Sunday, November 21, 2010

Always My Hero

Theodore A. Borsum
August 24, 1921 - November 10, 2010

It's very difficult to know where to begin with something like this. Just six weeks ago I lost a good friend and now my grandfather is gone. I'm not even sure I'm ready to write this, but at the same time I know it will be therapeutic. That's my hope, anyway.

My grandpa, known to most as Ted, was the primary influence on my outdoor passion. I have a cousin a year younger than me and a middle brother who is two years younger than me. As kids, we were the Three Musketeers. Our grandpa shared his love for the outdoors and shooting with us at a very young age. We spent many hours on the farm shooting and hunting. Grandpa watched over us as we shot paper targets, tin cans, clay pigeons, and groundhogs. He belonged to a trap and skeet club and would take us so we could see how the pro's did it.

Grandpa shooting from his handmade bench 

My grandfather was an expert at reloading ammunition. He did it all - shotgun shells, rifle cartridges, and pistol cartridges. In one area of the basement, there were work benches with loaders mounted on them and he showed us the proper methods for loading ammunition. As kids and teenagers, we weren't always patient enough to listen, but in the long run I learned a lot from those lessons.

My grandpa served in the Army Air Force during World War II as an aerial gunner and gunnery instructor. After leaving the service, he and my grandmother bought a farm and he later began working as a steel fabricator. He became a Project Engineer for two companies until he retired at the age of 75. He was the Project Engineer for the team responsible for developing the elevator system in the St. Louis Arch. My grandfather was one of those people who could envision something in his head and then make it with his own hands. He was an excellent steel and wood worker. The back of my grandparent's garage consists of a workshop where he brought many of his creations to life.

My grandfather in his workshop

My grandparent's farm comprises forty acres in lower Michigan. They bought the place long before I was born. To me, it's like the family homestead. I can't possibly convey the good times I've had there over the years. Grandpa worked the farm for a bit at first, but when he began his career as an engineer, the farm land itself was leased out to other farmers to work.

Grandpa on the ol' Allis Chalmers tractor

Shooting and woodworking weren't the only talents my grandfather possessed. He was also a small aircraft pilot. My brothers and I grew up in West Virginia after our father was given a job transfer from Michigan. I'll always remember Grandpa flying to WV and picking us up and flying us back to Michigan. He even let us take turns flying the plane. It was an awesome experience! It was definitely much faster than the usual eight hour drive.

My youngest brother with our grandfather

My grandfather was a very practical man. He was quiet, laid back, and never bragged. I never heard him raise his voice in anger. He would give you the shirt off his back and the last dollar in his pocket if you needed it. At the same time, he wasn't one to reward laziness. He worked hard, didn't complain, and expected the same from others. I'll always remember one occasion when us three boys had done quite a bit of shooting. We were always eager to send the lead down range, but usually not as quick to clean the guns or reload the ammo we had shot up. We were in the basement after the shooting session and doing a slacker's job of reloading ammo. I think Grandpa had been patient with us many times and decided we needed to get a bit more serious. When he walked in and saw that we were goofing off, in a stern voice he said, "You shoot a few, you reload a few". For him to use that tone with us, we knew he meant business. Yet, even then it wasn't out of anger.

Hunting in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

For many years, my grandparent's owned a cabin in northern Michigan. We made numerous trips to spend a few days there. Grandpa took us fishing, glassing for deer, and sometimes we'd drive to Lake Michigan. And we always stopped at the local ice cream shop which was well known for its great ice cream. My grandpa's truck at the time had a topper on the bed and I'll never forget sitting back there with a battery powered AM/FM radio listening to country music as we drove around the small town.

Grandpa shooting pool

I learned many things from my grandfather - from shooting guns to shooting pool. Although, I was never able to match his skill at the latter. As is typical in life, many of the things I learned from him I didn't realize until I was older and a bit wiser. I've always respected my grandfather, but didn't always know when he was trying to teach me something. Funny how those things often click later on.

With Grandpa after my return from Desert Storm

As a kid, I just assumed my grandfather would be here forever. He was 89 and his passing was not unexpected, but I still have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that he's gone. He was truly the patriarch of the family. When he was a little older, we jokingly referred to him as "The Pope". He and my grandmother were the rock of the family. They would lend a hand wherever it was needed and you never left their table hungry. They came from a generation that worked hard, lived simply, and were generous.

Doing what he loved to do

I had the opportunity to speak with my grandpa one last time and I'm so glad I did. We spoke about various things for several minutes and, naturally, the conversation turned to hunting. Before we were done, I thanked him for taking the time to introduce me to the outdoors when I was young. If I hadn't told him how much I appreciated that, I would have regretted it the rest of my life. 

Ted Borsum is survived by his wife, three sisters, three daughters, six grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. My grandfather may be gone now, but he will always be my hero. 


Mel said...

Brian - Sorry to hear of your loss. This post is very well done and I hope that it helped ease your discomfort a little. Thanks for sharing your Grandfather with us.

Bill said...

Your grandfather sounds like he was quite a man. Sorry to hear of your loss.

Joe said...

Sorry to hear about your loss Brian. My dad passed away 6 years ago and I still miss him every day.

Mark said...

Great post Brian. I like the historical perspective on the many ways Ted impacted your family and the way he took on the responsibility of raising up not only his own kids, but his grandkids too. I also marvel at the fact he retired at 75, voluntarily, when most Americans are worried that Social Security might have to raise the age of attainment 2 years. He was obviously part of the greatest generation--a real doer.

Take solace in the fact that he lived his life on Earth with you and all the rest of us to it's fullest. He soaked it up. And in the fact your seperation is temporary. Live the way he taught you to, and you'll get caught back up down the road.

My condolences,


texwisgirl said...

My condolences to you and your family. What a wonderful man he must have been to yield such a fine tribute from a grateful grandson. He was talented in so many ways, and it sounds like he influenced many things and many, many people.

I know that the grief must come first before it can be soothed by the wealth of memories you have of him. God bless you, your family - especially your grandmother - in your time of loss. And God bless "The Pope." :)

P.S. I flipped over to the "In Memory" page and the photo of your grandfather made me cry. The grieving never really goes away but it does get better in time...

WeldrBrat said...

BJ - I am so sorry to hear of such a great loss you and your family have experienced. Please know y'all are in my thoughts and included in my prayers. May God give each of you all the strength - comfort - and whatever else you need to help you get to the other side of the sadness - until you are able to carry on with smiles and joy when relishing over memories from times in your lives shared with him. - Teresa

troutrageous1 said...

Brian - Your post was a wonderful tribute to your Grandpa. Please accept my sincerest condolences.

I'll also smile extra wide the next time I ride the Arch "egg" elevators (my wife is from St. Louis) knowing where they came from.

Ryan said...

Sorry about your grandpa. My grandpa taught me everything I know about fishing and was there for me when my parents got divorced. He too is gone... but, like yours, not forgotten.

The Average Joe Fisherman

steveo_uk said...

sorry to hear of your loss, i lost both my grandfathers a few years ago both unexpectantly very fond memories of both and never forgotten.

Dawn said...

Sorry for your loss of this wonderful person, you honored him well with this post.
Thanks for sharing parts of his life with. You seems you have amazing memories to hold on to.

Marc said...


Very well written, a very nice tribute to a very respected man. Your love for him shines through, I'm happy that you had such a wonderful influence in your life.

heyBJK said...

Thank you all for the wonderful comments and condolences! I know it's not easy to say something about someone you don't even know.

I debated whether to even write the post. Some might say it should be a private matter, but I felt it was a small way I could pay tribute to my grandfather and the wonderful things he did during his life.

I'm truly touched by your remarks! And, texwisgirl, you had me crying again, but it was good.

Thank you!

texwisgirl said...

Crap! I just went back to this post one more time and there's MORE tears! Guess you can tell I have some waves of grief of my own to process - even after years.

Thanks for sharing your 'private' post. It meant a lot.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Brian, Just catching up on some blogs. I'm so sorry for your loss. And thanks for sharing your story and your Grandpas life. Sounded like he was a good man and most importantly good to his family. The holidays are always the hardest. I cried while cooking this morning remembering my Grandma being by my side sharing her Thanksgiving recipes. And for my best friend I lost just a few months ago and how I miss my morning Thanksgiving call to her.

Wishing you and your family all the best this Thanksgiving! And God Bless Grandpa!

heyBJK said...

Theresa - You're going to have to stop reading this. I really appreciate your condolences and support! Thank you!

Jody - Thank you for the kind words and condolences! You know the experience of losing a close friend. I had never been through that until my friend, Steven, passed away last month. I lost both grandparents on my father's side many years ago. It had been 20+ years since we'd had a death in the family until the recent passing of my other grandfather.

Ted Westfall said...

Hey Cuz, once again your beautiful articulation through written words is fabulous. Thank you for taking the time to to create a fitting memorial to the person we deeply cherrished and will miss often.

heyBJK said...

Ted - Hey, thanks for stopping by! I thought it was the least I could do. We both know it doesn't scratch the surface. I could write pages. He is definitely missed!

Dennis said...

I'm very sorry for your loss Brian, just catching up now, haven't been online much. You wrote a really awesome post about your Grandfather, you're a great man to honor him this way.