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.

No comments: