91 Years of Greatness and 70 Years of Devotion…

Today my favorite farmer and I are in Florida celebrating the life of a wonderful man.  I like to laugh that when God created Hank McCall, he threw away the mold.  My grandfather lived for 91 years of greatness, and spent 70 of those years being married to his soul mate.

A lifetime of memories--sharing love and facing challenges as a team...

A lifetime of memories–sharing love and facing challenges as a team…

I was blessed to grow up down the street from my beloved Grannie and Dedaw, and spent countless hours with them during my formative years.  Their single minded devotion to each other serves as a constant inspiration to me as Matt and I travel our own life journey together.

One of my greatest adult pleasures has been sharing my children with my grandparents.  They made yearly spring trips to Nebraska to visit us and see the Sandhill Crane migration...

One of my greatest adult pleasures has been sharing my children with my grandparents. They made yearly spring trips to Nebraska in addition to our visits to Florida…

The following is the beautiful obituary that my Uncle Wally wrote in my grandfather’s honor. 
Hank McCall, 91, of West Palm Beach, FL died peacefully at home on October 3, 2013. He and Irma celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on June 23, 2013. Hank graduated from Penn State University in 1942 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He soon entered the United States Naval Academy as a “90 Day Wonder”, receiving his commission in May 1943. After submarine training, he was assigned to the USS Greenling in the Pacific where he participated in five war patrols and two special missions including the reconnaissance and photographing of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in preparation for the US invasion of those islands. He retired from the Naval Reserves with a rank of Lt. Commander. Hank and Irma moved to West Palm Beach in 1952 with their three small children. After a brief stint with Crane Company, he became partners with Clarence Coston, a plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractor. Their projects included the Palm Beach Towers, Pratt-Whitney Aircraft, and the Kennedy Space Center. He also obtained his private pilot’s license to expand the business to the Bahamas, and for convenient bone fishing trips. After twenty years, Hank made a major career change, becoming an agent with National Life of Vermont and later, Sun Life of America. He was a Certified Life Underwriter and a member of the Million Dollar Round Table. Hank and Irma were active members of the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach where he served as the head usher and Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was a charter member of Mayacoo Lakes Country Club and enjoyed the camaraderie of the Old Guard Society and the stimulating programs at the Society of the Four Arts. Besides his family, Hank’s passions were reading, birding, and walking. Hank and Irma traveled extensively, setting foot on all seven continents. After warm-up hikes across the state of Florida and around Lake Okeechobee, Hank and Irma walked across England in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. He was preceded in death by his son, Willie. Hank is survived by his beloved wife, Irma; a daughter, Sally Gibson (Herbert) of West Palm Beach; son, Wally McCall (Michelle) of Jupiter, FL; grandchildren, Terry Gibson (fiancee Theresa Sepko) of Jensen Beach, FL, Anne G. Burkholder (Matt) of Cozad, NE, Travis McCall (Laura) of Lynchburg, TN, Kelly Hough (Jeremy) of Old Town, VA, Abigail McCall of Hobe Sound, FL, Hunter McCall (Sean) of Charlotte, NC, and Margaret McCall of Seattle, WA; and seven great grandchildren. A Memorial Service will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at the Royal Poinciana Chapel, 60 Cocoanut Row, Palm Beach, FL 33480 with Dr. Robert S. Norris, Pastor officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the Samuel M. Lindsey Fund at the Royal Poinciana Chapel.

Last Christmas---my girls learning to caring on the tradition of devotion...

Last Christmas—my girls learning to carry on the tradition of devotion…

My grandfather demonstrated with his life that “With faith, discipline, and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve”.  Muhammad Ali


Filed under Family, General

21 responses to “91 Years of Greatness and 70 Years of Devotion…

  1. Lisa Pederson


    Thank you for sharing your tribute to your Grandfather. We are sorry for your loss, and will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

    Your Grandfather was part of the “greatest generation” and should be a hero to everyone in this country and around the world for his effort in defeating tyranny and allowing our country to remain free. Thank you for your service Mr. McCall.

    Lisa Pederson

    • Thank you, Lisa, for your kind words and prayers. It is great to hear from you. You are correct, My grandfather was part of a very special generation.

      All the best,

  2. Anne,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Your grandfather sounds like a great and wonderful man. My thoughts and prayers are with you and family as you celebrate his life.
    Jody Schobel

    • Thank you, Jody. I really appreciate your thoughts and prayers. Today was a celebration of a beautiful life.

      My grandfather was a mentor for many people, and had a wonderful talent for making everyone feel special.


  3. Martin Apolo

    Sorry to hear about your loss. My grandfather is the reason I am in the cattle business today. I am sure you grandfather played a great role in your life and also influenced you to become who you are today.
    Martin Apolo, Dade County

    • Thank you, Martin. You are correct that my grandfather always taught me to “blaze my own trail” —somehow life brought me to a farm and feedyard. He always loved to come visit and was an avid beef enthusiast!

      I am glad that you also had a special relationship with your grandfather.

      All the best,

  4. Jeff

    Yep…and I did not know the man nearly as well as you, but everything you say was obvious from the first time I met him. Hank certainly left and leaves positive impressions and influences in short order.

    • He loved spending time with you, Jeff. Thank you for the thoughts—we had a beautiful celebration today that I know made him proud.

      Hope that all is well,

  5. Jan

    Our deepest sympathy to you & all your family. What a leader/teacher he was.

  6. I am sorry to hear about your grand father, he has left you so many great memories and your children got to know him and love him too. Grandparents make such a difference in a child’s up bringing. My grandparents were hard working poor country people and still lived a rich life in my eyes. Hang on to the memories and pass them on to your children.

    • You are so right, Ellie! The lessons and memories are treasures! He blessed all of us with his whit and devotion—I am glad that your family shared in something like that as well.

      It is great to hear from you,

  7. Christina Burkholder

    Erv and I are both so sorry. No matter how old your family gets to be, it is never enough. What a lovely tribute.

    • Thank you, Chris. I appreciate your kindness and enjoy hearing from you. Matt heads back home to Nebraska tomorrow and I am staying for a couple more days with my parents.

      Saying goodbye is never easy, but our memories remain strong and carry us through.


  8. Carol

    Anne, I’m so sorry for your loss, though I can see you’re really celebrating your grandfather’s tremendous life more than mourning his absence from this earth. What a tremendous legacy he has left with you!

    • Thank you so much, Carol! You are correct–it is a celebration of a beautiful and full life. I truly believe that he accomplished everything that he could have ever wished to do, and now rests peacefully in heaven.

      I hope that all is well,

  9. Billy Johnson

    What a beautiful service for a wonderful man with a wonderful family!

    • Thank you so much, Billy. You honor my grandfather by helping us to celebrate his life. Our family truly appreciates your support.

      All the best,

  10. Andrew Patterson

    Hello Anne (Matt and family),

    Thank you for posting this lovely memorial honoring the memory of your grandfather, Hank McCall. Hank and my father, Sam Patterson, were Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers, first floor PIKE roommates (last door on the left), and dear friends at Penn State; Hank studying Mechanical Engineering (as you know), and my father, Petroleum & Natural Gas Engineering. They also shared common Pittsburgh / U.S. Steel / Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church / Great Depression experience and family history — i.e., they were cut from the same Scottish Presbyterian cultural clothe (of faith, discipline, duty, hard work, and goodwill toward others regardless of circumstance.)

    Dad used to tell a story about Hank setting his navigation compass on Sunday mornings (after PIKE dining hall breakfast and Presbyterian Church Service, I imagine) to approximately 90 degrees due east, and would then set off and walk the line cross-country / cross mountain come what may for approximately three or four hours; and then reversed direction to 270 degrees, returning in the late afternoon (“all banged up,” but with a big smile on his face, fully rejuvenated, and ready for engineering classes the next morning.) He loved to challenge himself.

    I met Hank and Irma on several occasions at the Nittany Lion Inn for their college class reunions. They were such a beautiful couple, deeply in love, sharing stories of hope, encouragement, and adventure; and always spoke with enthusiasm about the joys of their growing family.

    Hank also talked about his World War II experience, as all the brothers (or nearly all graduating in 1942-1943) entered the war either in the U.S. Army as B-17 pilots and navigators over Germany, or in the U.S. Navy as Hank in the Pacific Theater. (My father served in the U.S. Army and was en route for the invasion of Japan — Operation Olympic–when President Truman ordered the deployment of Fat Boy and Little Man (Enola Gay) over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I interviewed as many of the fraternity brothers as possible, and Hank told me about participating in sinking 23 Japanese ships, while being depth-charged three times. “I was lucky,” he said, “as I was focused on navigating the submarine and was concentrating so intently that I couldn’t hear the charges as they hit the water and sank toward us; but, the others could, and some were tortured by it.”

    After my father died in 2006, I called Hank to pass on the news. We had a wonderful extended conversation that I’ve included in a book written about my father’s life and family history. Hank said, “At this age in life, Andrew, the key is to walk two miles a day, and do three positve things. We (he and Irma) do this every day, and it makes all the difference.” He also said that he and Irma found great joy watching the progress of their children, grand children (you), and great grandchildren.

    I think often about the World War II generation that Hank, Irma, and dad represented. They were filled with virtue and talent embodying the best of traditional American character. We miss them, their quiet love, humility, strength, devotion, and undaunted leadership; and count our blessings for having had such wonderful parents, grand parents, and great-grand parents as our dearest friends. Their unending cheerful examples inspire us onward.

    Please send Irma my best regards. And best wishes to you and your family.


    Andrew Patterson

    • Hello Andrew,

      Thank you so much for your beautiful note! You obviously knew Hank, and I could picture the look on his face as he spoke those words to you. My grandparents have always been such an inspiration to me and I was tremendously blessed to grow up just down the street from them. Even into adulthood, when I made my life in Nebraska, they always traveled out to visit every year. Hank said he came to watch the Sand Hill Cranes migration and Grannie said that she came to see her great-grandchildren… Either way, those were wonderful times filled with long walks and joyous conversations. I share Hank’s love for both exercise and for having a positive attitude — he influenced me heavily. And, Grannie is likely (to me) the most special person on the planet. What a beautiful impact they both had on so very many people — and I am thankful that you got to know them.

      I will call Grannie tomorrow and tell her that I heard from you. She has failed significantly since Hank’s passing but she continues to hold onto the very special compassion that makes her “Irma”. Please accept my sincere thanks for reaching out to me. If you ever end up in Nebraska, please stop by and visit my family and our farm. It would be an honor for us to have you.


  11. Pingback: The Best Part Of Me… | Feed Yard Foodie

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