He was kind and gentle. He always had a smile on his face. He never turned down a chance to be with family. These are things I remember from visiting his home. It was always warm and inviting. The bowl of candy was never empty and neither were our pockets. He would always remind us to "fill our pockets!" Followed shortly by grandma yelling at us to "only take one!" Which always brought a smirk of mischief to his face and very low chuckle so that grandma could not hear or see it, but he always made sure we could see it so we knew that we really could "fill our pockets." I am always reminded by my fiance that I get my boyish attributes from my grandpa and that by meeting him she understands why I tease so much.
As kids, as all kids do, we annoyed grandma with our incessant running around or making the dog go crazy with our antics and that's when grandpa stepped in. He knew exactly how to handle us. He knew what to do to keep us busy. I think that comes from the fact that he never lost his boyish attitude about life. He was always laid back. He was the type to always take things easy. Now that doesn't mean he wasn't a hard worker, because he worked harder than most people I know. But he knew how to enjoy life at the same time.
During the summer he would take us out to his garden. Which was huge. It had all sorts of vegetables and fruits. From green peppers to tomatoes to cantaloupe to lemon cucumbers. He would teach us how to properly pick them and how to tell when they were ripe. After this he would bring us inside and serve us the delicious fruits and vegetables that he had toiled over all summer. He taught us that through the work of caring for the garden properly you can have a bounteous harvest of the best produce money can't buy, but what is purchased through hard work and sweat.
A few times after a hard afternoon of work in the garden he would take us to the movies. One such occasion sticks in my memory from when I was about five years old and he took me and my sister to Oliver and Company. Before the movie he took us to the candy store. He let us have free reign on whatever we wanted. I remember going up to him with a bag half full of candy and he told me, "now are you sure that is all you want? You're not with mom and dad you're with grandpa! Get enough to fill your pockets." I ran away excited. Other than on the holidays I had never had so much candy in one day. It was like Halloween or Christmas all over again. He then took us to the movie and bought us soda and popcorn! What a treat! I couldn't believe it and of course when we back to his house all hyped on sugar grandma was in a fit and he just smiled with that boyish grin back at her.
As the years went on we started to do more grown up things together. We would watch football together. He was probably one of the biggest BYU fans there was. (I'm sure it killed him a little inside that I was a Utes fan.) He taught me how to correctly tie a fish hook to a line and properly bait a hook; as I was starting to fish I had these questions. And he told me about how he served in World War II.
His stories were compelling. Him going on the B-24 Liberators as the top turret gunner. The danger and peril he faced every day. Kicking the bombs out if they were stuck because he was the closest to the bombing bay in the plane. Fearing for his life while having to take down others as they came at him. He said he always felt bad for having to kill people, but knew he had to do it to rid the world of the evil he was facing and fighting for freedom.
While I was living in France I was able to speak with a lot of the older people; who remembered the war. They thanked me as an American for what we had done for their freedom. I told them, "I will tell my grandfather thank you for you. He served in the great war and risked his life for you. He will appreciate this." We would always stand shaking each others hands in tears for the sincere thanks they gave him through me.
I will always remember the day I came home and told him personally of the many people that thanked me for what he did and how I told them I would tell him personally. We both started to cry. He knew people appreciated him, but he was probably never told by many that were as sincere as the people I had come in contact with.
But the one thing I will miss most about my Grandfather was his support for me. He never wavered. He didn't care about my religious beliefs. He never once made me feel that he felt any different about me in any way. He only cared about who I was inside. To him all that mattered was that you were a good person inside and he knew religion did not dictate that. He always told me to follow my dreams, to not give up, and to do what I knew was best for me in my heart. In many ways he was one of the most supportive people in my life.
This goes out to you Grandpa LeDuc. You will be missed, always loved, and never forgotten...