Remembering George King

Last month my grandfather George King passed away at 91 years old. After a stroke and a series of "mini-strokes" he died in his sleep on Tuesday morning. He'd hoped to make it out of the rehabilitation center but had only made it home for a few visits, having gone home for the afternoon the previous Sunday.

I was asked to speak about him at the memorial service and this is what I had to say:

On behalf of George's grandchildren Jessica, Jeff, Emily, Jen, Meredith, Jon, Ryan, Sam and Jake, I'd like to thank you for coming today. I think all of us grandchildren have our own memories of George, whether it was a hike in the backyard or a talk at a family function. Even though he was quiet, he always looked back at us as if he was taking everything in and would recall it all later on in the day. He said few words but made them count.

For me, grandpa always wanted to talk about baseball. The last time I saw him one of the first things he asked me was how I thought the Red Sox were doing this year. He said none of the people at the facility liked baseball and he needed someone to talk about it. As a little kid, he'd ask me if I was a Yankee fan "still"… I think he gave up that question when I was a teenager… but he still knew I appreciated the game. He'd talk about players, current and past, and what he thought of them. You had a prod him a bit to talk about his athletic career. Every now and then, something would turn up at the house as a reminder… the press-clipping from his All-American football recognition… his minor league baseball statistics… hitting .250 as a pitcher… or a box score of a high-school no-hitter. If you kept him talking, he'd give you a better story, like the time Red Ruffing was talking to him as a coach and told him to take every advantage that he could, how Ruffing had thrown the second game of a doubleheader from about 5 feet in front of the mound and never been caught. It took me 30 years to get that story out of him and he told me with a wry smile as he said it. He also shared insightful stories about his time in Brazil during WWII and about our family history as I started to research genealogy. 

I'm sure all of us grandchildren have stories like this, from a quiet man they'd known their whole life but who was always there, although they probably don't all have to do with baseball. For us grandchildren, George has been there our whole lives, as long as we can remember. When I came to the house as we planned the memorial services, I walked into the living room and I was the only one there and Doris, my grandmother, asked me to take a seat. I saw grandpa's recliner empty and it set in that he was gone. I can't think of a time in my life that there wasn't a recliner in that same spot in the living room where grandpa would be sitting when I came in. One of his nephews told me that George was a "king among men" and to me, that made that seat was his thrown. Sometimes grandma had to tell him to get up to greet us; grandpa liked his time to himself, but he would always greet us pleasantly when we saw him.

I can imagine our next family function when we all sit at the table and the chair at the head of the table is empty and how we'll all think of those conversations we had with grandpa. We will always miss him and love him.

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