I wrote briefly on it two weeks ago when it would have been his birthday and last week, the Roth and Link families suffered two more losses. My heart and prayers continue to go out to all of those who still grieve because, it’s been thirteen years for me and I still think about my “gramps”.
I could type a novel about all of my great memories at gram ( Eileen) and gramps house, but I won’t. Instead, I will reflect on a few things that have really stuck with me and continue to drive me today.
1. Gramps understood the vital role of family. Raising eight children in a three bedroom house, he worked his ass off to send all eight of them to St. Mary’s Central Catholic School. If family was important, the only thing that was more important was his faith. Faith and family are two things that keep families together, but even more importantly, they help family members grow in faith and in love. I hope I can set the same example some day.
2. Gramps was funny. Now, humor is relative, but all of the Roth men have the same sense of humor. I think the adjective that best describes it is ridiculous. Regardless, he was always ready with a joke or a funny song and some might say he had his own vocabulary. Some of my cousins have even honored him by naming some of their homebrew beers after his “made up” words. Laughter is a gift and gramps gave of it freely and often.
3. Gramps was a fighter. All of us grand children knew that our grandpa had served in the Navy and some of us knew he won the Most Handsome Sailor award while serving, but I don’t think too many of us knew how he fought a different battle ever single day of his life until after he passed. This is probably one of the things I thought about the most when we lost him. What a guy. To overcome what he did, raise eight amazing children and create such a long lasting legacy is quite a feat and he did a hell of a job.
Lastly, and I don’t think I need a number for this one; Gramps left this world for the next fighting the entire time. Thirteen years ago was a particularly important day for the Roth/Opfer family as my cousins were in the Ohio State Wrestling Finals. One was going for his fourth State Title which had only been done ten times before (I think that’s right) and the other was wrestling immediately after his brother and going for his first.
Now, it was no mystery that gramps was sick because in all of his years, this was the first State Wrestling Tournament he had missed that he had a child or relative competing in. He was there when my uncle made it and he was there when my dad ( Jude Roth ) won it. He was there for Jared Opfer’s first title and he was so sick in 1999 that he couldn’t be there when Jared and Drew Opfer won it together.
Can you imagine it? Two brothers winning state titles together? We were extremely proud of Jared and Drew, for many of us, it was like we won the title. A ton of our family was in Columbus to witness the event and there probably wasn’t a dry eye among any of us after Drew’s hand was raised. Tears of joy, hugs, pats on the back, years of hard work realized and complete happiness. Now, if you know anything about the State Wrestling Tournament, once you win in the Finals, you are escorted all over the place for interviews and pictures and award ceremonies and then you finally get to come to see your fans. When the brothers and their parents made their way to the SMCC section, half of us were crying tears of joy and a handful were huddled together in prayer and shedding tears of grief.
The message traveled through our family, but it was through my aunt Julie, uncle Ed and father who received the news first. I can’t even imagine the emotional rollercoaster the Opfer’s went through in a 15 minute time period, but I know it couldn’t have been easy. My sister, mother and I soon learned the news and our tears of joy quickly transformed.
While we were stricken by our grief, but we quickly realized that while something terrible had just occurred, something as equally amazing had also happened. My grandpa’s official time of death occurred shortly after Drew’s hand was raised as a State Champion of Ohio. Grandpa Roth went out with a fight. I won’t pretend to know how he knew that Drew and Jared had both achieved their dreams of winning State Championships together, but what happened that day was more than a coincidence. Dale “Butch” Roth fought for every second to make sure he was on this earth when that moment happened and now, when I look back thirteen years later, I smile as I type this sentence.
Grandpa, I hope they have WordPress in Heaven, because I want you to know how many people’s lives you touched. I want you to know how proud I am to bear your namesake. I want you to know how many other people will read this blog and will feel some of the same things I feel. You were one of a kind and all of those you left behind were left with an example of what it takes and means to be a man. You left us with memories and you left us with a blueprint for how to live a life fulfilled.