Carl Herman was my grandfather, born in 1910 and raised on a farm in Kansas. He loved to tell the story about when he and his cousin went to check out the schoolhouse. He said it was just like in the “pictures,” which is what he called movies, like in Little House on the Prairie. Carl was six years old when he and his cousin went to see the schoolhouse, and that is the day he met and fell in love with the “little redhead.” That little redhead was Nellie Grimes, seven years old. Carl and Nellie, who lived on neighboring farms, became fast friends and ended up walking to and from school together for many years. The day after Nellie Grimes graduated from high school, Carl asked her if she would marry him. Nellie, now 99 years old, is my grandmother.
Carl said you could go on a real nice date for $2 in those days. When asked what they would do on dates, Grandpa answered, “We would go to the movies. Then we would get a hamburger for a nickel and then get a soda for a nickel.” Grandma also enjoyed what she described as a “teddy bear,” which was ice cream with caramel on it.
Married in 1928, Carl and Nellie Herman went on to have four boys and one girl, 20 grandchildren, 50 great grandchildren, and many great-great-grandchildren. If everyone came to a family reunion, I am sure we would have at least 150 people there. In 1941, Grandpa and his brother rigged a makeshift motor home out of a flatbed truck and drove to California with all five children, in search of greater opportunities. Grandpa worked as a mechanic, and one of his great joys was working on the U.S. aircraft SR-71, called the “Blackbird,” known for its high speed and operating altitude.
Carl and Nellie moved to Santa Barbara more than 30 years ago, to a home that had Sycamore Canyon as its backyard. Whenever we would go to Grandpa’s house, he would be tinkering in the garage. He loved building things and working on cars, his favorite the Volvo for as long as I can remember. Grandpa loved his family and taught the boys to fix and build things, too. I think it is fair to say he was one of the kindest and gentlest people I have known.
My recollection of Grandpa and Grandma’s house was that it was always clean and smelled of home-cooked bread. Grandpa even made the bread, a family recipe with a live “starter” yeast. Their house has always been a home base of sorts because you knew both Grandma and Grandpa would be there to listen and love and give sound and wise counsel. I also remember a lot of laughter. There would be times when Grandpa would laugh so hard his face would turn beet red, usually at something Grandma would say, as she is quite the character, with a great sense of humor. Grandpa and Grandma were married to each other for 80 years and three months. Their lives were built around a relationship with God, each other, and the rest of their family.
Grandpa loved working in his yard as well. His backyard was a slope that dropped several feet into the canyon. He would trim the ivy and grow fruit trees, which we always enjoyed picking and eating.
Grandpa and Grandma lived where the wildfires hit Montecito on November 13 and they had to evacuate. My Uncle Ben had been living with and caring for Carl and Nellie. With a couple of kind, longtime neighbors, Ben helped them evacuate to a hotel. Their home was not harmed, even though the ivy right next to the house burned up. The house next door burned to the ground, and we were very sad to hear that the friends who helped them evacuate lost their home, directly across the street from Carl and Nellie.
Grandpa had a very difficult night in the hotel on that Thursday, and said some things that indicated he was ready to go home, which to him was heaven. Nellie, his wife of 80 years, prayed him back and then released him into the arms of Jesus at lunch time on Friday, November 14. She is very lonely for him, which is to be expected.
I remember having a conversation with Grandma and Grandpa many years ago, saying that I never wanted them to die. Grandpa said, “Why?” and proceeded to tell me that they are ready to go to heaven and look forward to that day. He also said they have both lived very long and fulfilling lives and we should all rejoice for them. So today, through tears of sorrow, I am able to rejoice with him, as he is in the presence of the Lord. Grandma is now living with her daughter and son-in-law, only two hours away, in Lancaster, and is so happy, even though she is missing Grandpa.