Memorial to Grandpa Melvin

This is the memorial that my son, Devlin wrote and posted to a group of fellow Mustang Car enthusiasts. One member who read it, wrote that he hoped one day maybe one of his grandchildren would write so nicely about him. This is worth sharing and I only wish my dad could have read it. He would have cried.......just like I am right now. My dad was one really nice guy. That's all there is to it.

It's April 29th, 2008. My grandpa died last night around Midnight.

I'm not looking for any sympathy. I just want to talk about my grandpa for a little bit.

He is the most genuine and gentle man I have ever met in my life, and I am writing this so that his memory can be seen by more than just myself. Though I can't possibly come close to painting a vivid picture of his character here, I will share with you some thoughts in the hope that you can see why he will be missed so much.

His name is Melvin Linn, and he is from Lehigh, IA. He was in World War II in the Army, and marched across most of Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1944 and 1945. I am glad he had the chance to battle Nazis, they didn't make too many great contributions to our world in their short time here. The fact that he kept some Nazi relics from the war tells me he probably had a hand in killing at least one of them. Knowing him as I know him, it is hard for me to imagine that he ever had it within himself to hurt someone else, but then again, I think everyone would agree that in the circumstances surrounding WWII, everyone did what they had to do, and it was right in that context.

He always tells the story of how he was hit in the leg with a piece of shrapnel from an explosion of some sort. Over the years the piece of shrapnel kept getting bigger, along with the distance that it threw him. When he was hit, he told me that the first thought through his head was that he was finally going home. This tells me that he didn't have a vested interest in being in the war, at the very least he didn't enjoy fighting or killing or any of the horrible things that people see in a war.

I am glad he returned safely to become the father of my mom, her sister Judy, and my Uncle Doug. Aside from the obvious reason that without them, there is no me, he also created three very genuine and unique children and instilled in them a sense of caring that I rarely see anywhere else. I don't even see this in myself most of the time. I care about things and people, but I will admit that it is selfish at times, probably more often than not.

My dad has always had cool cars, ever since I was born there has been some type of V8 with a manual transmission parked in his garage. This is probably where I began to be fascinated by cars, and it turned into something that I was able to share with Melvin quite often. Melvin always had a Cadillac, whether it was a big Coupe DeVille from the 80s, or a 95 STS Seville, or even his little 87 Cadillac Two Door Coupe. He also had a couple El Caminos and I vaguely remember a station wagon from way back. Anyway, we had a good time talking cars.

He was actually quite instrumental in creating my attraction to Thunderbirds. His friend Bud D. who also lived in Lehigh had a 1978 Ford Thunderbird, sky blue, just sitting in his driveway for sale. Somehow between his talking to Bud, and my mother talking to my dad I ended up with this car and drove it home. We were most of the way home when we realized that I had my dad's set of keys and my mom (who was with me) had her keys, leaving my dad behind with NO keys. Luckily I had a pager, but it didn't go off until we were like two hours down the road. We turned around and ended up driving back there, and then home over the course of like 8 hours. I remember coming into Minnesota and the sun was coming up. It didn't matter, I was driving my new car.

Melvin also got me my 1963 Thunderbird. This happened somewhat by chance in that he was 'storing' some cars for a guy. This guy had collected over 200 muscle era and previous cars on his farm property over the years. He got into some financial woes and the bank was going to foreclose on his property. He scrambled to move as many of the cars as he could, stashing them at various estates in and around Lehigh, one of these being Melvin's house. There was a 68 Challenger, two late 60s Mustangs, one of them a boss, a 67 Cougar XR7, and a 1963 Thunderbird. The cars sat at Melvin's for about a year until the county came by and said that if he didn't move them, they would be taking them. Melvin tried to contact this guy that 'owned' them all, but was not successful. He called me up and told me the situation and said that if I wanted that Thunderbird then I could come and get it. It was free so long as I did all the work to trailer it out of there. It's sitting in pole shed on a concrete floor still waiting to be restored. I need a bigger garage first.

Melvin used to take me fishing at Deception Hollow near Lehigh, and also down by the bridge that spans the river. I remember catfish and snapping turtles were the things we caught most, along with a couple of logs here an there. In case you didn't know, chicken livers are the way to get huge catfish out of a river.

Melvin was fun to be around, not because he spoiled anyone, but because he was just good company. We always did cool stuff, stuff I wouldn't normally do anywhere else. I remember just a few years ago when I went to visit him and we were driving to his friends museum, he was telling me about how he didn't like the shape that he was in and that he would rather be dead than deal with having a colostomy bag. Most of my family became convinced that he was developing Alzheimer's Disease in the past couple of years, though he never showed me any signs of forgetfulness aside from the telling the same story over and over again.

I went to see him last Sunday at the care center in Dayton, IA. He had a heart attack on the previous Friday and wasn't recovering very well. I walked in and saw most of my family there, along with my aunt and cousins, etc. When I went to his room he looked pretty frail. It was the worst I had ever seen him. I held on to his hand while my grandma woke him up and told him I was there. He looked up and said, "Oh, Devlin!" and patted my hand and drifted back into sleep while I was telling him that I drove my new mustang down to show to him. Nobody told me he was this bad...I was told he was in a wheelchair most of the time, but to me this looked like he was bedridden.

It must be strange to be in a care center for over a year, and to have occasional visitors here and there, and then one day you wake up and your whole family is there in your room. Re-introducing themselves to you, saying hello, hovering around you. I wonder if he understood why we were all there. I think he did, I could hear it in the way that he talked to the nurses, he knew he was almost done here. The nurses came in to roll him onto his other side, and they do this by picking him up on a blanket and then lifting one side up so that rolls over. This startled him awake, and he grabbed the hand of one of the nurses and said, "Oh my, you scared me." He patted her hand and then thanked her for taking care of him and putting up with him in his condition.

From what my mom and grandma tell me, the nurses, one especially, really liked Melvin and are probably grieving him just as much as we are.

We all miss you Melvin. It is sad to see you go.
"Peace can be found in the piecing of a quilt."
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