Today, I wish to pay tribute to a most remarkable, one-of-a-kind fellow. I am related to him through marriage, and as such have only known him for a little under five years now, but with a personality as ebullient as his, that's more than enough time for him to create a lasting impression. I'm speaking of my grandpa-in-law, Roger Haas.
|Roger with his first great-grandchild, Ruby, at Thanksgiving 2010|
The next most important thing, leading out of the first, is that Roger places a very high value on knowing where he comes from, and having his descendants know their heritage. He happens to be of German from Russia descent, and is currently the president of the Germans from Russia of Oregon and Washington (GROW) club. GROW meets monthly for a time of informal learning (a speaker, video, or other presentation on a topic of interest to those of German from Russia descent) and fellowship. Folks gather from all over the Portland/Washington area for these events. We have been going since 2010, and are constantly disrupting the decorum with our small children. Roger, however, doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he rejoices that young people are learning about this very specific ethnic group and the important agronomic role they played, first in Germany, then Russia, and then in the midwest of America, where many of them emigrated. Most of the people in the group were born in the Dakotas to hard-working pioneer families. Roger was no exception: he was born on a homestead near a tiny town in southern central North Dakota called Zeeland. This past summer he hosted a large reunion of sorts there, and we made the pilgrimage out to Zeeland to see the new headstone that Roger had commissioned for his grandmother (who hitherto had lain in repose without a proper headstone to identify her) and also the headstone that he had ready for him and his wife, so that they can be interred someday in the same cemetery.
I had never been out to that part of the country, and going there gave me a new appreciation for another feature of Roger's I admire: his diligence.
I found this quotation in a Germans from Russia Heritage Society newsletter to which Roger has subscribed us, and it sums him up rather perfectly.
"Like their ancestors, this generation of relocated German-Russians…lived up to the reputation described by French writer Jacques Riviere, who wrote that, 'Work is not to the German the painful obligation and punishment which it often is others…They go into it with their whole hearts, as if yielding to a powerful mania, and fall back into work as others fall back into sin.'" (article by Madison Frame)
That quotation couldn't be truer of Roger. Of course, he's "retired"…but don't let that fool you. He never stops working, ever. If he's not keeping up his rental properties, selling firewood, maintaining his tree farm out in Amboy, Washington, or doing some other physical upkeep around his own property, then he's doing genealogical research, helping out at church, running GROW, keeping up with events in the the local German American Society and a few other Germans from Russia heritage groups (did you know there were more than one? I certainly didn't, before meeting him), corresponding with far flung family, and managing his extensive North Dakota property from his Portland home. I'm sure there are more things that he is doing, but he fits so much into a day it isn't even funny. Even his "vacations" are full of work. He and his wife Roberta usually spend a few weeks each summer in North Dakota, but it is not a time of leisure. Roger is constantly making repairs to the property and taking care of the place. I have not yet ascertained if there is anything that Roger does for leisure besides working…except perhaps spending time with family. As Roger says (in German), "Work makes life sweet." And I'm not just talking about "his life's work" or a special passion. Any work is his life's work! Work and family make him joyful.
|Just a typical day of "vacation" for Roger|
Roger and his wife, like many of their generation, are all for living economically. My generation is not going to be known for "living within our means," and certainly not for "living beneath our means." Like many who have lived through the Depression (and in the hardscrabble Dakota farm life to boot), Roger and Roberta know the value of saving and being frugal. Although they are at a time in life when our culture can't even fathom the need to save money and be frugal, Roger and Roberta are still models of financial prudence. They are also generous to those in need.
|"Great-Grandpa Roger" with Max on Max's first birthday, March 25, 2013|
Roger and his wife have truly taught their daughters and their grandchildren many great traits. Roger particularly took my husband under his wing as a young teen, and Allen learned so many of Roger's good traits during his formative years. Allen's work ethic, his willingness to do any job--no matter how unglamorous or physically exhausting--to support our family are chiefly inherited from Roger, I believe. My husband also takes after Roger in his ingenuity and his interest in refurbishing or reinventing things to suit our needs. Although I don't think that Roger does much in the way of perusing the free section on Craigslist to find things to resell or refurbish (as Allen does), I bet that he would have in his younger years had that technology been available.
|Great-Grandma Roberta, Grandma Karla, and Great-Grandpa Roger visiting Ben, the newest addition to the family, October 2013|
I am sure that my husband would not be the man he is today without the positive influence that Roger has been in his life. Roger was always there for him, but especially at a time when Allen most needed a good male role model in his life. That alone is reason enough for me to be grateful to Roger, but I'm grateful for the way he has welcomed me into the family, encouraged me, and been so kind to me and my children. Roger, thank you for being a true patriarch who models hard work, self-sacrifice, and putting family first.