Farewell | My Nono

This week I lost the last of my living grandparents.  My grandfather, Nono, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Monday morning soon after we flew down there to see him, hold his hand, and say goodbye one last time.

My son, Asa, had been asking me to read “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupery for a couple of months now.  I had been putting it off because I didn’t have the time and so I grabbed it when I was packing for this trip. As I read it while I sat next to my grandfather, slowly breathing, I realized that it was the ideal book for this visit. The perfect words for letting go of something that you love and for understanding what truly matters in life.  If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading it.  I am going to include a few of my favorite quotes from that book as they just seem so poignant.

“Here is my secret. It is very simple: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  The Little Prince




It is difficult to fully describe this man (as it is with any complex person) and the many qualities that made him so special.  He was funny, he was intelligent and highly educated, and he was extremely stubborn.  He spoke his mind but in a gentle way, and managed to gain the respect and adoration of everyone who knew him.  For all of his wisdom and authority he truly had a child’s spirit and loved to laugh and play jokes. He adored children and always took the time to hold them and play with them and teach them silly tricks.  I could easily list the established accomplishments of his life; he was a WWII Vet, and had a PHD in Nuclear Physics and much more.  But to me, he was Nono.  Always greeting us with open arms and yelling, “Heeeeyyyyy  Katie!!”  Grabbing us out of bed and throwing us in the pool, still in our pj’s.  Rounding up bikes from local junk shops so we could ride around the neighborhood during our visit. Taking us to the beach and letting us cover him in sand. And coming home from work and jumping in the pool with us, still fully clothed.

“All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it.”  The Little Prince

He was an avid gardener, a beer lover (particularly the cheap kinds in cans), a woodworker and a scoutmaster. He loved camping and playing his homemade dulcimer.  He possessed a childlike wisdom that served him well and he never lost sight of the most important matters in life.  Love, God and family. He and my grandmother had 11 children and endured the loss of 4 of them.

He truly listened to you when you talked to him. He offered advice when he could but he was humble and mostly just gave you the strength or the guidance to figure out a solution to your problem. He believed in the power of prayer and in letting God help you solve your problems.

I’m pretty sure I got most of my German stubbornness from him.  But hopefully I also got his compassion too and maybe even a touch of his wisdom.

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night.”  The Little Prince




My grandmother and six of her children, including my mom.


Nono with me and my kids just last summer.

He will be sorely missed by the large and wonderful family that he left behind.  But I have no doubt that he is looking down on us all. Reminding us to be patient and to love each other and to laugh.

“It doesn’t matter that you are not here in person as long as you are here in my heart.” The Little Prince 


comments +

  1. Charline Brown says:

    Kate, this is a beautiful tribute to an obviously special man. The legacy he leaves behind to you and your family is an amazing one! He must be proud beyond measure to know that some of his finest qualities have are also evident in his grandchildren and great grandchildren. You all have a tremendous guardian angel looking over you now. Love to you and your family!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.