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If you were at my husband Bob’s memorial service you would have heard our children talk about their father. Today I’m sharing Russell’s words.

"In many ways, my dad was an “everyman”. He wasn’t a famous athlete, or a talented musician, or even a good cook. I’m sure to some, he was just another small-time farmer, scraping to get by year after year. Yet in so many ways he was his own man, a great man, one I was always proud to call my father. He taught me so much, most of it through example.

He taught me how hard work can be rewarding. I don’t mean just the results of hard work, but he showed me how the actual act of working hard itself can be rewarding. You could see it on his face every time he climbed up on the tractor. He took pride in his work and he honestly enjoyed it.

Dad taught me how much it helps to smile and laugh, even when things seem to be falling apart all around you, as often they were for Dad. He never took things too seriously. He knew everything would work out.

He taught me how you can be devoted to one profession for your entire life if you love it enough.  And he demonstrated how to be devoted to one person, the love of your life, for the better part of half a century.

He taught me how to be patient (although at times I struggle with this one, as did he, especially with stubborn machinery).

Sometimes when he thought I wasn’t within earshot, he even taught me how to curse like a real farmer.

He taught me how to use tools like a cutoff saw, grinder, and welder. He taught me how duct tape makes for a remarkably decent bandage when things go sour with a cutoff saw, grinder, or welder.

He taught me the joys of taking things apart and putting them back together. How to tinker. How to improve. How to create. How to make treasures out of another man’s trash.

He taught me to be humble and to accept help when it’s needed. Yes, sometimes you can drive yourself to the ER, but sometimes you let the professionals do it.

He didn’t want to take exotic vacations, or drive a shiny new truck, or even wear a new coat because it was too nice to get dirty. He taught me that sharing a winter puzzle can be just as good as a weekend getaway, and that a ride down the lane in the cart can somehow bring you closer to home.

He taught me how to think for myself. He never pressured me into the life of farming that he loved so much. He never made me feel guilty for taking my own path. In fact, I can’t think of one time in my entire life he used guilt as a weapon against me or anyone for any reason. It just wasn’t his style.

He taught me the importance of family, and that while being a workaholic may be necessary at times, it’s even more important to slow down and share your hours with those close to your heart. Those of us closest to him are so thankful he eventually slowed down to let us catch up.

He taught me how to persevere when life gets tough. He took a job in a canning factory for almost two decades when he would have rather been in the fields, so his family could have food on the table and video games on the TV. At that job, he was respected by the laborers working in that company because he showed them respect and treated them fairly. As a child, and even as an adult, I could see how much that respect meant to him. He looked out for so many vulnerable, hard-working people that wanted nothing more out of life than he did, a decent life for their loved ones. That’s the kind of man he was.

Dad taught me that even when you’re squeezing every nickel and stretching every last dime, you can still be the richest man in the world.

Simply put, my dad taught me how to be a man, a husband, and a father. I will miss him very much, but I’m so thankful he’ll be with me forever.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.

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