As Father’s Day approaches this year, I have been reflecting on the life and legacy of my grandfather, Emil, who passed away at the age of 95 earlier this year. I spent more of my life with him than any of my other grandparents, giving me a deeper understanding of the wisdom he shared and the ways he shaped the character and personalities of my family.

Grandpa wasn’t outwardly affectionate; I am not sure I ever remember seeing him hug or show public affection to anyone. He showed love by working hard to support his family; he spent more than 40 years working six days a week on rotating shifts at the local paper mill and milking 40 to 50 head of cattle twice a day. He showed support to his grandchildren through generosity by buying 4-H and FFA project animals, getting us show supplies or making contributions to fund experiences that expanded our educations and broadened our horizons.

He didn’t give pep talks, preach life lessons or try to inspire by speech, but his ability to persevere and overcome obstacles inspires me. He began life in a home where only German was spoken. Though he and his siblings learned English at school, his mother never did. He and his brothers took responsibilities for running the farm at a young age because his father suffered injuries in World War I that prevented him from providing for the family. He left high school to serve in the Navy at the end of World War II and eventually completed his education after he returned from the service. At the age of 92, he crawled 150 yards with a broken hip after rolling his ATV, and instead of letting the injuries conquer him, he waited out his sentence of rehab at the nursing facility without complaint until he was healed enough to return home.  

Grandpa had a quiet devotion to the important things in life. He visited his wife of 60 years every single day for several years when she moved into a nursing home at the end of her life even though he remained at home to continue running the farm. He never spoke about religion but attended church every Sunday, even after my grandmother passed away, until his health prevented him and he had to listen to the service on the radio. 

He showed patriotism was important, and he was proud to be a member of the American Legion for 70-plus years. The Honor Flight to Washington DC in 2011 was the trip of a lifetime for him, and he loved to share stories and pictures from the trip. At the age of 94 he participated in the Dream Flight and took a ride in a WWII biplane.

He cared about making a good impression and showing respect. Grandpa showed tremendous pride that our family dressed formally for grandma’s funeral because he thought too few people show that kind of care and effort anymore. My cousin recounted how, in the age of cell phones, he always left her very formal voicemails stating, “Hello, Jenna. This is your grandfather, Emil Mundt…”

My grandfather passed along more than the genes for bushy eyebrows and having a big sweet tooth to his children and grandchildren. His values of love, service, generosity, hard work, dedication, pride and high standards are a legacy that live on in me and my family members.

Happy Father’s Day and thank you to all the men who are modeling important values and showing the value of character in life.