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Manzke siblings recall dad's unflappable nature


Susan Manzke  |  Wisconsin State Farmer

Over the last couple of weeks, I shared tributes to Bob from our two youngest children, Rachel and Russell. It was a gift to me that I didn’t have to write a whole column by myself. I’m still trying to find my place in the world without Bob.

Today, I have three stories about Bob given off-the-cuff at the memorial service in addition to written words by our two oldest children, Rob and Rebecca. I hope I can do their stories justice as they showed the man my husband was. Each one talked about how hardworking their dad was and how they admired him.

During the summer canning season, Bob only came home to eat and sleep. Finding quiet so Bob could sleep wasn’t always easy. Good thing he could sleep anywhere, even standing up.

Rebecca recounted a family trip taken in the 90s. It happened when I was in Illinois with my ailing parents. After a phone call home, Bob and I decided it was time for the whole family to drive south.

Bob had to rent a car because I had the van. He loaded up the rental with four children and started down the highway to join me. Here is what Rebecca said about that trip.

“We were coming back from Illinois. I was sitting in the front seat. My job was to keep Dad awake. The other three siblings were in the backseat, sleeping. Dad and I were listening to classical music, which we both enjoyed.

“As I listened, I suddenly noticed we started crossing the yellow line, and then we were in the gravel shoulder. I looked over at Dad. He was asleep.

“I looked forward again and now we were in the grassy area between the highways. I just yelled, ‘Daddy!’ which was odd for me as I was in eighth grade.

“Dad began to wake up and noticed where he was. He then put his right arm over to me to calm me. In the back, Rob had his hands on the ceiling, bracing himself. I think the other two kids were in shock.

“Without saying a word, Dad calmly pulled back on the road and continued driving. In about fifteen minutes we came to a rest area. Dad pulled into the rest stop. When we got out Dad just mumbled to us, “You don’t have to tell your Mom about this.”

“We four kept his secret for years. It wasn’t until everyone was out of high school that we told Mom the whole story."

Rebecca shared a second story at the memorial.

"I was learning to drive stick with my brother Russell in the car. He knew how to drive stick. We were coming home after driving around the country. I pulled into the driveway—at this point, things get a little cloudy. I went to park but I may have pushed the gas instead of the brake. Somehow, I drove into the garage.

“My mom was in the garage. She had a craft shop and two customers were with her. Dad was outside. Dad just said to put the car in reverse and back up. Mom came out yelling, “STOP! STOP!” Dad stayed calm and told me to park. That’s the way he was."

Rob, our oldest, also spoke about his admiration for his father and Bob’s patience. As an aside, Rob told this story of one special memory of his Dad.

“Russ and I shared an upstairs bedroom. Once in a while, we had issues with each other. One day, we were really at it.

“I guess we had pushed Dad’s patience to an end. Dad raced up the stairs, and with one hit of his fist on our locked door, he banged it open. Then, standing in the doorway Dad calmly said, “Quiet down.” He then left without lifting his voice.

“Russ and I were stunned. Dad never raised his voice to us and he didn’t need to. We quit our arguing and fixed the door frame. Dad had a special way of calming down noisy kids."

Family stories are best when shared. I hope everyone has time to share and save their own special family stories. I know personally how good it is to laugh while remembering.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.