Friday, October 5, 2007
This is a War Baby, born 9 months (plus a few hours) after his WWII soldier dad returned to his waiting wife. A true Boomer. He's mine.
You could not meet a more interesting guy. That's a direct result of the fact that he's interested...in EVERYTHING. By the time I met Dee when he was 22 he was already an expert in European History, World Geography, the British Military, photography, German philosophy, politics and US current events. He collected coins and stamps, knew diverse things about music, Rommel, Hubert Humphrey and art. I was fascinated.
He'd worked in a pizza place, hoed sugar beets, stocked fabric bolts, and managed a pro-shop at a golf course, saving for college from the time he was 13. He'd lived in Germany, met Bobby Kennedy, been a boy scout, worked at Grand Canyon, skinny-dipped in the river, hunted pheasants, and made fires to roast grasshoppers for a picnic. He'd tracked trains, then put nails and coins on the tracks to watch them get flattened. He had a Tom Sawyer type childhood, a hard-working, studious youth, and was smarter than anyone I'd ever met.
After receiving a triple degree in German, European Studies and History from BYU, Dee had planned to go into foreign service, the CIA or the Intelligence field. But with the reality of a wife and two kids already, he found a job in real estate as a developer and builder. He built about 50 homes, a subdivision, some condos, office buildings and a business park and was involved in the politics of water rights, irrigation feuds, and building permits. He arbitrated, negotiated, and stagnated. It was time to move on.
After reinventing himself with a year at The King's Manor in York, England he received another degree in Architectural History and Preservation. Dee's first business venture after returning home was to sponsor a three-day, world-wide conference on retro-fitting historic buildings with hydraulic springs to prevent damage during an earthquake. The SL City and County Building was the first building to benefit from the new technology. The conference was well-attended by architects from all over the world who wanted to observe and learn first hand. Dee was the guy who humbly accepted all the credit.
writing books on historic buildings, and architectural styles and features, which led to books about towns, individuals, businesses and families. He's now written over 70 books. (They are commissioned and privately published, so they're not often available in bookstores.) He becomes an expert on each new topic, spending months, even years, studying the various subjects.
It's fun to watch Dee immerse himself in a new interest. When he wrote a book about a Jewish Rabbi in Seattle, it led him to 1860's silver mines in Colorado and the beginnings of a rabbinical school in Cincinnati. The story of a San Francisco bridge building company took us to an ancestral winery in Germany, as well as a study of the construction of the Chunnel.
Early logging in Ontario's rivers, and the establishment of Quaker Meetings in Pennsylvania, pirates settling Newfoundland and ghost towns in Southern Utah have become a few areas of expertise for Dee. He loves to dig out the stories behind the stories and he becomes well acquainted with people long gone. He knows people's businesses and ancestors better than they do themselves, and he appreciates the hard work and sacrifice of unknown heroes. His research skills are superb. He can find everything that's been written about anything, consolidate and unify the information, add to it, and then condense it to a form that's factual and entertaining. He would find the history of dirt intriguing, and you would, too, when he wrote it down!
Dee has an incredible memory for dates and places involving anyone else, and when he gets going on a little historic recitation he's thorough to the point of...well, thoroughness. But it's almost impossible to get him to talk about his memories. He can't remember the details of his own history.
We got married 38 years ago, in September, and a few weeks later on his birthday I baked him a cake. He came home from school, saw it on the table and was overcome. "I've never had a birthday cake before," he told me emotionally. He hadn't??? Where was his mother??? What kind of deprived childhood had he come from??? I vowed to make it all up to him. I'd give him memorable celebrations that would overwhelm his past disappointments.
The next year, true to my promise, I baked him a triple decker. When he walked in, his eyes misted over and he whispered tremulously, "Oh, my gosh, Dear. I've never had a birthday cake before."