Eight-seven years. Many would say that’s a pretty good run.
Frankly, I could argue it both ways. My dad’s last three years were difficult ones of steady decline to his passing. But I also thought if he could just get past this COVID mess, he’d have a month or two of health and clarity to enjoy his family before he went to see mom and his sons. Regardless of time and wishes, dad decided enough was enough with ongoing septic infections. He passed quietly under the care of the good folks at the HopeWest hospice facility.
Harry L. Hall Jr. was the oldest son of Harry Sr. and Viola. From early on, they knew dad was going to be a giant. He literally was. All the pictures of dad in his youth showed him head and shoulders above the rest. That continued through his high school football days of the early 1950s and a young man nearly 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds (tiny by football standards today) who pushed anyone around the gridiron. His football talent landed him a scholarship — dad always laughed he knew it wasn’t for academics — to play at the University of Toledo.
A knee injury ended dad’s football days early on and landed him in the United States Army, where he served a two-year tour in Germany as a radio operator. He’d tell stories about how he was mysteriously transferred to the best football outfit in the region at the behest of an officer. Instead, dad got the officer back by playing basketball.
If you knew dad at all, you knew of his fondness for his Army days and Germany. Perhaps it was because the farming household he grew up in spoke a lot of German, as did his church and school during his formative years. I speak from experience because the same school and church had his four boys singing in German when we attended. I tend to think dad was so fond of Germany because of the lifelong friendships he forged there. One of those friends eventually introducing him to the love of his life, Marilynn Rose Bardell.
My mom, scandalously eight years older than dad, became dad’s partner for nearly 60 years before passing in 2016. They had four boys — Kevin, twins Kurt and Karl and their youngest, yours truly. Kurt and Karl preceded dad in death, passing in 2000 just five weeks apart.
Much like dad’s life, our youth was filled with sports, the value of hard work and family and friendship gatherings the year around. Thanks to my parents, it was an amazing time to grow up.
Sports would be a theme in dad’s life as he played many recreational sports throughout his life before retirement as well as refereeing basketball and football until his knees finally slowed him down. Mom, a pretty good athlete in her own right, occasionally joined in as both spectator and participant.
But dad’s main role in life was being dad, providing to make things better for his family.
Dad wasn’t around as much as I would have liked when I was a kid. Maybe that’s because he was working any one of three shifts at the Ford Motor Co. Rouge Works while going back to school to earn his bachelor’s degree to become a teacher. That experience led him to an ongoing life of learning and earning degrees, just short of a doctorate.
Dad’s job at Ford also led him to his other lifelong love: University of Michigan football. He was a season ticket holder from 1969 until his move to Colorado — and the tickets stayed in the family much longer. The way dad told it, he was listening to J.P. McCarthy (a long-time voice on WJR radio in Detroit) after a midnight shift when he heard Michigan had hired Bo Schembechler to become the new head football coach. So the old Mercury took a detour to Ann Arbor for season tickets instead of heading home. Dad and I attended countless games together, and every crisp fall morning will be my forever reminder.
Even in retirement, dad was bad at retirement. For many years in Boulder, dad continued to sell real estate — his third occupation — and then became heavily involved in the Lutheran Church. He served as regional president for the Missouri Synod. Church and faith were always a big part of dad’s life, even after he began living at The Oaks in Fruita as his health declined.
The other big thing for dad was family, and no one benefited more than my daughters and I. Papa loved doting on my girls. Along with Nana, they made every holiday memorable as my kids grew. They could also be counted on for Sunday (well, any day) dinner and visits every week. For me, their indispensable knowledge and effort were a big part of the reason you enjoy the Business Times today. Dad was even helping with delivery up to the week sepsis bouts took away his freedom to move about on his own.
After three years of fighting one infection after another, the decision was made to reunite dad with mom, his sons, his siblings and many friends who preceded dad in going to his Savior. I can hear the cards being knuckle-slammed on the table, the laughter, the Carling beers being popped, the Michigan cheers, my kids’ laughter from pure love and enjoyment and see us boys with a carload of the Detroit News at 5 on a Sunday morning, the family at sporting events and the smoke-filled rooms we cared nary about. The best of times with family and friends reunited in heaven.
And above it all, I see and hear this giant of a man who gave me life and then worked to the end to make my life, his family’s lives and my children’s lives better. See you soon, Pop … but not too soon.
Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or publisher@thebusinesstimes.