|How to make the world a better - and funnier - place for 97 years.|
My former father-in-law, James W. Allen, died on Monday night at the age of 97. For nearly all of those years, he was healthy and sharp - Jack the Needle, he sometimes called himself. A heart attack five months ago was the beginning of a decline in his physical health but, for the most part, he defied all expectations about what a person in their 90s was supposed to be like.
He was a walking piece of history - in the picture above he is re-visiting Anzio beach in Italy, where he landed as a 19 yo foot soldier in WWII. He did many, many things in his lifetime, including, at age 40, get married and start a family, eventually having six children in the space of ten years.
I knew him for 31 years, first as one of his son's girlfriends, then as a daughter in law and then as a former daughter in law. Men of his generation aren't really the type to be warm and fuzzy so I felt his affection from his teasing and the way he enthusiastically took up the minutia of the local geography of my hometown in Massachusetts and, later, Newfoundland. Indeed, one of the first questions he would ask anyone he met was, "where are you from?" I honestly never saw him not be able to pull out some obscure geographical reference in reply to their answer, "Oh, that's about ten miles from Sioux Falls on Rte 29?" leaving the rest of us standing there wondering how in the world he knew that.
How do you measure success? Money? Houses? Flashy accomplishments? How about creating a family of very good, smart, funny people who love you dearly and devotedly? By that measure, Jim Allen was a stunning success. He also was a decent, good man who will be sorely missed by all who knew him.