On the afternoon of February 23rd, 2016, I was in American Fork chipping away at my long list of restaurants and other food facilities that need their routine inspections. By about 1:30 pm, I had finished an inspection of a Hawaiian restaurant off of Main Street, which is near the city's senior center. The senior center was on my list of facilities to inspect, but I knew that at that time in the afternoon their lunch would be over. Since I was already in the area though, I decided to go over to the center anyway and see if I could find someone that could tell me what time they do serve lunch so I could do their inspection on another day.
I went up to the front door and gave it a tug, but it was closed. I put my face up to the glass doors to look inside and found that the lights inside were off and it appeared that no one was there. I began to walk away, but as I turned the corner of the building to go back to my car, I heard the front door open. Surprised, I turned around to find a very elderly gentleman in jean overalls and glasses holding the door open for me. He looked as though he could barely walk on his own. He asked if I needed something; I told him why I'd come. He stepped aside and told me to come in and talk to the director, Grant Parker.
Grant was on the phone in his office when I came in, sitting behind a big desk. When he was finished, he asked what I was there for. I think both he and the other gentleman were surprised to see me. They were the only two people at the center at that hour. I told him that I was an inspector for the county and had come over to find out when they serve lunch so I could get an idea of when to stop by for my inspections. We chatted for a few minutes about the center and its lunch routine-- he showed me the calendar with the meals for the month and how he orders the food, and told me all about how they're up to code.
As we chatted, it became clear to me that both gentlemen had been coming to/working at the center for many years, over 15 in fact. It was also clear that they had lived in American Fork for most of their lives. All of a sudden, I had the thought to ask them if they knew my great-grandfather, Elijah Chipman, who lived in American Fork for most of his life. So, to Grant, I said, "I have a question. Did you by chance know Elijah Chipman?"
"Did I know Lije Chipman??"
As soon as I heard him refer to my great-grandfather with a nick-name, I knew I'd hit the jackpot! Grant proceeded to tell me what a great guy Grandpa Chipman was, and how he'd known him quite well. For the sake of family history, these are the things Grant told me about Grandpa Chipman (though not necessarily in this order):
- Grandpa Chipman was a very likeable guy.
- He liked to golf.
- He always kept an immaculate yard.
- He worked for many years for the Alpine School District doing finances, where he always paid everyone on the first and 15th of the month. Never missed a beat. Later, when he did finances for their ward, he was just as precise and accurate with it and did a great job at that for many years. (Grant worked for the church as a janitor of their ward building for many years and told me, "I received many checks signed by "Elijah Chipman.")
- He made a lot of sense. Grant really enjoyed talking to Grandpa Chipman about finances. He always gave really great advice about how to handle money in a way that was easy to understand and not tremendously risky. He'd give advice to young married couples just starting out about money. "Whenever there was a bump in the economy, people would get frightened and pull their money out of the stock market. But your grandfather would say, 'No! no! Now is the time to buy stock and invest in the market.' Just an all around smart, sensible guy."
- He dressed nice.
- "A finer man you'll never find."
- Grant spent lots of time at the Chipman home and liked to go over to visit Grandpa. They had "many wonderful conversations. I liked talking with him."
Multiple times as Grant was talking about Grandpa Chipman, he'd point behind him and talk about how Grandpa lived not too far from there in an orange-brick house. I asked where it was so I could drive by after our visit, and he told me how to get there.
Somewhere around the middle of sharing his memories of Grandpa Chipman, Grant stopped and said, "Oh! You wanna see something? Come with me." He then showed me a picture of Grandpa Chipman hanging up on the wall just outside of the office, the first in a row of past presidents of the senior center! I was amazed! It made me so happy to see him, the man who I still remember going to visit when I was a lot younger. I wondered as I looked at Grandpa Chipman up on the wall and after hearing more about him from Grant what he was like when he was alive and felt so thankful to be part of his posterity.
At this point since I'd gotten so lucky in discovering that Grant and the other gentleman knew Grandpa Chipman, I thought I'd try my luck and see if they knew Aunt Jane (my great-aunt from my Packard side) as well. This time, it was the other guy that responded:
"Oh yes! I remember her. She never married, right? You know, everyone always said that she was kind of a grouch, but I never got that impression from her. She was always very nice around me. I'll tell you what though, she was no dummy! (pointing to his forhead) She had A LOT going on up here. Very smart lady. And musical too! She sang for the Mormon Tabernacle choir, I believe. And she always drove a really nice car."
Both he and Grant repeated and remembered how Aunt Jane always drove a nice car. They told me where she lived and how to get there. When I asked if they remember her going on walks a lot, they both said, "Oh yes! She walked everywhere. All the time. You'd always see her out walking."
Such a neat experience! I can't help but think that it's no coincidence that I was able to meet these two men. The one guy is 89 years old, and probably won't be around much longer. It's amazing to me that I was able to meet people who knew my great-grandpa and my great-aunt because there can't be very many of those people left, much less those who knew them and are coherent enough now to be able to tell me about them. I felt the coolest feeling listening to them that afternoon! I love my ancestors so much! I was so happy to hear that they were such good people, and that after all these years, people still speak of them with love and admiration. I want to be the kind of person that others love and respect and are very thankful to have known.