Eulogy of Walter Zaremba
January 1, 1903 - May 6, 1992

St. Louis Catholic Church, Floodwood, Minnesota
May 11, 1992

I'd like to share some remembrances of Grandpa Walter with you. I'm sure he'd be pleased to see all of your here today. Grandpa could be a stubborn man, and maybe he just got fed up with not being able to go fishing anymore, so he decided his funeral would be on the opening day of fishing season so we'd all miss it as well.

Many examples of his stubborness were relayed to me during the last day. I found out that Grandpa used to smoke cigarettes. After WWII, he vowed that if the cigarette tax went up, he would quit smoking. The day the tax increased, Walter had smoked his last cigarette.

I remember visiting Grandpa, driving down the snowy farm drive, the house dark, only to come into the house and find grandpa lying on the couch, huddled under 2-3 blankets, and wearing a stocking cap. If there was a way to set an automatic thermostat below 50 degrees, Walter would have done it.

He installed an automatic milking system for the dairy cattle, but never turned it on. Maybe he couldn't bear to see the electric meter spin any faster. Yes, Grandpa was thrifty - one pot of borscht or ham soup would feed him for a week.

As Father Doyle pointed out last night during the rosary, it is the love and compassion of everyday people - day in and day out - that is a manifestation of God's love.

There are many things his children remember about Walter:

  • Going fishing on the banks of the river on sunny summer afternoons;
  • Going to the movies every Wednesday and Saturday night;
  • Calling them into the hayloft to see a newly discovered batch of kittens;
  • Getting  rides on the tractor and hay wagon during haying season;
  • Coming back into the house with a handful of cowslips for Grandma Vicky after herding the cows back into the barn for milking
  • Buying nickel ice cream cones every time he brought the cream into town - always ice cream -never popsicles since they were "no good" for you;
  • Taking trips to Chicago to visit the museums and relatives.

One of his favorite past-times was sitting in a rocking chair and reading. On his first entry into the United States, he delighted in sitting in the first rocking chair he had ever seen. Even in the rest home, you had to lock the wheels on his chair or he'd try to rock and end up rolling away.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention polka dancing. I'm sure Webster's dictionary must use Grandpa's name for some part of the definition of polka. He played accordion, one with "Zaremba" embedded with rhinestones - but he loved to dance. He had the energy of people half his age. He wasn't picky about his polka partners. If no women or children had enough energy to dance with him Grandpa would be creative. He's been known to put on a woman's wig and polka with a man - I think Paul Ruzynski can supply more details about Grandpa's polka step than I can. For Grandpa's 25th wedding anniversary, the hay loft in the barn was converted into a polka hall. The "Polka King" knew all the polka bands, knew the exact minute polka time came on the radio, and always had a tape or record handy.

So much of what we do and who we are comes down to us through our ancestors. Grandpa Walter and I live in vastly different times. TV and indoor plumbing were things that came to Grandpa during the last half of his life. To him, a mouse was a furry creature to keep out of the pantry, not something to click and operate a computer with. Despite these changes, I find myself doing many of the same things he did:

  • I get excited about canning pears, peaches and cherries - especially when a lug of fruit is on sale;
  • I like to fish and hope that I can still row up a river at 70;
  •  Harvesting wild berries is a thrill - even though I'm unable to pick a gallon bucket without mixing in leaves, twigs, and green berries like Grandpa could;
  • Whenever I hear an accordion in a folk or rock ban, my ears perk up;
  • I cook "one-pot meals" and eat them for up to two days
  • I love to read.

I find myself to be richer for having these traits I recollect in my grandfather. Today, I wish we would remember our own memories of Walter and treasure the gift of life as he did.

He could never quite put himself to butcher a cow, or even a chicken, and the youngest grandchild, or great-grandchild seemed to be his favorite. He greeted the news of new life with tears of happiness. 

With Grandpa's passing brings a close to one loop of the great circle of life. With death comes new life, as evidenced by the miracle of spring and the entry of Grandpa's 2nd great-grandchild, Whitney Jo just a short time before his death. May we all live long enough to see our grandchildren's children. 

It is only appropriate that I thank you all for coming, as grandpa always did. So thank you. Most of all, I'd like to thank Grandpa Walter for coming and sharing his 89 years with us. Thank you, Grandpa.