Skip to comments.Death of a Father
Posted on 09/27/2006 6:59:34 PM PDT by marktwain
LeRoy Weingarten 1918 - 2006
LeRoy Weingarten belonged to that generation which has been titled The Greatest. I do not know if I agree with that appellation generally, but it seemed to apply to him. Born on January 22nd in 1918, just two months after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, while World War I raged in Europe and just 8 months before the outbreak of the 1918 flu pandemic that also killed millions, he participated in the extraordinary events of an extraordinary century.
As a child, he was raised in the North woods of Wisconsin as a farmers son, but his father was also a trapper who had made good money in 1910, while the area was mostly wilderness, and who had worked in the logging camps. LeRoy became a superb woodsman, hunter, and trapper, often supplementing the family larder with venison and other wild game. These skills were highly valued while growing up during the depression. The times impressed upon his character the value of frugality and the necessity of being prepared for difficult situations. He was raised a strict Lutheran (Missouri Synod).
He attended grammar school at a small, one room school house located a half mile from the homestead, and was one of only 6 people who graduated from high school in his class. The high school was located 8 miles away in the town of Hayward. He stayed there during the week in a boarding house, only coming home on weekends and holidays. He did well in his studies and was able to attend college in Superior for a year before lack of funds required him to enroll in the Civilian Conservation Corps. His education led him to a position of company clerk. While in the company he used his trapping skills to trap beaver from the lake the camp was located on. At that time, beaver were not the common pest they have come to be in the North woods, and their pelts, dried between camp walls and smuggled into town in the official sedan, brought desperately needed cash on the black market. I only heard the story two years before his death, when all the other principles had already died. He was a man of his word.
It was during this period that he met my Mother. She was a beauty with flaming red hair and long legs. They met at a dance, and he remarked to one of his friends that she was the woman he was going to marry. There were other contenders for her hand, but after a courtship that lasted three years and many letters, they married. They moved into the homestead with his parents in 1940. LeRoy was classified as unfit for military service because of a stomach ulcer. He took a machinist course that was offered in Hayward, and with the outbreak of the World War II, took a job with A.O. Smith in Milwaukee. During the war, he bossed a crew of women manufacturing bomb casings, torpedo tubes, and airplane parts.
By the end of the war, they had a family of four girls and a desire to get back to the country. They moved back into the homestead with his parents, and soon bought a farm on the Namekagon River from an older brother, complete with some equipment and dairy cows, only a mile away. The girls went to the same one room school house that LeRoy had. This venture into dairy farming lasted only a few years. LeRoy, because of his mathematical talents and education, was recruited to work part time for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on a surveying crew. This led to an offer of full time employment, and after the cows got loose and wandered off across the river one too many times, he accepted the offer and sold most of the cows.
This was a very good decision. Dairy farming in the north woods is marginal at best, and always very hard work for the entire family. After moving into the farm on the Namekagon, they had five more children, three boys and two girls. The first of the second group of children were twins born in 1951, and the daughter did not survive birth. By 1959 the Weingarten family numbered eight children, five girls, and three boys.
LeRoy was a pillar of the church and the community. He served on the school board for 25 years, for at least a decade as the chairman. He presided over the centralization of the school district from one with small grammar schools in nearly every township, run by the local parents, to one where grammar school children were bused from the far reaches of the district to only a few centralized schools, from one where locally hired teachers served at the pleasure of the local parents to a centralized hiring system that had to deal with a national NEA union. When I talked to him about this in his later years, he remarked that he now thought the centralization had been a mistake. But, he said All the experts told us that it was the thing that we needed to do. He ran for and was elected as town chairman, county board member, and county board Chairman, serving for many years. He served on the board of the local cooperative, which had been organized to bring services to the local farmers that no local business had been willing to, as it grew from a small feed store, fuel delivery service and grocery store into a modern, multifaceted enterprise. He devoted time and energy to these organizations to ensure their success, and was paid only expenses, which covered mileage to and from the meetings. He had excellent people and organizational skills, and often took leadership positions because someone had to do it.
His career with the State of Wisconsin went well. He became head of the survey crew, and eventually was in charge of road maintenance for the northern third of Wisconsin. He and my Mother raised their children well, and we became self supporting, responsible members of our communities. Just as their own children were finishing leaving the nest, one of my Mothers sisters became ill with Alzheimers. She was in her middle 40s, and had a very young daughter. Her husband had died not long before, and my parents took in Linda and raised her as their 9th child. She grew up to be self sufficient and responsible as well.
LeRoy was a competent, well rounded, man. Educated, yet at home in the woods; patriotic, yet devoted to limited government; ethical, but aware of the realities of the world, he could rebuild a tractor engine in a shed in the middle of winter, build a barn or a house, shoot a running deer at 200 yards, give comfort to a mourning congregation, perform the mathematics necessary to show the margin of error in miles of road survey, effectively run a meeting or an organization or a political campaign. One of his enthusiasms was fly fishing for trout on the Namekagon.
He retired from the State in 1979. During the next 27 years, he and my mother became world travelers. That visited Europe, Panama, and Alaska several times. He spent considerable time fishing, and a bit serving in local political office. He read avidly, and became a competent cook when my Mother could no longer do so. He was an avid reader who enjoyed history, biographies, and westerns.
In the church, He was a devout Christian, and raised his entire family as Christians. He devoted considerable time, money, and energy to the church, serving as an elder, Sunday School Teacher, and Bible Study member. Long after he had retired from the State, as an elder, he disagreed with the latest pastor who had come to minister to the congregation. The new pastor had asked for a considerable raise, claiming that he needed it to be able to save enough money to put his children through college. LeRoy disagreed, and said that the pastor should not be paid a great deal more than his parishioners made. When LeRoy refused to back down from his position, the pastor convinced enough of the elders that LeRoy was heretical, and that he should be excommunicated from the church. He told me later that he could have accepted that, but that it was the decision to excommunicate his wife and daughter as well, simply because of their connection to him, that made him examine a lifetime of faith in the church. Thus he found himself, in his late 70s, cut free from the church that he had been devoted to for his entire life.
This caused a profound self examination of his religious beliefs. I had left the church decades earlier, not with any rancor, but simply because I could not find the faith to believe in a literal bible. As LeRoy had ample time available to study, he devoted considerable time to studying religion, Christianity, and Lutheranism. In the end he became what I would call a Deist. He believed in God, but not in organized religion. It did not change the way that he interacted with the world.
As the years took their toll, he continued to walk in the woods (he usually carried a pistol because the bears had become so common), fly fish, and make his own wood supply. He remained vigorous past his 87th birthday. In his 87th year, a stroke laid him low. He suffered from aphasia and had to use a walker as an aid to walk. Recovery was slow, but a little after a year after the stroke, I noticed considerable improvement in his speech and ability to move about on his own.
Death came in his 88th year, September 17th, 2006, at 12:16. I had been on the telephone with him only a minute before, and was having a hard time understanding him. I thought perhaps it was a bad connection. My brother got on the phone, and moments later, told me that he had collapsed. Within a minute or two, he was gone.
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, three sons, five daughters, fourteen grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and innumerable friends and colleagues.
He will be missed.
My apologies to those who think vanities are out of place on Freerepublic. I wanted to write a tribute to the man who had the greatest influence on my life, and I wanted it to last. Freerepublic seemed the obvious choice.
Sorry for you loss. Prayers for your family.
Prayers for a good man.
A very nice tribute. I felt the same way about my Grandpa. I miss him every day.
God Bless and Keep your family during this time.
Thank you for a sharing this wonderful story! My very deepest sympathies to you and your family.
Thanks for sharing. May the Master comfort you and your's.
Thanks for sharing that great story - it is a good reminder of the hardships and challenges all generations have faced - we need to have the same quiet determination and optimistic will that your father's story illustrates.
Thank you for allowing us a glimpse in to a great mans life. You have honored his life.
God blessed your Dad! God blessed you by giving him to you as a Father. And God may bless us all by allowing us to return to our roots as we reach our retirement! In that way, maybe we can inspire our children as we live out our retirement as our Fathers would have wished it!
And as it seemed to apply to so many others.
Ergo the name: Greatest generation.
They united in spite of some serious political differences to weed out evil.
And many many paid the ultimate price, and so did not have, or did not live to see, a next generation.
I've tried mightily to live up to my father's example, and with only some small success.
You have my deepest sympathy for the loss of yours.
My condolences for your loss.
There is no need for you to apologize.
Prayers for you and the Family.
Hang in there, I know from personal experience that the pain will dwindle over time, but never go away.
And he lived near Hayward?
What beautiful country!
I've fortunate enough to have visited a couple times a fishing lodge on a lake near there, Spider Lake I think it is, to go Muskie fishing in the fall. Most of what I remember of Hayward is some good old-time bars, friendly people - the sort of place Hemingway would have loved!
Im so sorry, he was a Great American, and so are you pal.
Read every word. Thank you for sharing.
Please post your replies to marktwain
Rest in Peace
marktwain, My prayers go up for all who now mourn the passing of your father.
If you want on/off my prayer ping list, please let me know. All requests happily honored.
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