A Remarkable Man
There are people in the world set on earth to help others navigate their lives, ease their pain, and step in where others don’t. In one month I’ve lost two people who shaped my life like no others. My grandmother I’ve written about, and now it’s Don’s – or Pops, or Dad’s turn. I called him Dad.
I met one of his sons, Scott, in nursery school when we were four. Through the years we were friends, but never so more as in middle and high school and through the rest of our lives. I started hanging around the Stragier house in the room with the large couch and chairs that were filled with the comings and goings of kids like myself looking for some sort of refuge, a solid home, and a Mom and Dad they could talk to. There was always great conversation, food, drinks, and a warm place at the table. Taco nights were legendary.
Dad was a physical therapist, which, I’m sure, had a lot to do with the fact that he had polio as a child that took away the strength of his legs. For years he walked with a simple crutch, sometimes refusing one altogether. He was a strong man, made from Alaskan stock. I’ll always remember the bold drawings of regal Huskie dogs in the Stragier den, and later in their other homes. Their strength and beauty looked down on all of us, and reminded us of nature’s bounty and resilience and where Dad came from.
Dad opened up his practice to many, many kids in the various sports played through school and beyond. He donated his equipment, his advice, and his techniques to relieve kids of their pain. I wasn’t much into high school sports, except for track and field, and I remember him being at practically every one of my meets chastising me for not giving my all, or congratulating me for a good run. My own father never made a single meet. Mom and Dad had a basic tenet they instilled in their children – that they must be involved in school, not just scholastics, but the events in school that would shape their lives forever. Their sons have all been successful in their careers, and deeply involved in their own children’s lives as a result. Being an honorary son in their family has truly been special, and helped me through some of my most challenging years growing up and beyond.
There are many of us who feel as I do. Many who spent hours in the Stragier den on Charlinda enjoying the warmth of the family. And while families separate and go their own ways, have their own challenges and triumphs, and move to distant places, it’s easy to let time slip away and not connect. Don loved the beauty of the Northwest, and wanted to live out his days there. He loved the trees, water and air that sometimes is imbued with a clarity that’s not found many places. Unfortunately, his body betrayed him and he spent the better part of his years there in a wheelchair. But it did not stop him. His joy at rolling through the parks, and along the lake and sound was evident, even though he missed his children and grandchildren.
His marriage to Ann (Mom) was 55 years strong, her daily care of him saintly. She bore the hurt and difficulty of caring for him lightly for so many years. She wanted nothing more than to be with her children and Don and finally, when they moved back down to be near them, when the combination of community and family came together to help them in their new home, Pop began to suffer more hardship. And now Dad is free of his body, but his spirit is most likely still helping us make our way through life, with a slight touch to the shoulder, a remembered philosophy, or story. He had a million stories.
My involvement in the Stragier family goes back nearly fifty years – so many memories – so many wonderful hours spent with Mom and Dad, and among the pack that are the Stragiers. His character and story will become larger than life now – just as he was when he was among us.