Marti's Theory

Archive for April 2016

An early 20th century arranged marriage – as was the custom in the “old country” – resulted in a son born in Yugoslavia, a move to America and five more children, three boys and three girls. The move was timely, as Dan was born smack in the middle of the Great War.  His mom, Yeka, was a sweet woman/borderline saint and his father, Juro,  was a rather abusive old fart who made some money and bought up some land through bootlegging and a few other questionable ways. Juro (George) was not very respectful towards his wife and kids.  Since he was the baby of the family, Dan managed to miss the brunt of his father’s ways. and was even a little spoiled, according to his first cousin.

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George (Juro), Milan, Duchin and Daniel Wukelic

When growing up “in the sticks”, the main mode of transportation was horseback.  But Dan learned to drive an old model A when he was still in short pants, and managed to ditch school after the eighth grade in order to help on the farm.  Neither school nor farming was his thing, but he loved all things mechanical.  Cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, you name it.  Dan was just barely literate, but he could take apart any engine and put it back together just right.

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Dan and the gang at the Wukelic farm

He helped start a coal company with his brothers and father, and married Bessie Tepovich while in his early twenties.  Initally, the Wukelic Brothers Coal Company was a success. But the auto accident that claimed the life of his revered elder brother Milan did not have a positive effect on the company and the decisions made thereafter. But that came a little later.  For now, Dan became a father at twenty-six, and named his son Milan, after his beloved late brother.

 

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Sonny in the middle. Not sure who the toddler is, on the left.

 

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He was devoted to his little boy.  But that love was not enough to keep the contentious marriage alive, and it soon ended in a divorce – unusual for the times.  Dan continued to drive a coal truck for the family business.  When the US got involved in WWII, the government informed him that providing coal was a necessity to families in the cold Ohio region, so he would not be joining the armed forces.  We never really talked about it, but I can only assume that was fine with him.  Dan was a simple man, driven by routine, and conducted his life as such.

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In 1945, a nineteen year old part-time bookkeeper named Anne Vein caught the twenty-nine year old’s eye and they eloped to Virginia in October of the same year.  They lived in a tiny apartment at the opposite end of the building inhabited by his brother Duchin and his family.  It wasn’t ideal, but it was okay.  Shortly after the death of his first wife, his son came to share the apartment as well.  Initially, the boy slept in the kitchen.  Or at least, I think that’s what I was told.  During these years Dan’s hobbies included all things motor-oriented, particularly race cars.  He was not the driver, simply the car owner and sponsor.  Although he stopped racing in the early 50s, the race car lived in his garage – covered and up on blocks – for another decade.  I can still remember how it smelled of burned, hard rubber. But I’m getting ahead of the story again.

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Dan and his Caddy (pre-Hudson days)

The coal company continued for a few more years, but due to questionable decisions on the part of his other brother and to changing demographics, he left the family business and began making coal deliveries for Pier Coal Company.  Nine years later, Dan and Anne (yes, they rhymed) were about to have child #2.  Claiming the acre that was his and perhaps purchasing the second one from his father, Dan and Anne built their own home.  Red brick and sturdy – no straw houses for them!  In January of 1954, Dan became the father of a daughter.  Yes, that would be me.  He continued to haul coal, fix motors, help family and friends with car issues, wheel and deal by buying and selling items like industrial grade air compressors, and just pretty much being “Dan.”

He was a collector.  Not art, or anything of value.  Just … stuff.  Tools, parts, antique oddities, you name it.  By the early 60s, he had to build a second garage on the back acre to hold all the … stuff.  It was forever known as Danny’s Back Garage.

“Where’s that riding mower?”

“Oh, it’s in the Back Garage.”

“Hey, Dan . I need a winch to pull the transmission up out of the Buick.  You have one?”
“I think.  Let’s go look in the Back Garage.”

That garage was legendary.  It was like Felix’s magic bag.  It held everything anyone ever needed..

In the mid 60s, Dan went through a couple career changes.  First, he franchised two Texaco stations the first in Bloomingdale, then second on Sunset Blvd. I loved that phase, loved having our “stores.”  Or maybe I simply loved the never ending access to Nehi Cream Soda and Ice Cube chocolate squares. He was a hard worker and totally committed to customer service.  But he did not have a head for business, and had to give them up after a couple of years.

Shortly thereafter, Dan began working for Steubenville Transfer, owned by friend of the family Howard Bowers, as a delivery truck driver for Sears & Roebuck. He continued to deliver furniture for Sears for the next next twenty years or so. It offered good benefits, a Teamster wage, and great “markdown” opportunities.  Seriously. We had a top of the line pool table that he got for peanuts.  I’m still not sure why.  Perhaps it had a scratch.  Perhaps it was simply because he was Dan.  My mom and I had lots of nice clothes and a never ending parade of interesting vehicles to drive.  He worked hard for this blue collar existence, but provided well for us.

By the early 70s, both kids had moved out.  His son lived locally, but didn’t really visit much.  I kept in touch weekly, but generally lived at least a thousand miles away. Our distance was augmented by frequent visits to wherever I lived at the moment:  A father/daughter Disney World adventure, watching the Aspens turn to gold in Colorado and his lifetime dream – a trip to Hawaii.

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On our way to see Gallagher and the Spinners – Denver, late 70s

 

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Dan and Anne at City of Refuge, Kona late 80s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan became a grandfather in the late 60s, early 70s to his son’s children, and then again in the 90s when I caught up.  And throughout his life, he was Uncle Danny to many – both literally their Uncle, but also from his heart.

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The last grandson

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Tim and his Pap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the mid nineties, two unfortunate events occurred.  First, Dan began to show signs of Alzheimer’s.  Secondly, Anne developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  Each situation was bad.  Happening at the same time, however, was exponentially worse. His son worked round the clock at two jobs and has his own family to deal with.  Plus, relations between father and son were strained.  And I was a continent and an ocean away, with my own family.

Luckily, Anne’s large group of siblings rallied around them, as did his son, and the support was welcome.  After an “all clear” signal and nearly three good years, Anne had a relapse and succumbed to cancer in October of 1996.  With the help of his sisters-in-law and son, he continued to live alone for another year or two.  But eventually, the disease became too great and I went to Ohio to get him settled into a nursing home and to liquidate a lifetime’s worth of … stuff.

The next couple years were basically without incident, if that’s the right phrase for those sit-around-and-wait final years. A nursing home life for an Alzheimer’s patient is an odd existence, but it was what it was.  He and his elementary age grandson got along famously during our annual visits.  I figured they were on the same wavelength.

Somewhere in late 2000, Dan was transferred to a different nursing home and died a few weeks later.    Interestingly, he made it to the 21st century, which was something he aspired to. When my dad passed away I was a single mom struggling to get by in one of the most expensive, farthest away parts of the country, so I wasn’t able to make it to my own father’s funeral.  But that’s okay because – to the best of my ability – I made it to his life.

Like every other human who has ever existed, my father had traits that could drive a person nuts.  He could be obstinate, was given to pouting, and made corny jokes that weren’t even in the same galaxy as being funny..  But mostly, he was kind, loving, sentimental beyond measure, Mr Fixit for a huge extended family and our friends, always up for jumping in the car and exploring the newest flea market, friendly to EVERYONE, totally dedicated to his family and I’ll tell you – this man could spot a screwdriver on the side of the road while traveling 50 mph and would totally commit to turning around to retrieve it.  Yes, that was Dan, in a nutshell.

So why chronicle this simple, humble life?

Because today, April 28, 2016, would be his 100th birthday.  And I thought you should know about him.

 

 

 

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My high school didn’t have a debate team. However, I did participate in de facto debates is our Government and Civics classes, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  One that I particularly remember was debating the pros and cons of capital punishment, where I was assigned to the “pro” side.  We researched it, gave a great presentation and won the debate.  Woo hoo!  The irony is that 17 year old Marti was definitely NOT pro capital punishment.  But it was a game and I was pretty competitive back then. Plus, winning feels way better than not winning. Debating was what I considered “good sport.”

And today, I see many people continue to feel the exhilaration of a good debate.  No, I’m not talking about those preposterous presidential things on TV that pass for a debate.  Those have devolved into something closer to Jerry Springer or studio wrestling.  Even the candidates who I respect are more geared to tomorrow’s soundbites than they are to substance.

What I’m referring to is debating among us regular people. People I know and generally respect, who may or may not have the same opinion as I do.  Several friends have asked why I no longer participate in hot topic debates, particularly via social media.  Some have even speculated on why I don’t – everything from feeling bullied to not being “up on things.”  I’ve wondered myself: why have I stepped away from discussions where previously I would have jumped in, front and center?

And it finally occurred to me. It’s debate vs. discussion.

At this point in my life and the life of the world around me – I engage in discussions mainly for two reasons:

1. To understand

2. To be understood

And the concept of “debate” strikes me as counter intuitive to the process of understanding.  If I listen to another person for the purpose of preparing, in my mind, how to counter his position, then I’m not really listening, am I?  And vice-versa.

I’ve actually managed to have one or two brief discussions, mostly with people who see things differently from how I see them, and mostly because I’m curious about how a seemingly bright person could be so wrong-headed about an issue. [see what I did there? self-deprecating humor wrapped around a chunk of truth]. In those cases, I only listened, and did not explain how I see things. Why? Because I wasn’t asked, so figured I wouldn’t really be heard. Those discussions didn’t change my own opinions, but did open my mind a bit.  And then I moved on.

Same way with social media.  If something holds a promise of new information, I read.  If not, I scroll by. These days, I do way more scrolling than reading.

Because here’s the thing about pretty much any hot button issue and how we assume a particular stance or action will play out:  No matter how convinced we are, no matter how much data we find to support our position, it’s still just an OPINION.  (ooooh, I bet some people quickly disagreed). And we are so close to the issue that we tend to forget it’s only our viewpoint, and not an absolute.  In most cases.

But then again, this is only my opinion.

 

 



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