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 had an affinity for stinky cheese, which he first introduced to me as 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