Friday, September 26, 2014

The press conference that reminded me of Gumpy

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Detroit yesterday, announcing a grant of $25.9m that will go toward purchasing 50 buses for the City of Detroit. The announcement itself is great news for the city, but Foxx told a story of his grandfather that reminded me immediately of Gumpy.

Here is Foxx, talking about his grandfather at roughly 17:34 of the video:

His story immediately reminded me of the story Ema told about Gumpy at his memorial service.

When Gumpy was in the Telegraphers Union, the railroad he worked for was merging with another railroad, and there were a few men who were going to be laid off as a result. Gumpy calculated how much those men would make, and volunteered to be laid off instead so a few of those men could keep their jobs. He went in to work at the right intervals to keep his leadership role with the union, and eventually went back to work full time at Grand Trunk.

It was a story he never told, and Ema would only tell once. I asked her about it a few times afterward, and she would only tell me that it was no big deal, that he didn't do anything really special. They had her income and the farm income, so they could make ends meet. My mom and her siblings were pretty young at the time and had no recollection of the story either.

That story, even if I don't have all the details, is still emblematic of who my grandfather was. He believed in the brotherhood of the union, and fought fiercely to make sure everyone in his union received a fair shake. He never bragged about his accomplishments either. To him, it was just a part of putting food on the table for his family. His favorite stories were about the people he loved and the fun he had with them.

While the events of the day were momentous for the City of Detroit, that is not why I was wiping away tears during the Secretary's speech. He reminded me a a generation of men that did what they thought was best for their families and communities without the need to boast or brag. That memory was worth the tears.