My grandfather, Francis "Monk" LaValley, passed away peacefully on March 13, a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday. My grandfather was a quiet man. For a long time, I assumed that his nickname was a reference to his quiet demeanor. When I finally asked him about it a few years ago, I learned that it was actually a reference to a football star of his childhood, Stanford All-American Jim "Monk" Moscrip. He earned the nickname playing backyard football as a boy and it stuck with him for the rest of his life.
In many ways, his life was the story of America in the 20th century. His parents immigrated to the US from Quebec, and if I remember correctly, his mother never really learned much English. While he wasn't bilingual, he did retain a little bit of French, which he would occasionally interject into conversation. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. I don't know much about his war experience because I never really asked him about it and he never really talked about it. I know that he went over to Europe aboard the Queen Mary, served as a mechanic, and spent most of his time in England. After coming home, he settled into a solid blue-collar career as a tool & die maker and raised a family. He was a sports fan, a league bowler, an avid fisherman, and a lifelong Ohioan.
My favorite memories of my grandfather are from summertime visits when my parents would send my brother and me down to Columbus for a few days with Grandma and Grandpa. Their house was a wonderful place full of toys and games that we didn't have at home and the special kind of love and attention that only grandparents can provide. It was during those visits that my grandfather really shared his interests with us. He'd take us fishing and take us to the bowling alley. While I never developed into much of a fisherman and only spent a couple of years in organized bowling, I always enjoyed our trips to the lake and the lanes.
One interest that my younger self did have in common with him was an interest in drawing. He had an artistic side that he didn't often show, but he could make a pretty mean freehand sketch. He always enjoyed looking at my doodlings and would occasionally pull out his pencil and join in.
I didn't see him as often in his later years and his declining health made it impossible for him to enjoy most of his old pastimes, but he was always up for a game of cards right to the very end. I'm thankful for all of the time that we got to spend together. He never gave me much in the way of advice or guidance, but he didn't really have to, he just did what needed to be done and let his actions speak for themselves.