Amazing Grace: My Granddad’s Legacy

The month of November is probably my favorite month of the year.  I can’t tell you what my reason is, other than the fact that Thanksgiving falls in there!  I have always loved Thanksgiving more than any other holiday.  Just thinking of it and how it is quickly approaching nearly brings me tears of joy! While the food is always glorious (and much anticipated!!), my love for Thanksgiving is definitely because of my family.  

And, did I mention that every single family member is AMAZING?!

I am giving myself permission to brag about all of my family members because, well, someone should!  I mean, we’re talking engineers, nurses, teachers, aeronautical engineers, successful business owners, actors, an aspiring doctor, singers, a film maker, songwriters, artists, ……..are you catching on? Not only do they do all these things, but they do their crafts WELL!  And, don’t even get me started on their hearts. The love from our family is beautiful, and I feel honored to be in it.  I blame my Grandma and Granddad for all this success.

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Me, my Grandma, and my Granddad

It’s true.  These two.  If I could sit down over a cup of coffee (or tea!) and share with you every detail of this dynamic pair, I would.  But, for now I simply need to share the amazing legacy my beloved Granddad has left behind.  As I attempt to put all my big feelings into text, I wonder what he would say about his life that he had. Would he tell the same details I have found so pivotal to his life? Did he know how much I loved the way he nurtured his garden, or how a concord grape picked from the vine will always make me think of him, or how I have to stop dead in my tracks to see a plane flying overhead? How would he share his story? Well, for anyone that knew Granddad they would expect to be sitting for hours. Hours I tell ya. The man could talk.  He would tell every single detail of his beautiful life to you.  As a child I would dread having to sit and listen to him, but as I grew older I never wanted him to stop telling his stories.

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My Granddad, Jack Seifarth

Granddad was born in 1928 and grew up in the time of the depression.  He didn’t have much, but his family always had food on the table.  As a family they cared for a thriving garden and had some of their own animals for meat.  They worked hard for what they had and were forced to live a frugal life.  Although life had it’s struggles, Granddad found his joy in airplanes as a child.  He built himself a shed on his family’s property to house his model airplanes that he would assemble.  Because he didn’t have money, he would go door to door selling seeds, replacement windows, and other random things to earn the funds to buy his model planes.image3
 His passion for planes grew from childhood through his teen years so much so that he
was offered a scholarship from Johns Hopkins University for aeronautical engineering.  He worked hard studying during the week and worked hard to earn money on the weekends.  Meanwhile, he couldn’t suppress his desire to fly.  Roughly after his second year studying at Hopkins he applied for a spot in the NATO Cadet program.  He got into the program to train in the international cadet program. His dream was being fulfilled!  He trained on the T28 and T6 and went through all the technical classroom training.  He eventually was certified in prop planes.  He then went on to train for more intensive evaluations, which included turns and dives, so the standards were quite higher in the fighter jet program.  These tests were apparently hard to pass and unfortunately was one of the many who couldn’t sufficiently move on.  His flight training lasted for two years, but even though he couldn’t move on, I would imagine that simply flying was his dream being fulfilled.
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After his training he got offered a job designing planes at Fairchild-Hiller.  He had the opportunity to be on the team  designing passenger planes and cargo planes such as the F27, F28, C130, C119, C123 and the A10.  He had a successful 20 years there doing what he loved.  In the midst of all that he found my Grandma and they made 6 incredible people.
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With 5 of his 6 kids and my Grandma

After his time at Fairchild he got another job working in the engineering department for Mack Trucks.  He worked there until he was 60.

I could share even more details of his career with you, but I also need to express that he was an even better Father, Granddad, and Great-Granddad. Any picture I come across of him with my aunts, uncles, and dad you can see how hands-on he was.

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With some of his grandkids

I believe our family is so tightly knit now because of the foundation that Grandma and Granddad made for us.  They made family a priority.  They made God a priority. They shared the importance of hard work.   They allowed us to pursue our dreams.  They made it necessary to make traditions together and tell stories of their lives to us. They constantly have supported us.  For example, when I made the choice to leave college to pursue my desire of performing, he (and Grandma) supported me.

I’m slightly going to switch gears here.  I left school to begin working at a theatre.  He was so proud of me and I felt pride in knowing that.  He and Grandma saw all of my shows while I worked there, right up to nearly the very end of my time of employment at that theatre. I remember the last performance that he saw and how I knew it would be his last time there.
In 2005 Granddad found out he had prostate cancer.  He began radiation and over the course of a couple of months had 41 treatments.  Eventually it metastasized and was very aggressive.  By the Fall of 2009 he began deteriorating very rapidly.  In October of that year I was about 6 months pregnant with our first baby.  I had seen him during that time and happily listened to him tell me some elaborate story.  Some of his thoughts were beginning to become disconnected and he had trouble piecing information together, while I tried holding onto every word.
November rolled around and Granddad was there for his last Thanksgiving with our family. Granddad was not very clear headed at this point or as lucid as he once was.  It was almost shocking to see how much he had changed in as little as a month. I remember that year a bunch of his grandkids did a show for everyone, but it was specifically for Granddad.  Some did skits and several sang.  The talent from our family is ridiculous.  Nearly everyone can sing.  I watched in pride as everyone did their thing for Granddad, but I couldn’t bring myself to sing for him.  I would sing for him at any time, but I was selfishly refusing to sing because I didn’t want to cry.  I even got a look from my uncle as I sat there, but I just couldn’t do it.  Had I sung for him it would have been “Amazing Grace”.  His favorite (or so he told me anyway).  It still haunts me that I never got to sing for him and look at him.  I look back and so wish that I would have done it for him, no matter how much or how little he was aware.
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Granddad’s last Thanksgiving

I called him sometime after Thanksgiving to share with him our baby names, keeping in mind that he may not live to meet baby.  Grandma did most of the talking, but I knew he could hear me.  I told him that if our baby was a girl that we would name her Cora, after his mother.  Grandma said, “Jack, did you hear that?” He heard it and I could almost HEAR his joy! 🙂
By the next month, December 26, he passed away.  Thankfully he wasn’t in much pain in the end.  It happened so quickly in the last couple of months.  Even though he was sick, it was still a shock and it was still a time of grief for all of us.  But even now I can still feel him anytime I hear Patsy Cline sing, or anytime I eat a tomato from a vine, or I make his famous recipe of vegetable soup!

Someone told me that, “Cancer is different because it affects the whole family. It’s a family disease”.  Well, it’s true.  While I wasn’t there for his radiation treatments and witnessing the worst of it, it has still affected me.  But, I know that when Thanksgiving rolls around again I’ll be reminded of his unending love for all 40 of us!  We will celebrate our time together and we will fill our hearts even more with the time we were blessed to have with Granddad. – Leslie T.

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Jack Vincent Seifarth 1928-2009 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – from where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1,2

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