of the fighting in Europe when he was re-routed to Indiana to train to work on the railroad in the Army. He set sail from California to go to India, where he worked on the railroad trains that brought supplies to the troops. He was away for six years before returning to New York. He left from California and returned to New York--having sailed around the world. Where did he return after these adventures around the world? To the exciting state of Nebraska. He was reunited with his wife and his six-year-old daughter that he had never met.
Grandpa worked for the Union Pacific Railroad until he retired. He had three sons after the war, Gary (my dad), James, and Mark.
My grandpa was a deacon at my church and according to my dad and his siblings, every time the church doors were open, the Hunt family was there. My grandpa served on every committee there was, but there was one thing he never did--sing in the choir. Grandpa had one of the most out of tune voices ever. But that didn't stop him from singing really loud to all the hymns at church. One time when I was a kid I asked my dad, "Why does Grandpa sing in that weird way?"
Grandpa had a rocking chair in the living room of his house in North Platte where he would watch the news and read. He often fell asleep in the middle of the day in that chair. His schedule was very strange--he would stay up all night and take naps during the day since he was used to being up at night from his time working on the railroad.
Whenever the family was gathered in North Platte, Grandpa would gather us around him in the living room while he sat in that rocking chair and we would have Bible Study as a family. He would read a devotional called The Daily Bread and then he would ask us questions to make sure we were paying attention.
My Grandpa was also really involved in a camp called Maranatha Bible Camp. For years, he paid for all of his grandchildren to go to camp each summer. He supported the camp financially and also served on their board. We would often go out to the camp with him when he went out there to drop off supplies or if we wanted to go fishing. One summer, they named a new cabin "Hunt Cabin" after my Grandpa. When I went to camp for a week, I told all of my cabin-mates that it was named after him, but none of them believed that it was really named after my Grandpa. I guess if I had a last name that was a little more unique, they might have believed me. Oh well.
Grandpa lived in North Platte until 1998, when he and my grandma moved to Lincoln, Nebraska because they couldn't take care of their house anymore.
Even though he was living in a nursing home, Grandpa hadn't lost his adventurous spirit. The last time I saw him, he was in the hospital and he told my dad that he was going to steal his car and drive himself out of there because he didn't like the hospital. Even in the last six months, Grandpa tried to make some escapes. He didn't have full mental capacities and didn't recognize anyone but my Grandma, but one day he decided to escape from the nursing home. All the patients have monitors that flash and alert the staff when they leave the premises without checking out. Grandpa placed his monitor under his leg so no one could see it and wheeled himself out of the hospital in his wheelchair. It took the staff a little while to notice him, but they caught up with him in the parking lot and brought him back. He tried this a few more times and as a result, the nursing home had to report it to the State Health Board.
Grandpa Don died on March 21st, 2006 at the age of 88. He left behind his wife, four children, 13 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren.
We gathered together on Saturday to celebrate his life and that's where I remembered some of these stories and learned some of them for the first time. I'm grateful for the memories I have of my Grandpa and for the things he taught my Dad and that have been passed onto me. I was taught the value of hard work. I was taught not to be wasteful and to be thankful for what God has given me. Most importantly, I was taught to love God and to trust and follow him. No one is perfect, and my Grandpa certainly was not. However, he brought my dad up in the church and taught him to follow God and if it hadn't been for my Grandpa's faith, my Dad wouldn't have been able to raise me with some of the same values.
At his request, we sang Amazing Grace at his funeral. We probably didn't sound very good because I think it made many of us cry. But the words are encouraging and give us hope.
"Amazing grace! How sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me!/I once was lost, but now am found;/Was blind, but now I see."
"Through many dangers, toils and snares/I have already come;/'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far/And grace will lead me home."
"The Lord has promised good to me,/His Word my hope secures;/He will my Shield and Portion be,/As long as life endures."
"Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,/And mortal life shall cease,/I shall possess, within the veil,/A life of joy and peace."
"When we've been there ten thousand years,/Bright shining as the sun,/We've no less days to sing God's praise,/Than when we'd first begun."
Although it is sad that he is gone and we will miss him, it makes me smile to know that he is in such a better place. Grandpa knew what it was like to be kept safe by God's grace. He put his hope in God and not in the things of this world. He knew what it was like for his flesh and heart to fail, but He has a new body now and is no longer suffering. He doesn't need his wheelchair and he has no reasons to try to escape. He is singing loud up in heaven and his voice sounds perfect now. I look forward to the day when I will join him there.