My Grandpa Hoover (Daniel A. Hoover) has always been a hero to me. At first it was because he created a steel business that had a big warehouse, trucks, and large machinery. From an early age I believed I could do almost anything, in part because Grandpa built Hoover Steel, Inc. With time my Grandpa maintained his hero status with other things. He knew a lot about rocks and gems. He invented stuff. He was generous. He was always curious about the world around him. He loved my Grandma and said so freely. He adored my Grandma. All these things made my Grandpa a hero.
Grandpa did not have an easy life. He overcame adversity and ensured that his family looked different than the one he came from. He did not dwell in the past. In hindsight, I see that he spoke mostly of the present and future. Grandpa saw a bright future for his kids and grandkids.
I remember Grandpa paying me $5.00 to accompany him on trips to the steel mill when I was young. We would leave early in the morning in the tractor trailer. During most of the trip we would ride in silence, but conversations would pop up at various times, often relating to steel or what I was learning in school. We would stop for lunch at a roadside restaurant, and without fail Grandpa would introduce me to everyone who would listen. I always ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (either a grilled cheese sandwich or BLT), and Grandpa seemed to appreciate that fact.
Grandpa liked to hire his grandkids to do little tasks. He was always generous about the payment, but he only paid when the job was fully completed. It was his way of ensuring that we had a good work ethic and associated work with a reward. As a little guy I swept floors, took garbage to the dumpster, weed-whacked brush, mulched gardens, shucked corn, washed trucks, organized rocks, pulled weeds, fed dogs, and did all sorts of odd jobs. My work ethic was shaped by many factors, but Grandpa definitely contributed.
As I got older my conversations with my Grandfather changed. He would talk to me about business opportunities. When I began working at a nursery as a teenager, he thought growing shrubs shaped like letters was a great market to target because plants are not regulated like billboards. By the time I reached graduate school he was mostly focused on whether I was going to find a wife and science. The comments about a wife were lighthearted. He never pushed the topic. The science questions were more persistent. He had questions about tomato growth. He wanted to know why some tomatoes were good and others bad, or what was causing a particular disease. He was intrigued by the parts of a tomato, particularly the placental tissue in the mesocarp, and he wondered if some physical characteristics were associated with taste quality. Grandpa never made it to high school; I think he would have loved the opportunity to study science at a university. I have treasured my high school, undergraduate, and graduate education because I know that it is a privilege not everyone is afforded. I’m grateful for the curiosity and love of learning that my Grandfather passed on to me. And back to the wife question, when I introduced Pam to my Grandpa he told me he approved.
Grandpa ran the race set before him. He loved Jesus, loved his family, and he loved others. I’m proud to call him my Grandfather. I’ll miss you Grandpa—thanks for being you.
I found out my Grandpa passed away as I was walking to teach my Nursery Crop Production class. I had just mentioned him in the previous class, due to his belief that shrubs shaped like letters were an untapped, rich market. The latter part of this week I’ve been a bit distracted as I processed my Grandpa’s passing and tried to decide if I would make a trip back east for the funeral. In the end I decided to stay in California and write this tribute to him. I might be wrong, but I think the fact that one of his grandsons will be teaching a college statistics class during his burial ceremony would have made him happy–he loved learning and education.
Grandpa and Grandma Hoover on the day Pam and I got married.
Grandpa and Grandma with me on Christmas, 2013.
Grandpa with me when I was very young.
Grandpa and Grandma in 1953.
Grandma and Grandpa at the stage of life where I have the most vivid memories.