Saturday, January 20, 2018

Papa and His Girls - A Celebration and a Goodbye

I was so busy enjoying my time with Grandpa, soaking in all the moments, that I didn't take many photos on our last visits. These three above are from his 2015 stopover visit on a train trip to Michigan to see the rest of our family. It was around Veterans Day, so in the middle photo he is reading the card that Cadence made for him, our Navy man. His military service was an important part of his life and he spent the rest of his life being part of the American Legion and honoring others who made the ultimate sacrifice.

This past Tuesday, we celebrated this precious man's life and laid him to rest. It's an embarrassment of riches that we had him for so long, and yet, it never would have been long enough. Below are the words my daughter and I wrote to honor our grandfather and great-grandfather. I learned days after his death that he had assumed that I would be too emotional to speak. I'm sorry I didn't clear that up with him before. For once, he underestimated me!

                                                           Letter for Melvin

I am Cadence Jewel Mahoney. I am Melvin’s first but not last great grandchild.  Me and my mom Julie visited him as much as we could. We loved coming to see him.  We would always have a blast and I would never feel bored or like we need to do more.  I felt happy and surprised. He would surprise me with going to go Chicken Mary’s or Braum’s.  On our way to these destinations we would slowly but surely jump in the car and drive there. When people are driving differently than grandpa would like, he would always say a different phrase like, “come on josie” or “my horses are faster than you.” Which would always make me chuckle.  I loved every time we went to see the horses at the Brock’s.  I would help him brush them down or feed them and a few years ago, he asked me “would you like to get on Minnie?”  and of course i couldn't say no to that because i had always loved horses and always had dreamed of getting to ride one. So he slightly would give me a hand and i would get my little foot on his hand and climb myself up on Minnie.  I could not believe my eyes. I was so happy on the horse.  After we went to see the horses, he would surprise me with going to go Chicken Mary’s and then to go get ice cream at Braum’s.

As soon as we got home from a long but fun day we would relax on the couches and watch Blue Bloods, MASH or Lawrence Welk.  Every time there was a joke or something dumb that he thought was very unnecessary he would brighten up the room with smiles and laughter. Whenever, he laughed I could not keep my mouth shut. His laugh is one of my favorite things about him.  

Finally I wanted to talk about what it meant to me to be his great grandchild.  Grandpa and I almost shared a birthday. He was born on April 9 and my birthday is April 10. It was cool to be 85 years and one day apart.

When we visited him, right before we went back to St. Louis, he would always tell me if I needed anything to give him a call and he would give me money to get on the train and come stay with Papa. It made me feel super loved.

He always reminded me to not do drugs and make smart decisions and to make Papa proud. He would always hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek. His hugs were so great. That’s another thing I will miss about him.

His advice was very inspirational. He always made sure he was positive about himself and others. I am glad to be able to speak here today. I will miss him so very much, but I am glad he will be in a better place. I am excited for him to reunite with my grandma. We will miss him dearly, but we will love that he was in our lives. I love you, Grandpa. You mean the world to me.


My grandfather had many memorable qualities, but the one that made the biggest impact on my life was his tenacity. He was determined to better himself, to stretch and to grow, to move beyond where he had been. He demonstrated tenacity in two separate ways in the last ten or fifteen years when he joined Toastmasters and bought software to teach himself how to type.

What is so remarkable to me about these things is how out of his comfort zone he must have been in the undertaking of each. He didn’t spend much time inside a classroom. His brilliance and higher education was hard-earned life experience. And in his late eighties and early nineties, you might say that polishing one’s public speaking ability and typing skills were out of place or unnecessary. On the surface, that could be true. But I admire these pursuits more for this very reason.

I told him I loved him all the time. We had really great, rich, frank conversation, but I realize now that I didn’t tell him how much I admired him doing these things. Through Toastmasters, he was learning how to tell some of the stories he’d carried for a long time. And the improved typing was a help as he wrote letters-to-the-editor of various publications.  When he saw something he thought needed fixing or required his perspective or expertise, he was quick to write a letter, and his words were published repeatedly. Another thing I admire! These skills helped him grow more confident and undo injustices of his past. He resisted the idea that there should be limitations of behavior or aspirations purely based on age. I love this.

My grandfather taught me many things by his quiet actions: how to respect and approach a horse, how to love one’s family, how to age gracefully, how to be vulnerable, how to soothe oneself through difficult patches of life. He also taught me what it looked like to love someone, disagree with them, and do so with kindness and respect. These are things I will spend the rest of my life fine-tuning in my own relationships and interactions.

He taught me the power of experiencing pain in life and then tempering it with joy and laughter. He taught me how to not get stuck in that pain, but to work to understand it and move on. He showed me what it looked like to not be satisfied with where you are and to take steps to build knowledge, increase understanding, and develop skills. I have learned how to face my fears and press on.

Melvin’s storytelling and laughter are the two things I will miss the most. He lit up the room with his tales and the funny way he laughed his way to the punch line. First by wheezing, holding his breath, and slapping his knee before composing himself and continuing with the story. I’d suggest watching an episode of M.A.S.H. to initiate his laughter if he hadn’t thought of a funny story to tell first.

Most of all, Melvin was my best friend and my biggest fan. Being his granddaughter means I am a better human, woman, and mother because of his love, mentoring, and friendship.
Papa and his girl, CJ



  1. Dear Sweet Melvin - what beautiful tributes from Mom and Daughter. And, my daughter shares her birthday, April 9th, with another great person! Julie, glad you shared this. xo

  2. So precious. I love the way you honored a great man! No regrets in honor. I applaud you and know your will miss him so much. How many earth years did he celebrate?

    1. Thank you, Karen. My grandpa was aiming for 100, but made it with dignity and independence to 95. Absolutely no regrets, which makes this grief easier to bear.