It may sound strange but I’ve actually dreamt about this day over the years (though if you know me well, you probably won’t find that strange knowing how I dream). I’ve had dreams where Pappap died and I would wake up in tears. And even though it’s different from a dream, it still feels surreal to wake up knowing that he passed away.

Like most grandchildren, I grew up hearing the stories about my Pappap. He was a 30-year active fireman, former military stationed overseas (he almost didn’t marry my Nana because he fell for a girl in Germany), and he knew EVERYONE in Washington, Pa. My Mom would tell me stories about how hard it was for her to date because Pappap was incredibly strict he and he had a lot of connections. When and if my Mom went out, she would inevitably see someone who would report to Pappap. It’s probably the reason why we thought Pappap might be some sort of Mafia leader. Turns out…he wasn’t 😂. But Pappap was a man’s man and he loved working on and showing off his 1961 Black Ford Falcon. Apparently, I was the only other person he let drive that car, not even my Mom or Aunt was allowed.

I grew up spending a lot of time at the North Franklin Fire Hall, rode around in the fire trucks, listening to the police scanner, hung out at the American Legion, and spent a good portion of my time at Bennett’s. C. Bennett Auto Supply was a store my Pappap and his two friends inherited and operated until 2014. And when my brother and cousins and I weren’t at the store, you could find us playing Wiffle Ball in Nana and Pappap’s backyard with the occasional reprimand from Nana for hitting the ball into the neighbor’s yard.

Being the oldest, Pappap would take me out with him to Bennett’s or part runs in his 1988 Jeep Comanche. I remember feeling whiplash each time I rode in that truck as Pappap was not a graceful driver and loved throwing that stick shift around. I also remember a time when I felt “sick” at school and he came to pick me up. He called me out for not really being sick. I suppose I just wanted to escape school because I did not have good experiences there. But Pappap encouraged me, albeit harshly, to push through the horrible times I had there and suck it up.

My Pappap was a stubborn son-of-a-gun (For a lack of better words). If things were not done the way he wanted them, even if his instructions were vague, he would let you know it and you would feel his wrath for not being mind reader. He would often tell me I needed to lose weight and criticized my hefty build. And even though one of my biggest struggles today is never feeling good enough, most likely due partially to Pappap, he was always supportive in his own way. Nana and Pappap came to every sports game they could make – and between us boys, there were a lot! I played games all season long in baseball, basketball, soccer, and bowling – and that doesn’t include my brother and two cousins who pretty much did the same thing.

But there was one night where I received the blessing of Pappap. I have done my best to make him and those around me proud. I’ve received a good education, lived overseas, became a pastor, and finally, after years of wanting his approval, I got it. While home from Israel, I was leading an Israel Experience 360° event for a Youth Group in Washington that Nana and Pappap came to watch. During the Q&A Pappap raised his hand. I was nervous. The last time he heard me speak he criticized me for talking too fast. So I said, “Yes, Pappap?” He responded, “I don’t have a question. I just want you to know how proud I am of you. You know all this stuff and you’ve done some wonderful things. I’m just so proud of you.” It was a moment that really impacted me and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

As the years went on, Pappap’s health began declining. It’s incredibly hard and frustrating when you begin losing your sight and aren’t able to do things you used to do. Every time I’d call to talk to him and Nana he’d say, “Hang on a second…SUE! SUE GET DOWN HERE! JUSTIN’S ON THE PHONE!” To be honest, I’m not quite sure how Nana put up with him every day 😂. But one of the last things he asked me to do was cut his grass. It may sound weird, but two weeks ago, right before he went into the hospital, I felt like it might be the last thing I did for him. I could tell he was really struggling and even though I didn’t want to sit in traffic, I knew it was more important that I do this for him; and I’m glad I did. So I cut his grass and did the best I could and now I can say it was the last thing I got to do for him.

The last two weeks were rough. Pappap declined very rapidly and about a week ago was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in his pancreas, liver, and stomach, and that was just one of the problems. Like many who see loved ones in their final days, it was hard to see him. After having a stroke over a week ago, Pappap wasn’t able to respond very well and you could tell he struggled just to speak. Imagine someone as angry and stubborn as Pappap and to not be able to do a simple action – it was hard to watch. Nevertheless, that stubborn son-of-a-gun finally gave this world his last breath while holding Nana’s hand on the morning of October 16th, 2018, just a few days shy of his 80th birthday.

He lived a full life as a husband, father, hero, and most importantly: Pappap. There’s no doubt that we will miss Pappap a lot. In spite of having a curmudgeon demeanor, I will always remember how emotional he would get at Thanksgiving and how thankful he was for family. I could write a book of Pappap stories but I wanted to take an article to celebrate and honor his life, not necessarily as Ron Wilson, but who he was to me – Pappap.

It may sound strange but I’ve actually dreamt about this day over the years (though if you know me well, you probably won’t find that strange knowing how I dream). I’ve had dreams where Pappap died and I would wake up in tears. And even though it’s different from a dream, it still feels surreal to wake up knowing that he passed away.

Like most grandchildren, I grew up hearing the stories about my Pappap. He was a 30-year active fireman, former military stationed overseas (he almost didn’t marry my Nana because he fell for a girl in Germany), and he knew EVERYONE in Washington, Pa. My Mom would tell me stories about how hard it was for her to date because Pappap was incredibly strict and he had a lot of connections. When and if my Mom went out, she would inevitably see someone who would report to Pappap. It’s probably the reason why we thought Pappap might be some sort of Mafia leader. Turns out…he wasn’t 😂. But Pappap was a man’s man and he loved working on and showing off his 1961 Black Ford Falcon. Apparently, I was the only other person he let drive that car, not even my mom or aunt was allowed.

I grew up spending a lot of time at the North Franklin Fire Hall, rode around in the fire trucks, listening to the police scanner, hung out at the American Legion, and spent a good portion of my time at Bennett’s. C. Bennett Auto Supply was a store my Pappap and his two friends inherited and operated until 2014. And when my brother and cousins and I weren’t at the store, you could find us playing Wiffle Ball in Nana and Pappap’s backyard with the occasional reprimand from Nana for hitting the ball into the neighbor’s yard.

Being the oldest, Pappap would take me out with him to Bennett’s or part runs in his 1988 Jeep Comanche. I remember feeling whiplash each time I rode in that truck as Pappap was not a graceful driver and loved throwing that stick shift around. I also remember a time when I felt “sick” at school and he came to pick me up. He called me out for not really being sick. I suppose I just wanted to escape school because I did not have good experiences there. But Pappap encouraged me, albeit harshly, to push through the horrible times I had there and suck it up.

My Pappap was a stubborn son-of-a-gun (For a lack of better words). If things were not done the way he wanted them, even if his instructions were vague, he would let you know it and you would feel his wrath for not being a mind reader. He would often tell me I needed to lose weight and criticized my hefty build. And even though one of my biggest struggles today is never feeling good enough, most likely due partially to Pappap, he was always supportive in his own way. Nana and Pappap came to every sports game they could make – and between us boys, there were a lot! I played games all season long in baseball, basketball, soccer, and bowling – and that doesn’t include my brother and two cousins who pretty much did the same thing.But there was one night where I received the blessing of Pappap. I have done my best to make him and those around me proud. I’ve received a good education, lived overseas, became a pastor, and finally, after years of wanting his approval, I got it. While home from Israel, I was leading an Israel Experience 360° event for a Youth Group in Washington that Nana and Pappap came to watch. During the Q&A Pappap raised his hand. I was nervous. The last time he heard me speak he criticized me for talking too fast. So I said, “Yes, Pappap?” He responded, “I don’t have a question. I just want you to know how proud I am of you. You know all this stuff and you’ve done some wonderful things. I’m just so proud of you.” It was a moment that really impacted me and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

As the years went on, Pappap’s health began declining. It’s incredibly hard and frustrating when you begin losing your sight and aren’t able to do things you used to do. Every time I’d call to talk to him and Nana he’d say, “Hang on a second…SUE! SUE GET DOWN HERE! JUSTIN’S ON THE PHONE!” To be honest, I’m not quite sure how Nana put up with him every day 😂. But one of the last things he asked me to do was cut his grass. It may sound weird, but two weeks ago, right before he went into the hospital, I felt like it might be the last thing I did for him. I could tell he was really struggling and even though I didn’t want to sit in traffic, I knew it was more important that I do this for him; and I’m glad I did. So I cut his grass and did the best I could and now I can say it was the last thing I got to do for him.

The last two weeks were rough. Pappap declined very rapidly and about a week ago was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in his pancreas, liver, and stomach, and that was just one of the problems. Like many who see loved ones in their final days, it was hard to see him. After having a stroke over a week ago, Pappap wasn’t able to respond very well and you could tell he struggled just to speak. Imagine someone as angry and stubborn as Pappap and to not be able to do a simple action – it was hard to watch. Nevertheless, that stubborn son-of-a-gun finally gave this world his last breath while holding Nana’s hand on the morning of October 16th, 2018, just a few days shy of his 80th birthday.

He lived a full life as a husband, father, hero, and most importantly: Pappap. There’s no doubt that we will miss Pappap a lot. In spite of having a curmudgeon demeanor, I will always remember how emotional he would get at Thanksgiving and how thankful he was for family. I could write a book of Pappap stories but I wanted to take an article to celebrate and honor his life, not necessarily as Ron Wilson, but who he was to me – Pappap.

 

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