Follow the Leader

A couple years ago my grandpa Alfred Olsen passed away and I wrote the following eulogy entitled “Follow the Leader” that was read at his funeral. He was a truly remarkable man, I miss him a lot, and the man he was, is what I strive to be. I was perusing the hard drive this evening looking for something QA related and rediscovered this. I thought I’d share since some of these lessons are applicable in the business world too:

Follow the Leader

Written by Brent Strange in memory of Grandpa Olsen

It’s funny, I always have fleeting thoughts of how I appreciate the little things about a person or the different things I love about them but I’m always hard pressed to put it into words or too chicken to tell that person about those things. “I Love You” says a lot, but doesn’t say much for why. Putting the “Why” behind “I Love You” is something I’ve thought about for a long time with my Grandpa Olsen but I never did sit down to tell him. Now it’s too late to tell him in person, so here I am settling down and am writing it out. I hope and pray that he is listening now…

My Grandpa is the most respectable person I’ve ever met. Let’s cut to the chase: Grandpa was honorable, funny, kind, loving, giving, non-judgmental, and a man of God. He is everything I want to and struggle to be. Over the years Grandpa has been a silent leader for me. Follow the leader!

Follow the leader: give somebody some “bugs”!
My first memories of Grandpa date back to when I was less than two years old. Back then Grandpa preached at the Assembly of God in Naselle where he and Grandma lived in the connecting house. I remember in the evenings we would sit in his vinyl, burnt-orange chair together. Grandpa would bounce me on his knee helping me pretend I was a cowboy riding his horse. The orange chair was where I first remember getting “bugs”. Yeah bugs…Grandpa’s way of tickling was giving you little tickling pinches under your legs and arms saying “You got bugs, BUGS, BUGS!” each bug bite made you squirm and laugh trying to wriggle out of his reach to get rid of those darn bugs. When the horse rides and bug bites died down I would sit on his lap, leaning against him listening to him talk to others in the room. His voice was comforting to me.

Follow the leader: sit on the edge!
Grandpa and I did a lot of fishing. My first remembered fishing trip was frightening! Grandpa took me to the dock at the Chinook cannery where we sat on the edge to fish for Perch. I remember sitting on that edge, feet hanging over, and looking down at the water below scared to death since it was so far down (seemed to be about 20 feet down to this day, probably was 10…). Grandpa didn’t seem too concerned and my fear soon went away after we caught the first Perch.

Follow the leader: cast through the brush, the fish are just past it!
Summer visits to Grandpa and Grandma always meant a trip Martin Wirkkalla’s place to fish in his private lakes. I remember walking behind Grandpa as he led me through the trees and brush to find those hidden lakes. Fishing would usually start out with me casting into the weeds and trees but after a couple hours of untangling weeds from lures, and carefully finessing lures from tree branches Grandpa and I came back with a few nice trout. Those times were always special to me because we were fishing in lakes that nobody else could, and we ALWAYS caught fish!

Follow the leader: take time out of your busy day for your loved ones!
The last time I fished with Grandpa was on his 62nd birthday. I remember the day pretty well. Grandpa was pretty busy for some reason but we headed to the Naselle River off of South Valley Road to get a few quick casts in. What I remember most about that day was walking down to the river with him and asking him how old he was. He told me he was 62 and I remember thinking that 62 was REALLY OLD and that he would die soon. My eyes welled up with tears with the thought. I managed to get the tears dried up before they fell so he didn’t see. I spent the rest of that fishing trip appreciating EVERY little thing about him (by the way, this was the ONLY trip together that we didn’t catch anything).

Follow the leader: make people laugh!
Grandpa was a prankster. If you didn’t know this, you didn’t know Grandpa! Every time I visited he had a new trick up his sleeve. Even in his 80’s! The last prank he played on me was his exploding pen cap. I think over the course of 2 years I actually fell for that prank twice.

Follow the leader: confirm those answers?
When Grandpa would ask a question and someone would reply he would always follow up a reply with a “Huh?” I thought that was pretty funny because I knew he heard the reply but he still always said “Huh?”. I remember listening to Grandma replying to Grandpa, Grandpa then saying “Huh?” and then Grandma replying louder, firmer and a bit annoyed. I always smiled to myself when I heard that word “Huh?”, it was a funny habit of his.

Follow the leader: Give!
Grandpa was so giving. With every visit I ended up with some sort of odd, hand-me-down gift that meant a lot. Grandpa had a way of showing you all his cool things throughout the house and shop and waiting for your eyes to sparkle about one of those things. That THING usually was gifted to you by the end of your visit. Over the years I obtained some pretty special gifts: stuffed baby alligator, pocket electronic golf game, Skil-Saw, fishing lures, wood pens.

Thank you for your love and leadership Grandpa. I respect and honor your life and am committed to providing the leadership to my family and friends as you have done for yours.

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