My brother Tom, who is the funniest member of our family, was fond of saying that “the only members of the Freund family with brown eyes are Jane, Dad and the dog.” Come to think of it, I think all of our dogs had brown eyes. However, I was the only one of Mom and Dad’s six children to inherit his brown eyes. Consequently, his nickname for me was “Brown Eyes”.
Dad was born in Vienna, Austria in 1927 and his life began on a tragic note. When Dad was just six weeks old, his mother died from complications of his childbirth. He was raised by his father who suffered complications from being gassed in World War I. Realizing that he was not well, Grandpa Freund sent Dad to live with his late wife’s parents when my Dad was about seven or eight.
His grandparents, Alois and Marie Goldmann, realized that Dad was at incredible risk as a young Jewish boy in an era where a monster named Adolf Hitler was systematically attempting to eliminate entire ethnic groups. They made the painful and amazing sacrifice to send Dad, their only living descendant, to live with relatives in America. Because they did not have a sponsor in the U.S., the Goldmanns were not allowed to accompany Dad. They were ultimately murdered at Auschwitz.
Dad arrived in America at the age of 11 not knowing any English but quickly dove into his education. At the age of 18, he went to MIT and became a chemical and nuclear engineer. Ultimately, he moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho, and met Mom. They spent time in the Chicago area as well and had six children.
Why am I choosing to tell you all of this information? Ten years ago today, I held Dad’s hand as he took his last breath. I did the same thing three years later when Mom left this world. Something very life-changing about the privilege of being at the end of life with those who brought me into this life.
But today, I am focusing on what Dad taught me through his words and actions. Let me share some of the most important lessons:
Knowing technical information is not enough as you need to be able to explain it in layman’s terms. Dad could explain nuclear energy to children and do it well. One of his old co-workers and a dear family friend told me that Dad was “the most patient scientist he ever knew.” He said that Dad would explain an idea or concept at a meeting and then connect with each person to ensure that they understood what he was saying.
Think and act systematically. Dad thought in and implemented systems in his work and his life. Dad developed election analysis and targeting strategies for his brother-in-law, Orval Hansen, during the latter’s Congressional career. In addition, Dad taught me how to keep a thorough family medical history which saved my life when an alert doctor used it to diagnose my thyroid cancer (although I had no symptoms).
Teach and learn from the next generation. At gatherings of the immediate and extended family, Dad would always spend time with us kids. Perhaps it was part of filling the gap in his lost childhood but Dad was fun to be around and treated us with respect.In addition, Dad coached COUNTLESS young people and taught several of us how to be coaches ourselves.
Face your medical issues head on. Dad suffered from chronic depression and had a couple of nervous breakdowns over the course of his life. He was open about his struggles in an effort to learn from and to help others. Turns out Dad had advanced thyroid cancer that was diagnosed when he was 70 which was likely a major reason for his depression and breakdowns.
Community service is a duty not an option. Dad believed in giving back to a country that gave him, a young refugee, an opportunity to start over. He and Mom taught all of us the importance of helping others and each of us has been involved in various organizations and causes over the course of our lives. Incidentally in that same action oriented mindset, Dad and Mom created a scholarship in memory of Alois and Marie Goldmann who were murdered at Auschwitz.
I could go on but I’d rather stop with this memory. At his funeral and in the weeks and months afterwards, people came out of the woodwork (to borrow on of Mom’s favorite phrases) to share stories about how Dad had touched their lives. The patient scientist with the twinkle in his brown eyes touched more lives than I can even begin to imagine. But most of all, I am thankful for how he touched this Brown Eyes’ life.
Jane Freund is an author, encourager, speaker and book coach who has written 19 books and helped over 140 people achieve their publishing dreams. Her latest book is “A Life-changing Journal for Changing YOUR Life“. In addition, Jane taught Communication for ten years at Boise State University. Her books, tutoring and coaching packages (book, forgiveness, self-sabotage, etc) can be found at https://www.etsy.com/shop/JaneFreundship. Jane’s books can also be found on Amazon and Smashwords. In addition, Jane can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and smoke signals. OK, she is kidding about the smoke signals!