A Tough Negotiator, But a Softy Too!

One of my Dad's favorite stories about Poppop - - and his toughness as a business- man - - came about when the two of them were walking toward the diner one morning and a building subcontractor ran out to them, and nearly falling onto his hands and knees feverishly implored Poppop to "please take my bid on your project, I really need the work!" Poppop immediately responded, "Your bid is too high. You need to cut it by 20%!". As the rejected sub walked away deflated, my Dad asked, "Who was that?", to which Poppop merely shrugged and said, "I have no idea!"

But, Poppop loved his family, was a fantastic, generous, caring grandfather and treated many others who he knew and sold homes to as part of his family as well.

Every Saturday he took us grandchildren to the diner for breakfast, proudly showing us off, then to the movies (Vineland was so small it had only one theatre, almost always playing a Disney movie!). Poppop was never much of a movie fan himself but he delighted in treating his grandchildren. I used to laugh inside about how Poppop would fall asleep immediately after the theater lights went down and the movie started, then wake up as soon as the lights came on and blurt out, "Wasn't that a terrific movie!". Our fun day with Poppop wasn't over. After the show, Poppop would take us to "John's Bargain Store", what was referred to then as a "Five and Dime" with super cheap discount merchandise, where he gave each of us fifty cents to buy the toy of our choice (way back in the early 60's, we felt like millionaires with fifty cents to spend!). We usually ended our day with Poppop stopping at a custard stand on the way home. Poppop always knew how to have a good time!

Whenever we went around the town with Poppop, we noticed how people appeared to love him and went out of their way to say hello to him. He always had a big smile and usually a good joke for them in return! I had no idea of how many town folk knew him and cared about him until later at his funeral, which reputedly drew one of the biggest groups of mourners of any other such procession in Vineland history!

After Poppop's passing, I learned so much more about how he had positively impacted peoples' lives through the communities he built and his great generosity. I'll never for- get, one time I was at a local car dealership and a salesman came running up to me and said, "I want to tell you something about your grandfather. He saved my life!" The man then became teary-eyed as he continued on in a broken voice to explain how he had been sick and out of work for over two years, couldn't pay the mortgage on the home he had bought from Poppop, and Poppop never said a word to him asking him for the money or tried to evict him, along with his wife and kids, and instead Poppop periodically stopped by to see if he was okay - - and that he was able to eventually find work and pay Poppop back, and still lives in the same house today!

Poppop Did Have His Faults Too

Well, we all do, and I need not detail them here. But I do recall one fault I have to mention. Poppop was a terrible driver!

Poppop often drove without his hands on the steering wheel, which he preferred to cradle in his lap (remember those old, giant, "boat" wheels in early 60's cars?). His hands were instead engaged in clapping to the music he often blared too loudly from his dashboard radio. Speaking of his dashboard, before the days of "Post-Its", he taped different sized pieces of paper on it (and even on the wheel and rear view mirror) to remind him of tasks to be done, peoples' names, phone numbers and addresses - - so many of them that I, as a kid, could barely see out the front windshield!

And Poppop was always getting tickets for driving infractions. I recall once an officer stopping him, coming to his window, and explaining he had perpetrated a moving violation by not obeying the one-way street sign. Poppop immediately retorted, with a smile on his face and in his voice, "but officer, I was only going one way!" Fortunately for Poppop, my Dad was a local attorney, well-liked by the city judge, who always managed to get Poppop's tickets dismissed.

When I once asked Poppop why he was such a poor driver, he blamed it all on the driver's license test that hadn't properly prepared him to drive. "When I took the driver's test, I just had to drive the car across an open country field, go around a tree and come back without hitting the tree!". I suspect that in rural Vineland, New Jersey of the early 1950's, there's probably equal story- telling and truth in that!

Fisherman and Philosopher

Besides his fun-loving and joking side, his family man side, and his tough businessman side, Poppop was often deeply reflective, seeking to under- stand our greater existence.

He often did that while enjoying his favorite hobby, fishing. Poppop always carried in his car trunk a tackle box with lines, lures, hooks, weights, and "bobbers", along with poles and reels, a net meant to catch minnows for bait and a folding chair. Whenever we traveled about the countryside near a lake or stream, he would stop for a few minutes (seemingly unconcerned about where he was headed) and would start fishing. He was quite meticulous about it, so much so, that he actually won awards in fishing contests (I re- member him proudly displaying the pin he was awarded as champion of the Rainbow Lake Contest of 1961!). When I asked him why he loved fishing so much, he said there was a part of him that relished taking a chance, not knowing whether he would "hit the lottery with a big fish" and he equally en- joyed the quiet time to just observe the water and scenery and "think about the world".

Which leads me to my last memory of my beloved Poppop. The final time I spent with him was at his condo in South Florida, where he and my "Mommom" retired in their later years. Behind his condo property, there was a large inner coastal waterway where ships of all sizes passed throughout the day and night. Because of all this boat traffic, and churned up water, no one thought to fish there - - except, of course, my Poppop, who somehow actually caught fish there! I stood next to him, watching him cast his line and slowly, with deep deliberation, reel it back in. I asked, "Poppop, after all your years, if you learned one lesson, one understanding of the meaning of life, what would that be?" He looked to me, surprised that I had asked, and sounding as though he had been thinking about that very same thing said, "Everything you do in life, the good and the bad, comes back to you some- day."

I'll close with that profound observation, which I've also found to be true and a very helpful compass in leading my own life, along with one last thought. On this Father's Day, take the time to recount the stories of not only your dad but your other male ancestors, so those stories (and not just your estate's assets) can be a legacy that's passed down as a legacy and enjoyed by your loved ones, too.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.