He was the father of five children, husband to my grandmother for 61 years, a highly regarded surgeon, a farm boy, an inventor, a World War II veteran and the man with a well-developed sense of humor who taught me to rhyme as soon as I began to speak. Our earliest conversations went something like this:


And so I called him Powdaddy. He would have been 96 today.

We lost him in 1999. My grandmother followed in 2004, almost exactly a year before I had Declan. It’s hard for me to fathom that my grandparents will not know my son, and that he will only know them through story. My grandfather would have loved my boy, loved his ravenous curiosity – a characteristic they definitely share.

On New Year’s Day, my mother and I (and a sleeping Declan) went out to the small town where Powdaddy was born, and chose to be buried. Mom wanted to put lay down a grave blanket, something her mother used to do at her mother’s grave every winter. While most people consider this simply as decorative, my mom and her mom took the meaning of “grave blanket” at its symbolic face, as a way to warm their place of rest.

Afterwards, we went to see if the house where my grandfather and his brother grew up — the house built by my great grandfather, who died in the 1940s — was still standing.

It was, although it may not be much longer.

The farmhouse is a few hundred feet from Buckeye Lake. From the shore down the road you can see a place that I learned used to be called “Zollinger Island.”

My great-grandfather sold it for $500 in order to pay for Powdaddy to go to Harvard medical school. His older brother insisted that it was the place to study medicine. Both men left their mark on the world of medicine, in different ways.

If you happen to have surgery just west of Downtown, it’s possible that you may have it in the room named for my grandfather by his colleagues. The family collected there at dawn one morning in 2000 so the hospital could dedicate it, then sanitize it again before the day’s first operation.

I miss you, Powdaddy.

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One thought on “Powdaddy”

  1. Tracy…this was just such a beautiful blog. I miss my grandpa too! I LOVE the idea of a blanket! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate this blog…

    I want to do the same thing for my loved ones now.

    The pictures were just gorgeous by the way. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world (and me).

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