Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Meet My Dad

On February 26 my Dad would have been 93 years old. He was privileged to live during a very dynamic time in our history. From horse and wagon days to traveling to the moon! I have a picture of him when he was about three years old and as I look into those "Craig eyes" I see my dad as a little boy, full of wonder and expectation. About those "Craig eyes" – they are the same at age 3 as they were at age 82 when I last saw him. Piercing blue. Some of his descendants have inherited them, but they don't have the intensity that his did. He inherited them from HIS father.

My dad, Gerald Vuhr Craig, was born 26 Feb 1915 in Freedom, Bourbon County Kansas. He was the second child of Claude Leolis Craig and Goldie Opal VanBuskirk. Early in life he learned to depend only upon himself.

It was during World War II that he found a way to excel. When I was about six years old, he went to work for Peter Kiewit Construction Company of Omaha, Nebraska. With the war came the many construction projects that were necessary to insure this country's superiority and safety. This provided my father a chance for success. He began as a welder, and ended up being project superintendent of many complex projects for the company. These projects ranged from air bases in Oregon, hospitals in Omaha, radar detecting stations in Greenland, missile silos in Ohio, locks on the St Lawrence Seaway and other various projects that carried him from the 40's to the 80's with the Kiewit Company.

My dad had many good characteristics. One of the things I admire most about him is the way he could adapt to whatever his circumstances dictated. He made any place he was at, his home. He had a special talent for taking advantage of whatever the current place had to offer. It is this adventuresome spirit that has been most remarkable to me. I see this trait in my daughter, Laurel. She has that talent of making her surroundings her own. And I can still see the love he had for my daughter, Cindy. He loved her big brown eyes and gentle ways.

When we were moving around the country during World War II, we seldom lived in an ordinary place. He parked our little trailer, the Prairie Schooner, in some sort of "odd" place. It was as if this gave my dad an opportunity to use his imagination. I have seen him living in some unusual places in my lifetime, but they were always imprinted with his own style and personality. He was at home any where in the world.

I am fortunate that I remember when he was a young, handsome, strong and determined man. As he aged he became smarter and more handsome. As with most little girls, he was my hero. When we were together we loved to debate different subjects. Mainly to see who could outsmart who. It was a battle of wits, just as our customary cribbage games were. I have to admit, Dad usually won. It didn't stop me from trying to beat him though.

Even after he was an older man he was extremely strong. I rode my Harley to see him in 1990. He was living in Louisville outside of Omaha, Nebraska. I parked my bike up on his porch to keep it out of the rain and needed to turn it around to get it back down. It was a cement porch about 5' X 6' with no railing. It was going to be a challenge for me as my bike weighed 750 - 800 lbs. Dad said, "Let me do it for you." Partly because he wanted to help me and partly because he wanted to get his hands on a Harley again. I stood back and watched him muscle this huge bike in a very little place and he never even wavered. I saw then how strong he was.

I remember the last time I visited him. He and John and I were sitting on his deck in Superior, Montana. He was feeling especially good that day as we watched a chicken being roasted on the spit for our dinner. As we all three became intent on the poor chicken that was off center, we all began to laugh. It was a funny sight and he was so funny as he watched the chicken wobble more and more. It was a moment in time that was filled with laughter. It is a good memory of him. He was so happy to have finally found "his place" and I believe he felt content with his life.

Here is to you, and happy birthday Dad. I wouldn't be me, if not for you. I am still proud of you and also that I am your oldest child and daughter.

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