Paul worked for Fred when he was in college, and during those years Fred became a father figure, mentor and friend. Even after they stopped working together, Fred considered Paul a part of his extended family. Paul and Fred bowled together; in fact, our first date was to their league’s bowling banquet. This was when I met Fred.
We lost track of Fred over the years. We moved. He moved. We found him again two years ago when we read that his wife, JoAnn, had died in an ATV accident on August 5, 2011. Paul called him immediately. We attended the memorial service. We were re-acquainted with Fred’s children and met his grandchildren and several of JoAnn’s sisters.
For the next 8 months Paul made it a point to see Fred once a week. He came to dinner. They went to lunch. They went fishing. Fred once told me, “I was there for Paul when he needed me, and now Paul is here for me when I need him.”
Fred’s health began to decline. When he could no longer drive, Paul would pick him up for their outings. On April 3, 2012, Paul called Fred to see if they were still on for lunch. Fred answered from the hospital. They chatted briefly. An hour later, Fred’s daughter called Paul to let him know that Fred had died.
Fred didn't want a memorial service. The family held a small gathering to celebrate his life. During the service, Fred’s daughter gave Paul a beautiful, hand-carved walking stick with a leather handle and the name “Frank” engraved below the handle. Fred had told us the story of the walking stick. It had been made by an old friend who never did get Fred’s name right. It became a joke between them, and Fred had treasured the walking stick named Frank.
We assured Fred’s daughters and son that we would take Frank on our adventures. So now, when you see a photo of Paul with a walking stick named Frank, you know who it is we think of with fondness and gratitude.