Today would have been my grandfather’s 89th birthday. He left us 13 years ago this February 1st, just 100 days before I graduated college. It doesn’t feel that long ago, and yet its approaching the point of literally being a lifetime ago. Every time I think about him, I definitely miss him.
Richard Thomas Wilkins Sr., born and raised in Phillipsburg, NJ, was one of the best influences on my life. I spent a lot of time with him as a child- when my parents worked, some weekend nights, and almost every Sunday. A lot of our time together was doing simple things, like Friday night football games at his beloved Phillipsburg Stateliners, Saturday nights going out to dinner (many times at KFC, where we got hot wings), or listening to Polkas after church Sunday morning. He taught me a lot about serving others too, whether it was his time in Korea with the U.S. Navy, his more than 40 years on the Pohatcong Township Planning Commission, or just his being the usher in church. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was watching him appreciate his 50th wedding anniversary, even as he battled terminal cancer. Or perhaps it was that style with cancer that did the most to change me as a person.
I don’t mean to hold him up as perfect, he wasn’t, but it felt like a good day to remember him today. Even as the years go by, he remains on my mind.