Thursday, February 10, 2011

I am who I am today because of my Grandpa

Kenneth M. Hatch
October 16, 1922 - April 18, 2010

My Grandfather, Kenneth M. Hatch was born to Nick K. Hatch and Hattie M. Hatch, in Unalaska, Alaska in 1922.  He went to Oregon State College (OSU) in 1940, where his ROTC unit was called to active duty in 1943.  He was selected to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was one of the first Native Americans to graduate there in 1947. My Grandfather was the kindest man in the world, he volunteered every week at Meals On Wheels, Oregon Coast Community College, Hatfield Marine Science Center, and at the Aquarium (his favorite place to visit with us grandchildren.) I will always remember those relaxing weekends at the Oregon Coast where I would visit him while I went to OSU. It was my home away from home and we had wonderful times going out to eat together since I was an awful cook, walking Lancer (his lassie dog) at the beach, and picking out presents together for my siblings at the outlet malls. He was always full of energy and reminded me that daily exercise was what keeps us young and healthy.

 He was a brilliant man, I remember when he taught me Statistics and let me borrow his "Statistics for dummies" book because he joked it might be more on my level (haha he was right :)  He obtained an MS Degree in Civil Engineering from the California Institute of Technology,  participated in the Korean war where he was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and other medals that I peeked at occasionally in his room. During the Vietnam War he commanded an engineer construction group in Thailand where he received the Legion of Merit.  He retired from the service in 1970 as a full colonel, and worked in Eugene as a professional engineer until 1981.

He married Althea Mendenhall of  Summit, New Jersey, in 1949, and she was the loveliest woman in the world! My grandmother had fantastic taste in fashion and had a very classic look of crimson lipstick, short dark hair, and always smelled of fresh lavender. 

This photo was taken with a vintage Argus C3 Camera for my grandparents. They are holding their first two sons (Herb and Dave), and next to my grandpa is his dear friend Brij and wife Raj. Brij wrote a letter to my family that told us that when they moved to the states from India, my grandparents invited them over for their first real american meal.  Brij said in his letter, "Naturally, we started eating the delicious chicken drumsticks dinner that Althea (my grandmother) had put together, with knifes and forks - the formal `Raj’ etiquette Observing that we will not be able to do justice, Ken (my grandpa) pointed out that `here we just grab the chicken, eat it from the bones and lick the fingers.'  

My Grandpa moved to Newport in 1985, where he enjoyed boating, fishing, and wood carving. His wood carvings were incredible, they were traditional Native American carvings of animals. My favorites were the blue herons, sea gulls, and ravens that he carved. I went with him once to a wood carving fair where we ran into the man who had taught him to carve and he claimed that my Grandpa had surpassed his level of carving years ago. My Grandpa took a few years off of carving and I questioned him about it once and told him I missed his new creations. The next day he got back into carving and proudly told me he had gotten back to it again, it made me smile! I couldn't have gotten through school without his help and guidance along the way, he taught me so much and really inspired me to always work my hardest.

 I wish he could have been there to see me graduate, but while I walked to receive my diploma, I could feel his presence in the Reser Stadium stands, exactly where he had once stood as one of the only fans my lacrosse team had at a home game. He was smiling, and I could feel its warmth.

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