My husband’s father passed away last week, on October 2, 2017.
Reuben Doerneman was a kind soul. He was born on February 5, in 1932 to Theodore and Amelia Doerneman. They were a farming family in northern Nebraska.
Reuben was the first child in his family to go to high school and they sent him to Conception Seminary High School.
As the story goes, Reuben was basically asked to leave his senior year because he was writing a few too many letters to females back home. Evidently not priest material. Good thing. I wouldn’t have my Russell if Reuben would have been ordained.
(Conception is now a college and our son, Reuben’s grandson, is studying there, which is so interesting.)
Reuben met Arlene Hegemann at a dance in Howells, Nebraska. They dated for six months. Then the Korean War started and Reuben joined the Air Force.
He was absent from Arlene’s physical presence for 3 1/2 years. He flew 27 missions in the war; he was the right gunner on a B-29 Bomber.
In December of 1954 Reuben was back from the war and at a dance in Howells, Nebraska. This time he had a date with him. The date was not Arlene Hegemann.
Arlene told Reuben just what she thought of that. She said they needed to be adults; she was ready to settle down if he was.
I guess he was ready. Reuben proposed marriage to Arlene that very night.
(He also had the uncomfortable duty of taking his original date back home. The poor girl cried all the way.)
On August 2, 1955, Reuben and Arlene were married. They farmed for three years but those were not the best years to be farming.
Reuben always had a knack of fixing things; in 1959 he enrolled as a student in the Radio Engineering Institute in Omaha. Upon graduation, Reuben and Arlene moved to Denver, Colorado, where Reuben worked at the Martin Company on their Titan Missile Program from 1961 to 1964.
By that time, they had three sons, Jeff, Randy and Doug.
The growing Doerneman family lived in Denver, Colorado, but Reuben and Arlene wanted to raise their sons closer to family.
In 1964, when the hardware store in Howells came up for sale, Reuben bought it and moved his young family to small town Nebraska. Their fourth son, Russell, was born in October of that year.
Over the next decade they welcomed three daughters, Deb, Lois and Linda.
Reuben operated Doerneman Hardware for 38 years, retiring at the age of 70!
As the kids reflected on the life of their father, they all discussed their dad’s work ethic. All four of the boys spent longs hours with their dad at the hardware store. Reuben taught them how to fix just about anything and everything.
Russ, my husband, learned how to fix washers and dryers and then went on house calls with his dad. Russ learned a ton of practical skills in the back of that hardware store, watching and working with his dad.
Reuben, even as he worked long hours, knew how to take breaks and enjoy life. Reuben loved his coffee. He loved his pie. I mean, LOVED LOVED LOVED them.
And he loved his pickle cards.
Another characteristic of Reuben: his kindness. He was always joking and teasing customers that came into the store. He did not yell at his kids. He was balanced, centered.
He was a simple man with a big heart.
This week we reflected on Reuben’s life and legacy. His kids are kind. They are hard working. And since they grew up around a hardware store, they are all fixers.
Now home from the funeral, Russ and I have been walking around our home, mulling. Reflecting. Thinking. Talking.
- Who are we?
- Who are we called to be?
- What is this life about?
Not little questions, I know.
Am I spending my life DOING or BEING?
How can I love better? Deeper?
What is important? Am I attending to the important?
Russ and I have been asking those questions to each other and this is what we’ve discovered. Our unity as husband and wife must be a bigger priority.
- We must make the time to sit on the swing and cuddle.
- We must make the effort to ask better questions and listen more attentively.
- We must engage with our hearts and minds, not just our busy.
- More sex would be okay, too, Russ adds.
Death is an awful good friend. It causes us to pause and think and pray and see.
On the flip side, when a death occurs, many people want to help but aren’t sure what to say or do. I give some solid suggestions here, concrete ways to be with the grieving: 7 Things to do When You Don’t Know What to Do: Death and Dying.
One last thing. Reuben Doerneman, in his last years, would tell his kids that he wishes he would have left them more.
What he meant: $$$$.
He wishes he could have left them more money. Reuben, Reuben, Reuben, you sweet thing. You left SO MUCH GOODNESS. I see it in my husband. He is easily the kindest man I have ever met. He works hard, harder than anyone I know.
He also loves his coffee and his sweets. He is always open for a chat on the porch swing. He loves teasing others and he loves to laugh.
Our garage looks like a hardware store, with every tool hung up on the peg boards. Our family of ten does some damage around here. It seems like every weekend Russ is in the garage, fixing a chair, a bike or an electronic. He does it with simple efficiency.
Russ Doerneman has your blood. He is continually improving our home with his work ethic and our lives with his kindness.
Reuben, your legacy lives on. You did good, real good. Your family is proud of you and we are blessed to have called you husband, father, father-in-law, grandpa and great grandpa.
Rest in peace until we meet again. And may all the pickle cards in heaven be winners.
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