by Gerald Boerner

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today, we revisit the several aspects of Father’s Day, focusing on the parenting example provided by our grandparents. This is second year that we have brought you this series. It is a holiday that was proposed to be a companion of Mother’s Day. It has not received the same press as has Mother’s Day, probably because of the very close bond between mothers and their children.

This is a new addition to the posts from what we did last year in looking at parenthood. We hope that as you read this and the subsequent posts that you will gain new and fond appreciations for our fathers. They have provided us with the support and love that has nurtured us through the good and bad times.

Let us renew our commitment to become the best fathers that we can be to our own children and not make the mistakes that may have been made by our own fathers. GLB

[ This is Part 6 of 7. ]

[ 2672 Words ]


“In 1973, a woman could not get a credit card without her husband or father or a male signing off on it.”
— Billy Jean King

“The worst misfortune that can happen to an ordinary man is to have an extraordinary father.”
— Austin O’Malley

“My mother is Irish, my father is black and Venezuelan, and me – I’m tan, I guess.”
— Mariah Carey

“Must! Is must a word to be addressed to princes? Little man, little man! Thy father, if he had been alive, durst not have used that word.”
— Elizabeth I

“It is funny the two things most men are proudest of is the thing that any man can do and doing does in the same way, that is being drunk and being the father of their son.”
— Gertrude Stein

“I would not be gotten into a schoolhouse until I was eight years old. Nor did I accomplish much after I started. I doubt if I had gone to school six months in all when my father died. I was fourteen at the time.”
— Sam Houston

“I don’t mind being a grandfather; I’ve been a mother for so many years. You just can’t believe what it’s like being a father. Especially when you come out of the chaos of the road to getting married and having children.”
— Steven Tyler

“In the early years, I found a voice that was my voice and also partly my father’s voice. But isn’t that what you always do? Why do kids at 5 years old go into the closet and put their daddy’s shoes on? Hey, my kids do it.”
— Bruce Springsteen

Father’s Day: Honoring our Grandfathers

Grandfather Grandparents are the father or mother of a person’s own father and/or mother. Everyone who is not a chimera has a maximum of four genetic grandparents, eight genetic great-grandparents, sixteen genetic great-great-grandparents, etc. Sometimes these numbers are lower and in the case of having only two or three grandparents sibling or half-sibling incest would be incorporated.

In cases where the parents are unwilling or unable to provide adequate care for their children, in cases of death or other words, grandparents often take on the role of primary caregivers. Even when this is not the case, grandparents often participate in the raising of children.

In traditional cultures, grandparents often had a direct and clear role in relation to the care and nurture of children. One can also be a step-grandparent. A step-grandparent can be your parent’s stepparent or your stepparent’s parent.

The various words for grandparents at times may also be used to refer to any elderly person, especially the terms gramps, granny, grandfather, grandmother and even more types that most families make up themselves. Two individuals who have grandparents in common, but are not siblings, are called first cousins. The parents of a person’s first cousins are his or her uncles and aunts.

In the history of modern humanity, around 30,000 years ago, the number of modern humans who lived to be grandparents began to skyrocket. It is not known for certain what spurred this increase in longevity. But it is believed that a key consequence of three generations being alive together was the facilitation of the passing along of information that prior to that point would have been lost. This sort of information might have been for instance, where to find water in times of drought.


The_Favorite_by_Georgios_Iakovidis The Favorite,
by Georgios Iakovidis (1890)

When used as a noun (i.e., "…a grandparent walked by"), grandfather and grandmother are usually used, although grandpa/grandma and granny are often used. When preceded by "my…" (i.e., "…my grandpa walked by"), all forms are common (anywhere from "…my grandfather…" to "…my Gramps…"). All forms can be used in plural, but Gramps (plural Gramps) is rare.

In writing, Grandfather and Grandmother are most common. In speech, Grandpa and Grandma are most common in the US and Canada, where grandfather/-mother is very rare when referring to a grandparent in person. In Britain, New England and Australia Nan, Nana, Nanna, Nanny and other variations are often used for grandmother in both writing and speech.

Numerous other variants exist, such as Gramp and Grandpap or pop for grandfather and Grandmom, Grandmama and Grammy for grandmother, etc. Because of the terms’ unavoidable familiarity, there are many simplified versions as well, including Gogo, Grampy, Granddaddy, Grandpappy, etc.

Given that people may have two living sets of grandparents, some confusion arises from calling two people "grandma" or "grandpa", so often two of the other terms listed above are used for one set of grandparents. Another common solution is to call grandparents by their first names ("Grandpa George", "Grandma Anne", etc.) or by their family names ("Grandpa Jones", "Grandma Smith"). In North America, many families call one set of grandparents by their ethnic names (i.e., Hispanic grandparents might be called "Abuelo" and "Abuela", French grandparents might be called "Pépé" and "Mémé", or Dutch and German grandparents might be called "Opa" and "Oma").

Languages and cultures with more specific kinship terminology than English may distinguish between paternal grandparents and maternal grandparents. For example in the Swedish language there is no single word for "grandmother"; the mother’s mother is termed mormor and the father’s mother is termed farmor.


The parents of a grandparent are called all the same names (grandfather/-mother, grandpa/-ma, granddad/-ma, etc.) with the prefix "great-" added, one for each additional generation. Thus, one’s father’s father’s father is a great-grandfather. One’s great-grandparent’s parents would be great-great-grandparents. To avoid a proliferation of "greats" when discussing genealogical trees, one may also used ordinals instead of multiple "greats"; thus a "great-great grandfather" would be the "second great grandfather", and a "great-great-great grandfather" would be a third great grandfather, and so on. This system is used by some genealogical websites such as Geni.

Individuals who share the same great-grandparents but are not siblings or first cousins are called Second Cousins to each other because second cousins are the grandchildren of your grandparent’s siblings.

The Legacy of my Grandfathers

A year ago, I posted a tribute to my father (Click HERE to access the original posting.) He was a complex and enigmatic man who never really felt comfortable in his role of a father. Of course much of this complexity was probably related to the crises faced by our family during the middle of the 1950s. These included the death of his father about the same time as we lost my little sister to SIDS (“Crib Death” or Sudden Instant Death Syndrome).

These two events caused him to turn to drink, become abusive to my mother and myself, and eventually led to the divorce of my parents when I was thirteen/fourteen. From there he fell deeper into his alcoholism and financial problems. He had a couple of brushes with the law and served time in prison. Fortunately, this incarceration gave him time to reflect on himself and led to his rehabilitation after his release.

What type of role model was he? Well, the best I can say was that his problems and his four marriages caused me to take life more seriously. I vowed to avoid the pitfalls that brought him down. I turned to the church and made a commitment to making my life and marriage work. I set a high priority on avoiding alcohol and respecting women as persons who deserve respect.

Thinking about these experiences and my exploration of my family ancestry over the past year, with the help of my wife, I considered the influences of my grandparents, especially my grandfathers, upon my life. I was thirteen when my parents separated, three years older than my middle brother and seven years older than my youngest brother. This meant that I had already experienced the benefit of my father’s help in learning to play baseball and getting started in the Boy Scouts; my brothers did not have this experience.

So, I want to relate the results of my investigation into the lives of my grandfathers. The research conducted by my wife into our family’s ancestors has helped me to reconstruct the path taken by these German emigrants as they settled into this country. On the one side, my mother’s parents came to American in the early 20th century on a “shoe string” while on the other side, my father’s great-grandparents emigrated in the mid-1860s. The former were looking for a better life while the latter were looking for new opportunities. What follows is a brief glimpse into their stories.

Unfortunately, I never knew my grandfathers very well in life. My maternal grandfather died when I was but six years old when he died. My paternal grandfather died when I was eleven, but I had relatively little contact with him. So, the following sketches are drawn from brief recollections of them and their legacy passed on to me by my grandmothers.

My Maternal Grandfather

4318_1045026019568_1643173921_141726_5181847_n John Andrew Inderbieten (properly Johann Andreas Inderbieten) was born in 1883 in Lobberich, Nordheim-Wesfalen, Germany. This is a small town located west of Düsseldorf near the Netherlands border. His trade, in his native land, was that of a chef. When he arrived in America in 1909, he moved to the Los Angeles area and resumed his trade. He met my grandmother in Los Angeles where she had moved after arriving in America in about 1912 as an eighteen year old girl; she had relatives in the Los Angeles area. They were married in 1918. As German-speakers, the first half of the 20th century was hard on them, since we were involved in two world wars against Germany and her allies. My mother was born in 1919 and the family bought property in Downey in 1927 and moved into their new home. My grandfather continued to work as a chef.

I have few remembrances of him since he died when I was only six in 1949. I do remember that he had been sick for quite some time and my grandmother nursed him as well as tended to their egg business. What I do remember of him was from my grandmother’s stories. Together, they were married for 31 years and raised three children (one girl and two boys). My two uncles became successful businessmen. My Uncle Bob was a dairyman while my Uncle John worked in transportation and freeway construction. He had to have been well respected because they maintained contact with both of their families in the Los Angeles area and their Christmas Day dinners were incredible celebrations in the German style.

While they were not rich, they were industrious and comfortable. They provided both material and emotional support. Growing up, we were very close with my grandma Anna. I would have to attribute many of my attitudes and behaviors to their example. Their stable marriage and love is still an inspiration to me.

What more could I ask of my grandfather? I wish that I could have known him better. How I wish that he could have told me about his homeland and what life was like in the pre-World War I world. It remained for my grandmother to instill within me a love for my homeland (“Heimat”). They were wonderful examples.

My Paternal Grandfather

2851_1038608179126_1643173921_128887_6839143_n My father’s father, Ernest Herman Boerner, grew up in a very different world. He was a second generation American. His grandfather, Frederick, brought his family (his wife and 10 children) to this country with substantial funds and traveled across the Atlantic in style. They emigrated from Hammelstall, Ueckermunde, Germany, which is north of Berlin on the Oder River. They settled in western Minnesota in the Alexandria/Herman area. They purchased property on which to farm. The sons became community leaders.

During this period of time, the areas of western Minnesota were still considered “frontiers.” There were periodic Indian raids from the Dakota territory. The suffered the normal fate of prairie farmers from locust swarms and drought cycles. But they held fast and tilled the land successfully. This demonstrated their tenacity and character.

Ernest’s father was Herman Boerner, one of Frederick’s sons. Grandpa Boerner was born in 1879 and married Marie Hueseman in about 1905/1906. They had three sons, Lawrence, Leonard (my father) and Forest (“Bud”). Lawrence became a rancher in San Diego, Bud became a potato farmer in Idaho, and my dad became a carpenter. Throughout their lives, my grandparents set education as a high priority. When Lawrence and Leonard were ready for high school, they left their farm in Hermann and moved to suburban Saint Louis Park so the boys could go to high school. I remember how meaningful this was to my father when he attended his 50th high school reunion; there were six students in his graduating class.

Ernest and Marie had been frugal and managed their money well. They invested in land in the Minnesota and Wisconsin area as well as in California, where they moved in the late 1920 to California where they owned ranches in the Santa Rosa and San Diego areas. They lived in Downey during the mid-1930s because Bud attended high school with my mother, Betty, at Downey High School. Later they bought a nice home in Pasadena where they lived when not traveling between their other properties. Because of their extensive travels, I had little time to spend with my grandpa Boerner. He worked hard, but was driven by my grandmother.

This dominance by my grandmother resulted in an unequal treatment of the three boys. Lawrence was definitely the favorite, with Bud and my father getting the “leftovers”, so to speak. I’m sure that this had a major influence on my dad and his treatment of my mother and us kids. I have to say that I did not feel an immediate loss of grandpa Boerner. This was, no doubt, partly due to the death of my sister the same year.


So, what did I learn from my examination of my grandfathers lives? I think there were several lessons — industriousness, hard work pay off, education is important, and the importance of nurturing one’s children. I have attempted to put these lessons into action as I raised my own daughters. To the extent that I have succeeded, I give them credit. But I have to be realistic and admit that everything was not always easy.

Above everything else, I have to thank them for emphasizing the importance of family. My mother and father were the result of their approach to family, especially maintaining a stable marriage. Grace and I have just celebrated our 43rd anniversary, and I’m sure that the example of my grandfathers had something to do with that. Their success as well as the success of most of their children have given me an example to emulate!

Thank you, Grandfather Ernest and Grandfather John for your example. I didn’t know you personally very well, but have thrived on your examples. RIP.

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Grandparent…

Brainy Quote: Father Quotes…