Herbert E. Chandler; 1924-2007

My grandfather passed away today, about an hour ago.

He called me M, which I have to admit is one of the coolest nicknames I've ever had the pleasure of being called, and one of which I am most fond. He called me M because of my middle name. Or maybe my last name. Either way, no one ever said M the way he said M. Eh-yem. Aym.

He fought in World War II, in the Air Force. My mom and her sister Nancy didn't know he fought in the war until they were grownups, when he was showing us his medals. Ironically, after surviving combat, he lost his leg in a civilian quarry accident at his place of work in Birmingham, PA. He used to put his cigarettes in the hole in his old wooden legs, and tell my brother and I that it was where the mouse lived. It always freaked us out.

He was a twin; his brother Hersey died a few months ago resulting from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Aside from Hersey, he was brother to Watson (aka: Bus), Erma, Frannie, Franklin, Alfred and Hazel (who died at 7 years old, or so.)

When he was a young man, his hair was so blond, it earned him the nickname Whitey. Yeah, it was that blond. Of course, when his hair actually started to turn white, the name seemed all the more apt. I didn't know his first name was Herbert until I turned 8 years old; everyone called him Whitey.

When I was very young, my mother worked part time at a Hallmark store in Kennett Square. Every Tuesday, I got to spend the day at her parents while she worked, since dad was doing his thing with the mushroom houses. These Tuesdays are chock full of stories, and endless jokes that only make sense in our family.

He let me play with knives, despite Mommom's protest. As it turns out, Mommom was right.

On his 40th wedding anniversary, my folks hosted a shindig to which a ton of people were invited. My mom made a huge sheet cake with white frosting and red lettering. I remember so vividly that when no one was looking, a 6 year old version of myself slid a finger across the icing and stuck it in his mouth. But it turns out Poppop saw; I turned around and he was looking right at me. But he didn't tell. 

He used to let me hide my peas, green beans, or pretty much any vegetable I didn't like, under his potato skins so that no one would know I didn't eat my veggies. It was a standing agreement at any family gathering. I always made sure I sat next to him.

Somehow, it became widely known that Poppop liked yellow socks. It was a sort of funny gag-gift after awhile. Every Christmas. Every birthday. For a long time. A few years ago, when he moved from Dilworthtown to Bethany Beach, they found endless packages of yellow socks that had never even been opened.

He liked to feed the birds. He always had binoculars close at hand to spot the first robin of the season, or a cardinal in the snow. His house was encrusted with bird feeders. Different feeders had different feed, to attract different birds. He had engineered a couple of crafty devices for keeping the squirrels away, too.

He knew everyone, and everyone knew him. He could tell you the first and last name of every neighbor within a 15 mile radius, and their kids names in order by age. He knew Dilworthtown like the back of his hand.

It sounds almost trite, but he had a rich, full life. He died knowing that his line hadn't ended. He had the pleasure of hanging out with his great-grandsons on a regular basis.

He'll be missed, surely.

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