Kenneth H. Will was born and raised in Cleveland, served in the US Army during World War II in Europe, and returned home a decorated veteran. He was the father of five, grandfather of 13, great-grandfather of 19.
But of the legacy he left, my favorite part was the impact he made on Ryan’s life. Ryan has had a lot of great figures he’s looked up to over the years from the church, the Army, his own father and brothers–but Grandpa was a special connection for him that he carried with him through childhood up through adulthood.
I tried to make it a point to call Grandpa every other week or so to check on him and catch up as long as he could manage. No matter how weak in health he was getting due to the cancer, the man remembered the name of every single person in the family. And without fail, he would beam with pride about Ryan’s Army service.
Perhaps it was the shared appreciation for being a gunner during war, being with buddies outside the wire, and honoring their fallen brothers. These days, we can all be so lucky to have past generations share memories with us as we become adults.
In 2011, soon after we got married, Ryan started expressing to me how much his grandfather meant to him. After just losing my own grandmother that year, we decided to fly to Cleveland to see him and the rest of the Will family in the area. It had been my first time seeing all of them and Ryan’s first time since he was a teenager. We then visited the following year after finding out Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer, and again (PTL) for his 90th birthday that summer. That was the last time we saw him, but it was when he was in good spirits, surrounded by his whole family. We couldn’t have asked for a better goodbye. I was told that Gramp thought about every single one of us in his dreams and we would like to think he thought of us when he passed in his sleep.
The whole family made it to Cleveland again last month to pay final respects to the patriarch who brought us all together. The wild and diverse dynamic of the family is precisely what has made it strong, and it was a blessing to not only see this again, but to know that I’m part of it as well.
Military honors for a true hero. We will miss you grandpa!