My grandfather, James Warren Keogh, was in many was a mysterious man. Quiet and soft spoken he was never one to talk much about himself. And when he died last week at the good old age of 90, a lot of the stories I wanted to hear about his life went to his grave.
A World War II vet, Grandpa served in the Pacific alongside his brother Jack. He fought in the battle of Iwo Jima but like most men of his generation never really talked about his experience. When I was about 10 I stumbled on an old army sack filled with medals including a Bronze Star and a tattered Rising Sun Flag. I asked my dad about what I had found and he couldn’t tell me anything about how Grandpa got them.
Though he didn’t talk much about the war, Grandpa was always willing to tell stories about growing up in Michigan and attending Detroit Tigers games as a young man. He saw greats like Joe DaMaggio and Ted Williams play. He loved playing baseball and his love of the game carried over to his old age where he played on softball teams into his late 70’s before the games finally became to physically difficult to participate.
Grandpa spent his professional careers working as a geologist for the federal government. He could tell you anything and everything about rocks. He liked rocks so much that he xeriscaped his yard with rocks and native Colorado plants. You always spot his house a mile away because it was the only one in Lakewood without any grass in the front yard.
Grandpa was always generous with time and enjoyed having grandkids (and, later great-grandkids) around. When I was around 8 years old, I flew out by myself to spend a week with him in Denver. It was the trip of a lifetime. We spent the week hiking in the mountains west of town, going to natural history museums, eating at Casa Bonita, watching him play softball, and attending my first (and only) Denver Broncos game. A couple years ago when Marathon Girl and I took the kids on a family vacation to Denver, he was more than happy to spend as much time as possible with our family and his great-grandkids.
Grandpa is now with his brother, Jack, and other family members. And though he’s in a better place, his living legacy includes six children and tons of grandkids and great-grandkids. Most will be there to say one final goodbye this week Denver. Maybe, just maybe, we can all piece together parts of his life that remained a mystery to many of us. Even if that never happens, his kind, gentle influence will still continue to live on through his family.
See you next life, Grandpa. Maybe then you'll tell me some of those stories I always wanted to hear.