Ace Reminded me of a Simpler Time

“When I first met Ace, it was at a family party. He was wearing a bow-tie. He was one of the most charming men I had met. I remember that not only did he shake my hand, but he grabbed my elbow and pulled me into a hug. That is what Ace did, he pulled you in.

“Ace was not a man based in fear. You would have a conversation, and he would tell you how things used to be, but when you would tell him about a new development, he would smile and say, “Ain’t That Something!”

“Ace reminded me of a simpler time when people ran for the phone, waved to their neighbors and dressed up to meet a loved one at the airport.

“Growing up in Santa Cruz, whenever I would go to the Boardwalk, I would always pause as I was drawn in by the black and white historical photos of people coming to the Coconut Grove bandstand. Ace made me think of those times. He would say things like, “Gee!” and “Ain’t THAT Something,” and “That’s the way it was!.” I loved that. It reminded me of Sunday afternoon movies. To me he was a little Jimmy Stewart and a little Mickey Rooney and his life was a story I always loved to hear. He would tell me about his handstands on the desks and how he would ask land owners for land to build a school. He might tell me the stories more than once, but I loved that, too. Sometimes, I would act if I hadn’t heard the story, just to hear it again, because he lit up when he told it. I loved when he talked how Barbara would look at him and smile. Most of all, I loved that when you left Ace, you always felt a little sunnier or lighter. Thank you to Ace — we’ll miss you!”

~Lori Berry

Ham and Ace (and Joy and Barb)

Many of you know that my father was an avid letter writer. He did it in longhand, never taking to computers or even typewriters (although we found an old one of mine in his office.)

Fred Hodgson sent us a PDF copy of a letter Ace wrote  to him in March of 2011 shortly after Fred’s mother Joy passed away. In the letter Ace shared some memories of his and Barbara’s lifelong (or close enough) friendship with Ham and Joy Hodgson.

Dear Bobbie and Josh,

John, Michael, and I are terribly sorry to hear about your loss of your father. No expression of sympathy — no matter how deeply felt — can help much right now, but we want you to know that our thoughts are with you. Ace and Barbara were very much a part if our parents’ lives. It was the foundation of that friendship that helped to make them the wonderful examples to others during their lives.

When I received the attached letter from your father after our mother passed in February 2011, I telephoned your father. We had a fun conversation about the remembrances of his times with Ham and Joy. I thought at the time that we was over 90 years of age and yet recalled the details of his life and memories with such accuracy. My dad spoke often of his college days with Ace, the jokes they played on each other, the war years, getting together as we all grew up and being the best man at your folks’ wedding. The four of them had many good times together and were truly participants of the Greatest Generation.

I don’t know if you have seen this letter but imagine you will enjoy reading it as others may — I believe the letter speaks for itself. My brothers and I are so grateful that Barbara and Ace were part of our parents’ lives.

Here is the letter that Fred mentions. Click on this link to open it. Letter from Ace March 9, 2011 We are very grateful to Fred for passing this treasure along.

 

The Iconic Ace

Ace hugging Eli

Bobbie and I were most excited to discover this photo of Ace. It is iconic of the man he was. The little boy in the shot is Eli, a neighbor (who has grown up quite a bit since this photo was taken.)

I love the metaphor of my dad embracing the children. It’s what he did for a career and it’s one of the things he did as the neighborhood grandfather.

Recently we received a wonderful letter from Mindy Dirks, the mother of the boy in the photo. It was a beautiful expression of how she remembers my mother and father, and it is shared with her permisison.

Dear Bobbie & Josh,

Writing this reminds me of the beautiful notes I always got from your mom about 1 hour after I had done something nice for her. Even the littlest gesture was always acknowledged and dutifully delivered by your dad.

I brought babies and toddlers to your house almost every day for 8 years knowing they’d be fully loved and accepted for who they were. Your mom always had a story about you two as children that fitted whatever stage my children were at. When I was worried, she’d tell how she worried similarly and offer the perspective that only a mother with grown children could have. She felt strongly that children should be accepted for who they are and that a mother needs to guard her children’s uniqueness, quirks and all.

Your dad was more of a brag-about-the-present kind of father. Whatever you two were up to was brag-worthy. He was proud of his children for sure, but even more, he delighted in the two of you. He was current in his knowledge of your lives and he took personal joy from all you did. It was as if your days were his days, your interests were his interests. It was particularly amusing watching your dad try to make his way through a book or article either recommended by one of you or having to do with your thoughts and interests. Each book enjoyed and deemed “fascinating,” not so much for its content but because of its connection to you two.

Both of your parents loved freely. Their eyes sparkled when they’d see my children and Jonah and Eli basked in this light. It helped shape my boys and gave them a sense of community and a broader concept of the word “home.”

This week, we mourn the loss of your dad. It is a big giant loss. Your dad’s last question to me as he lay dying was ‘how’s your dad?’ He truly cared about my life and my family. He celebrated the successes of everyone in my family, my parents included. As Josh said, he really was the superintendent of the neighborhood.

We are grateful for the time we shared with Ace and we take comfort in knowing that as he lay dying he was fully loved and cared for by the two he loved best. May the memory of Ace and the memory of Barbara be a blessing to us all.

Bobbie and I are very grateful to Mindy for her generosity in sharing her memories and feelings with us.

60th Wedding Anniversary

Ace-Barb-Bobbie-Josh-2002

On the occasion of Ace and Barbra’s 60th wedding anniversary (or close enough to that date), the family met at the Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge on the Rogue River in Gold Beach, Oregon. Josh drove down from his home in Salem, Oregon and met up with Ace, Barbara, and Bobbie who drove up from the Bay Area. We stayed for two nights enjoying gourmet food, wonderful rooms, and great Southern Oregon scenery.

Ace and Barbara would have nine more wedding anniversaries.

Sweethearts in the Photo Booth

Delos and Barbara

Here are the lovebirds, Ace and Barb cheek-to-cheek in the photo booth.

A couple of days before Ace died, I showed him some of the old photos that Bobbie and I had unearthed from the various piles and stashes of Kodak moments around the house.

This one brought a big smile. It was OK that he didn;t have words to express what his face language said.

I like to think of both of them dancing in the streets of heaven. I would not be at all surprised if they both look more like this now (but in full color!)

Sweethearts Forever

Ace and Barbara Wedding

Ace and Barbara were married in Pacific Grove, California in 1942. They had been sweethearts for five years.

They both taught in the Monterey area until they moved to Los Gatos in 1944 when Ace landed his job with the Cambrian Elementary School District. They made their home in Los Gatos and had two children.

Ace and Barbara were married for 69 years, four months. She died in December, 2011, with Ace and her children at her side.

(Click on photo for an enlarged view.)

A Day at the Beach

Ace-Barb-beach-1940s

A day at the beach for Ace and Barbara sometime in the 1940s.

It was a great time to live in California — at least from the point of view of Ace and Barbara’s kids. The coast was much open for recreational exploration than today when so much of it has been privatized. The Santa Clara Valley was still a lush orchard paradise, ofte referred to as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. Springtime featured a sea of blossoms among many orchards of fruit trees.

Ace and Barbara taught in the Monterey area until they moved to Los Gatos in 1944.