To those of you who have been inquiring about my whereabouts... aside from the lack of "free" time I've had of late (talked about in previous posts), there's a bigger reason. I've mentioned my wife Frances here dozens of times. Well, her father Rolf passed away on July 24. The last year has been especially hard on Rolf, but the man possessed an internal fortitude rarely seen. Here's his obituary as it ran in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. It was written by Fran's sister, Kathy:
WANKEL, Rolf Beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend. Six-time cancer survivor, Rolf Wankel passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family on July 24, 2008 at the age of 83. He is survived by his beloved wife of 54 years, Karin Wankel, his three children and two grandchildren. Included are; daughter Katherine Love and husband Greg of Lake Oswego, OR; son Richard Wankel of Santa Rosa; daughter Frances Shayotovich and husband Eli of Colorado Springs, CO; grandson Jason Hernandez and wife Adrian of Manteca, CA; and grand daughter Krystle Hernandez of Los Angeles. Survivors also include his 92 year old sister Marianne Schlink, sister Carola Schneider, 86 and brother Klaus Wankel, 82-all living in Germany. Sister Ursula Achenbach preceded him in death. Rolf's family wishes to thank all his loving friends for their support. Family and friends are invited to a Memorial Mass which will be held Tuesday, July 29 at 11:00 a.m. at Star of the Valley Church, 545 White Oak Dr, Santa Rosa. A lunch will follow at Parish Hall. If desired, a memorial donation may be made to the American Cancer Society, Memorial Program, Redwood Empire Region, 1451 Guerneville Rd, Ste 220, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.
What the obit doesn't convey is what a great man Rolf was and how much he impacted people's lives. Eighty five people showed up at the memorial service. Eighty five. And that didn't include any of his family from Germany. These were all local friends and family who came to pay respects to a man whom they came to call a "friend." Jason (Fran's son) put together a magnificent slide show featuring the above mentioned song by Louis Armstrong. When it played, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.
Rolf was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and wisdom. What he and his wife Karin have seen and lived through in their lives are things you only read about in fictional novels. As Kathy said, he loved life and lived it intensely. For him... this was truly a wonderful world.
So the next time you're enjoying life with a cold (German) beer, do me a favor and raise a toast to a man this world will sorely miss.
To you Rolf... it was an honor and a privilege.