"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Lessons from my father

By on May 30, 2018 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments



By Jim Brown, M.D.

I have been thinking about my father a lot recently.

We recently downsized to a smaller home. In that process I was surprised to find several letters from my Dad that he had written to me during World War II after he had been drafted into the U.S. Navy.

He was advising me, then about 5 years old, how to help my mom including carrying out the ashes every day (homes were heated by coal in those days).

He also wrote several letters to me much later at how happy he was that I was engaged to Lynn who was the apple of his eye. He advised me on the importance of honoring our wives.

I learned from him through his example of generosity.

When I was younger it was hard for me to understand it since he grew up with so little. His mother died when he was 15 and his father who had suffered from the encephalitis epidemic in our country in the early 1900s unfortunately ended up with enough brain damage or possibly dementia that his father was put in a Michigan State mental hospital where he spent the rest of his life.

Various relatives took in my father’s younger siblings but since my Dad was 16 he was not taken and was left on his own. This was in the middle of the Great Depression.

He found a widow in his small town of Napoleon, Michigan who took him in for his last two years of high school in exchange for his taking care of her yard, the garden, snow shoveling and putting coal in the furnace and taking out the ashes every day in the winter.

After high school he went to Detroit and found a job in the shoe department at the J.L. Hudson, where he later met my mother who was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants. My Dad said he felt he was doing pretty well making $16 a week then during the Depression.

After WW II our family and my mother’s sister’s family all moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., at the urging of their brother, a Methodist Minister in Beresford, S.D.

My Dad started a shoe store. He also started taking correspondent courses from the Moody Bible Institute and eventually became a Lay Pastor and served the Harrisburg Methodist Church, 15 miles from Sioux Falls, for 14 years.

He didn’t keep the meager salary he was paid and gave it all back to the church as well as 10 percent of any income no matter how meager it was.

His shoe store was open six days a week including being open to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. He worked longer hours and harder than I ever did in my career.

Despite his challenges, I never heard him complain or show anger. He was a rarity indeed.

Dr. Jim Brown is a regular columnist in The Good Life and a retired gastroenterologist who practiced for 38 years in the Wenatchee area.

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