Happy Birthday, Grandpa. Though you went to a better place in 1999, I think of you everyday. You taught me many things in life. Especially how to live and laugh.
This day, the anniversary of your birth, sparks many memories for me. Many Christmas memories: You and Grandma would spend several months with us around the holidays. You were there for many of my birthday celebrations. You wrote me many letters and your handwriting was so good I thought that Grandma was doing the writing. I didn’t find out until many years later when I sat at your desk one day. You introduced me to two way radio broadcasting.
I treasure how fortunate I was to have you teach me to fish. Spending summer moments driving me out to that special pond, where we would drop our lines into the water. The first several times, it was a line tied to a bamboo poles. The thrill I got when landing that “huge” bluegill. And as I grew older, you taught me to cast which we would do from the side of the rowboat. Bringing a largemouth bass into the boat was the type of experience I would relate in the next year’s “How I spent my summer vacation” theme paper. Also, there is the memory of your guidance on the proper way to clean a fish. Something I have carried with me throughout my life.
Another treasured memory was the time that we built a guitar amplifier. You taught me patience to separate all those little electronic pieces into bins to get them all organized. You taught me to read those little colored lines on the resistors to determine their resistance. You taught me to solder those pieces to a circuit board, and in the end put everything together into a working appliance that I could plug my guitar into; something that gave me many years of pleasure. And by allowing me to pay you for the appliance in monthly payments, you taught me how to save when you returned the money to me at the end of our contract.
I remember the stories you used to tell. Like the one about the time as a youngster driving the delivery truck for your father’s store you rigged the pedals and steering wheel to work from the passenger’s side, and put your dog on the drivers side with his paws on the wheel. And then you drove around town that way. Much to the chagrin of those people who took in the sight and reported you to your Dad. Life back then was such that you could actually pull that off without creating some major lawsuit or something.
One special memory that I will keep with me always is the Thanksgiving gathering, it may have been your last, where you told of a special time in your small town. You were telling the story after suffering at least one stroke, so you didn’t really put many words together any more. But not this time. You told the story of the time that electricity first came to a home in Rio Grande and what it was like to see, and about all the people that came from miles around to see the miracle. The story was wonderful to hear, and we were all fortunate to hear you tell it.
Then there is the story that you never told me. The one I found out about at the time of your death. Your service in WWII. I opened the paper the morning of your service and saw the headline: The Fighting Dentist Dead at 93. I read on. “Dr. William Kenneth Welker got his nickname from his service in the Army in World War II — including battles on Guadalcanal, Fiji and the Philippines. He died Monday at First Community Village in Columbus at age 93.” …Welker was inducted into the Army in 1940, and his son said his father told many stories about his World War II battles in the South Pacific, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star, Combat Medical Badge and Silver Star.
“It was in one of those battles that all the medical officers had been either killed or injured, and so Dad was the only one performing surgery, which dentists don’t normally do,” he said. “An anesthesiologist looked at him and said, ‘That’s poor handiwork.’
“Dad got a little riled up until he realized he was pointing at three unexploded Japanese mortars right there in the tent.”
Welker served in the 147th Infantry of the Ohio 37th Division.”
Grandpa, the many things you were to me, and I never realized your war record until your death. When “Taps” was played at your interment it was a tremendously emotional moment for me. Thank you so much for your service, and for the lessons of life that you taught me.