February 10, 2015 § 1 Comment
Successful people, and leaders, in business and elsewhere, envision the future. They are not only forward looking, with foresight and vision. They imagine the goal they wish to attain – what they aspire to become, to achieve or to create. As they strive to realize their vision, they are hopeful and optimistic, and they act with honesty and integrity.
When I hear people speak of my grandfather and I hear the stories of his life, this is the kind of person they talk about. A man of enduring character, and a man of vision.
For me, I knew Leonard Carl Lindblom as Grandpa. My earliest memories of Grandpa are of someone who was gentle, loving and often smiling. Grandpa was the grownup that made things work around the house, like the TV or the lights. Grandpa could fix things, and if something was broken you had to wait for him to fix it. Grandpa never had any doubt that something could be fixed, and therefore you should never throw anything away.
Grandpa was the person who took you fishing on Snow Lake. For dinner we would have a fish fry, sitting around the big yellow table in the little lake cottage. Grandpa was the person who took you out on long boat excursions, which would hopefully culminate in a stop at the donut shop. Grandpa was the grown-up who took charge of making the Old Fashioneds at 3 o’clock, with the delicious smell of maraschino cherries, orange slices, and grenadine, typically served with a cheddar ball and crackers. Grandpa loved Limberger cheese, which he first introduced to me as a small child. As a result I have gone on to try stinky cheeses the world over. Grandpa carved the roast at dinner, which happened in the kitchen where you might catch him eating all the delicious bits. If Grandma wasn’t watching, he would share some of it with you.
Grandpa and Grandma had big gardens, and I remember eating Grandpa’s green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. He also grew a lot of dandelions, which I helped him to pick one year, so he could make dandelion wine. Grandpa’s back yard was so big, he had to cut the grass with a tractor, and sometimes you got to ride it with him.
Grandpa stayed connected to his Swedish heritage, and was admired and loved by an extended family of Uncles, Aunts and Cousins in Sweden and Denmark. His strong relationships created opportunities to host and visit these strangely foreign, yet incredibly warm relatives, who recounted fondly stories of my fun loving and kind Grandpa. Being welcomed to this long-distance inheritance connected me to a bigger and more complicated world then I could have ever imagined growing up in a small town, it defined my identity and instilled a life-long love of travel and culture.
Every special event of my life involved my Grandparents in some way. Grandpa and Grandma both placed great importance on participating in our lives. Grandpa always encouraged me to work hard, and to be good, to take risks and to dream big. With every birthday gift, graduation present and letter when he would send money for college, he always included a note that said, “Spend it wisely.”
Later on, I had a few opportunities to hear him recount his life and career. I learned about his childhood in Chicago, with hard working summers spent on his Uncles’ farm in Minnesota. Of vacations spent in Wisconsin, and eating crayfish. I spent one afternoon sitting with him on the front lawn of the lake cottage, and from his modest and matter-of-fact stories I learned of some of his amazing accomplishments.
I listened to how he went from working on bridges and dams, to working in the rubber industry. That he worked on the development of rubber tank treads so that the World War II military tanks would run smoothly. That he was a engineer for B F Goodrich, and worked on the three-person team that developed torailastic rubber springs, building a car called the “BFG Special” from the ground up to test and demonstrate this innovative new invention. Steadily he built relationships and learned new things, and that eventually lead to him creating his own company.
I am very proud that my Grandpa was a visionary entrepreneur, who was respected and loved by many. His far-reaching vision positively impacted and created opportunities for communities and industries, as well as my family.
What I will remember is that he loved his family and was grateful for his family’s and for Grandma’s support, which he recognized as contributing to his success. As an engineer he was at heart a problem solver, open minded and curious. If you needed help or wanted to accomplish something, Grandpa would help you find a way. And, even now, Grandpa’s vision continues, even now he continues to be with us, to help us find our way and help us accomplish our goals.
Grandpa’s humbly conceived vision was greater than one lifetime. It was a vision of a legacy that he dreamed would be big enough to pass on to all of us, for generations to come. And he has.
Leonard Carl Lindblom 1915-2015
My Eulogy, from the memorial service on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 1:30 PM at Bethany Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN 46809
January 31, 2015 § 3 Comments
My grandparents met in Chicago in the 1930s, introduced by mutual friends at a social dance. At that time dancing was an entertainment that rivaled the popularity of theater, musicals and movies. Dressed in Michigan Avenue fashions, meeting friends in magnificent ballrooms, my grandparents danced the waltz, foxtrot and swing to the most well known big bands of the times. They were married in Chicago in 1940.
Grandma, Ruth Ethel (Wollwage) Lindblom, was a self-titled “domestic engineer”. She managed household operations, the children, pets and social activities, without many of the modern conveniences we now take for granted. An accomplished seamstress, she fashioned couture quality clothes for herself and her family, as well as housewares, textiles and decor for the home and her church. Described as ‘down to earth’ and ‘fun to talk with’ by friends and my grandpa’s colleagues, my grandma endeared herself to many.
Grandpa, Leonard Carl Lindblom, graduated from the University of Illinois in 1938 with a BS in Civil Engineering. His early career was spent working on dams and bridges in Knoxville and Chicago. In 1944, Grandpa joined BF Goodrich and Company, in Akron, Ohio and began a long and illustrious career in the automotive rubber manufacturing industry. Finally settling his family in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my Grandpa went on to start his own manufacturing company.
My Grandma died in 2009, living to be 93. My Grandpa died on January 28th, 2015. Although not quite 100, he lived to his 100th year. They lived through the Great Depression, experienced and contributed to the war effort, and propelled the post war boom with their entrepreneurial spirit. Of Swedish, German and French decent, they built enduring relationships with an extended European family. Respected and loved by his community and business associates, my Grandpa was known as an honest businessman of the highest integrity.
Leaving Fort Wayne, the day after my grandpa’s funeral, I flew home to Boston via Chicago. The plane flew north and over lake Michigan. From my seat on the left side of the airplane I could see Chicago grow larger out my window. Snow blanketed the city and surrounding landscape, and it appeared as a black and white city of towers. Like an engraved image from an old book, it stood solemn and stark against a white backdrop.
The plane then turned and flew across the north end of Chicago. As the sun shown down from the left and hit the wet and ice covered roadways, rainbows suddenly illuminated the streets, shimmering with colors from one end of Chicago to the other. It was so incredibly beautiful, street after street of rainbows. The angle of the sun, my dirty airplane window and my polarized sunglasses converged to create an amazing sight.
In that magical moment I could not help but imagine Chicago as it had seemed to my grandparents in the prime of their life, so filled with hope and opportunity, with love and exuberance; so it was again. Perhaps I was witnessing my Grandparents returning to Chicago one last time, dancing together in the sparkling light.
And the streets were made of rainbows.