Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Service, May 24, 2008

When the sun finally drops below the horizon in the early evening, evidence of its work remains for some time. The skies continue to glow for a full hour after its departure.

In the same way, when a good or a great person's life comes to its final sunset, the skies of this world are illuminated until long after he is out of view. Such a person does not die from this world, for when he departs he leaves much of himself behind - and being dead, he still speaks.
Henry Ward Beecher

Today we had a memorial service for our father/father-in-law/grandfather/greatgrandfather Wunschl. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions: sadness , loss, remembrance, joy. We bonded together as a family like never before as we strove to honor the memory of a man who had been a force in our lives for so long. Three people shared memories of Opa today: Halley, his granddaughter, Tifany, his grandson's wife and Martha, his daughter-in-law. I am going to publish their comments in full. Each were perfect in their own unique way.

"I was lucky enough to have three amazing grandparents in my life until last year - few people get that chance. My grandmothers taught me how to bake, how to sew, how to live with grace, how to be a strong woman. I am ever glad for them, especially today, because I need every bit of that strength as I say goodbuy to the only grandfather I had the joy to know. When my dad told me Opa was gone, I had such a mix of emotions, I just sat and stared, on the curb, numb with grief, reaching out for something as strong as the love I'd enjoyed every day of my life from him.

"Over the last few months, I had watched Opa's courage, his spirit, and his never-ending love for his family with awe and so much gratitude to be loved by him, and somehow through all the hours I had sat with him, laughed with him and talked to him, I did not know how to let go despite knowing I would have to. Honestly, I still don't. but, life plays a kaleidoscope of images for me - images of fishing, pigeons, shopping trips, gardening and making Barbie places from wooden doweling. I remember the hugs, the jokes, and the signature that kept me in college. I remember the gypsy eggs, the speck at Christmastime, he at the end of the table, myself next to him. I remember too the example that was set for me by my grandparents about marriage - a give and take, a labor of love.

"Someday, I will get married, and I can only hope to find what I saw from them every day. Every morning I was in their home, Opa would make Oma sandwiches and tea. It was an act of giving that showed the commitment that would give them 63 years of marriage, and teach me the meaning of devotion. The last time I saw Opa, it was late on Frideay night. I was going home, tired, and walked out into the living room. The scene there will be burned in my mind forever. Oma was sleeping on the couch, turned so I was sure she had fallen alseep watching Opa to be certain he was alright. He sat in his chair, watching CNN. Every moment or two, he would look over at Oma and then back at the television. I stood in the hallway for awhile, absorbing that scene. When people try to define what it means to be successful, to be happy, to have love in their lives, this should be on the first line.

"There are a lot of things I don't know about how to let go of Opa, how to move on without him, but when I get lonely I try to remember him standing in his garden; perfect neat rows, an ingenious watering system, and always a huge hug when I ran to him in bare feet. I will miss those hugs, his voice on the other end of the phone, sitting in his chair, I will miss knowing he is there if need him. There are so many things I could like that I will miss, but most of all I hope he knows how very much I will miss my Opa, and how much I love him - my grandfather, role model, cheerleader, and friend.

Good Morning. I am Tifany Wunschl and I am Michael Wunschl’s granddaughter. Well, granddaughter by marriage, but I think anyone that ever met Opa feels the same way that I do. When you met Opa, you immediately felt like family. Opa loved to be around people. He loved to cook and whenever you went to his home, he cooked like he was feeding a small army. I was introduced to all of his German classic foods and he prided himself that he cooked just like his mother.

Opa’s other favorite thing to do when he was around people was to tell stories. Opa never dwelled on bad things or complained about anything. When Opa told war stories, they were never about death or sad times. He always told the fun side, like when he was injured and the hospital had beer pipes that ran over each bed and all you had to do was put your stein up to the tap and you could have beer at any moment.
He told the story of looking for his family after the war and seeing Oma’s backside and declaring “I’m going to marry that woman”. Three months later, they were married. When I first met Oma and Opa, I told my husband that if we could have that kind of relationship, we were very lucky people. Anyone who met Oma and Opa could sense the love and friendship that they shared.

Some of my favorite stories were when Opa joined the black market after the war to feed his family. These were probably some of the hardest days in their lives, but Opa always told the stories with pride and love. My favorite is when he took a pig and put it in the sidecar of their motorcycle so they could butcher it at home. I’m not even going to tell the story because I cannot do it justice. But it ends with the pig jumping out of the motorcycle in front of a theatre that was letting out and Opa chasing it down the street.
I didn’t know how to end my speech today. I have a lot of thoughtful things I could say, but I decided to end it how Opa would want me too. Opa’s heritage is German and Yugoslavian. When Opa toasted, we always said Bog Daj Wita which means “God Give More” in Yugoslavian. So if everyone would join me in a toast. “To Opa, you will forever be in our hearts. Bog Daj Wita.”

He Was...
He was dad, opa mischi and my boo.
He was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
He worked countless, grueling hours in "the shop" to care for his family.
He was a master craftsman, the son of a tinsmith who roofed the village church.

One Spring day, he built kites for his sons from reeds and some drafting paper he brought home from the shop. Then he attached 20 foot tails made from the Sunday funnies and those beauties soured to the clouds.

He was a 1958 vacation in Germany - a happy return home with his beautiful family and a slick, silver Olds '98. He made it the trip of a lifetime for his children - filled with memories, friends, family and adventures.

He was fond of sharing cherished stories about Willsbach and Mokrin.
He was Walloon Lake in the summer, with fireflies and fishing.
He was all seasons on the farm.
He was a man to loved to be with people and people loved to be with him.
He was an outrageous bidder in pinochle games and pretty good at pool.
He was a best buddy for Tony and loved Roswita from the moment he met her, who could do otherwise?
He was a meticulous gardener, whose tomatoes and cucumbers were unmatched. One summer he grew 12 ft. tall sunflowers for his granddaughter.
He was a carpenter and a pigeon keeper and a fishing buddy. Whether it was goulash, zuspiese, a pork roast, sarma or chicken soup, he was "the crook".

He was a special gourmet - he could enjoy a slice of farmer's speck or a fine cognac with equal gusto.
He was laughter and parties. Just ask the Clevelanders. He was generous to a fault and all who knew him, know this about him.
He was Mr. Franzel and always knew the name of his waitress.
He was dinners out with the family and baseball games, but his favorites were birthdays and holidays with his family.
He danced at his sons' weddings and could really polka. And when he really got going he would kick up his heel - not both, just one.

He was opinionated, raucous, strong willed, outspoken, joyous and tough, and you always knew where he stood and where you stood with him - but he was not opposed to changing his mind about something if he thought he had been wrong and he liked to learn.
More times than I could count, I saw tears in his eyes - of pride, of love, or grief. He was a deep feeling man.
He was a European and he was a proud American.
He was the kind of friend that they just don't make anymore.
He loved hic children and grandchildren with a deep, unabated passion andhis pride in what they had accomplished was a source of strength to them all.

He was Michael's father. He was Georg's father. He was Helena's father. He was Halley-Allana's grandfather. He was Michael Jon's grandfather. He was David's grandfather. He was Martha's father-in-law. He was Margaret's father-in-law. He was Magdalena's beloved husband.

All of us are just so much better and infinitely enriched for having had him in our lives. We are very, very, very fortunate to have known him, to have loved him and been loved by him. You will never leave us sweet Opa and will always remain in our hearts.

This is the video slide show that was shown at the memorial service.

(Click on) Psalm 23:1-6
Music is by Jeff Majors, "The Lord is My Shepherd"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Michael Wunschl 1925-2008

My father in law Mischi was one of the hardest working people I have ever known. Most of his life he worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Needless to say most of the time he wasn't able to spend a lot of time with his family. To make up for it sometimes late at night he would come home and surprise the kids with a huge sack of hamburgers or other treats.

He was an extremely generous person. When Michael Jon was born (his first grandson) he gave Margaret his Cadillac Eldorado. Eleven years after they left Germany Michael took his whole family back home to the old country for a three month vacation. They crossed the ocean on the Queen Elizabeth and took their 1962 Oldmobile with them. They were treated like celebrities as they toured the countryside and small village roads in their huge automobile. When there was a gathering at a local pub, Michael paid for everyone's drinks, including people he didn't know. No one ever picked up the tab at a restaurant when Michael was around.

His pride and joy were his grandchildren, Michael Jon, David and Halley and his great-grandson Nathan. Nothing made him happier than having the family gather around him. He had been a cook during the war and still loved to cook. In fact, when he retired he took over the kitchen from Magdalena. He was used to cooking large quantities of food and subsequently always made enough food not only to feed the group, but enough to send food home with everyone who had come to visit. Opa was famous for his homemade sausage, a skill he passed along to Michael Jon, along with his sausage-making equipment. Whole days were set aside to make his legendary stuffed cabbage rolls (which is called "sarma"), which he and Magdalena put in the freezer for the months to come. He loved to garden. True to his tool and die background, his rows of tomatoes and beans were straight as an arrow. His love of gardening was inherited by his granddaughter Halley and they spent many happy hours together working outside. He and Halley also raised doves together.

In his later years, he and Magdalena were able to build a beautiful home on 55 acres in Attica, Michigan. What had been nothing but brush and grass was transformed into a parklike setting, complete with a road, two ponds, evergreens, fruit trees and willows. Michael loved to fish and stocked the pond with trout and large-mouth bass. He would never keep the fish, but would throw them back and some of them grew to a fearsome size. The kids always loved to go fishing with Opa. Even 3 year old Nathan, the youngest member of the family, was nurtured by Opa in the fine art of fishing from the dock at the farm.

In his youth, Mischi liked to draw and paint. This is one of my favorites:

No one could tell a story like Opa. And he had many stories, from the time he and his father-in-law smuggled a squealing live pig in cart through the village to feed his family, to the 10 lbs of chocolate he was saving in the cupboard to use as a bartering tool, only to find weeks later that his pregnant wife had eaten it all. We will miss those stories Opa, but we are thankful we have them in our memories and no one who had the privilege of knowing you will ever forget you.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008