John Dereske

My earliest memory of John Dereske is of sitting in front of him on his motorcycle, one of his spare helmets sitting on my head like a five-gallon bucket on a mop handle, as he drove down the state road that ran out of the town he lived in. I was five or six years old at the time. Grandpa loved giving out those rides, every time we visited him.

My other earliest memory is of sitting in his garage workshop while he worked on whatever his most recent project was. While he worked, he didn't talk, but that was fine with me, because it was obvious he enjoyed my presence. Unlike my aunts and uncles, I was content to sit there, quietly, and that made him happy. It made me happy, too, because he didn't try to make me talk, and didn't question my presence. In fact, he would often glance my way and smile, as if he was proud of me. It was the first time in my life I had ever experienced that kind of response from an adult member of my own family. Oftentimes, I felt he was more of a father to me than my father was.

John Dereske was not just my grandfather, of course. He was also a shrewd businessman. He created a cleaning business that had an exclusive contract for cleaning the offices of the local electrical utility. His business was so successful that he was able to pay cash when he added a wing to his home, exclusively for his wife's pottery workshop and kitchen. In fact, he paid cash for every large purchase he made, whether it was a new Goldwing or a new Lincoln or an addition to his home. He did all this despite having had six heart attacks over the last twenty years of his life.

John Dereske was the man I looked up to as a child, who I wanted to be like when I grew up. What more can you say about someone?

William G. Hartwell


October 23, 2009
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