June 26th, 2005

Whale fluke


My grandfather Irvin Walsh, Grandpa Irv as I grew up calling him, passed away last night at his home, in his sleep.

Mid-height, stocky Irish-descended man, he was. He served in the Aleutian Islands during World War II, then went to Europe for post-VE cleanup; we have pictures of him from that time, where he’s smiling and looking a little like a young Ed Harris. Before that, he worked for Fred G. Meyer himself, the founder of the Northwest’s Fred Meyer one-stop shopping chain. He was a photographer; I got nicknamed Little Irv (sometimes shortened to “L’irv”) because of my own fondness for photography. He was a longtime presence at Cummins Motors here in Portland. He knew and spoke well of Homer Groening, Matt Groening’s ad-making father. Late in life, he needed major surgery on his eyes to ease glaucoma and improve his sight; the results by an OHSU doctor were so spectacularly good that he called his doctor “The Miracle Worker.” His enthusiasm would bubble out like that.

Irv was here for 92 years. He and his wife Jean (who passed away in January of last year) saw most of the 20th century while raising three Walsh boys. His middle son (my dad) served admirably for 26 years in the Navy; his oldest son Mike (Michael Irvin Walsh, by the way) served admirably in the church and, now, in Washington State government; his youngest son Greg continues to serve admirably at Cummins, and was part of an early-70s championship baseball team for Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. He was always an enthusiastic supporter, in his quiet way, of my writing and photography. I still use one of his cameras.

In 1999 much of my family went to Philadelphia for the happy event of my brother T.J. marrying Cindy Lang. Irv was there, almost-grinning his almost-smile; it wasn’t always obvious when he was happy, but you could tell if you knew what to look for. There’s a picture of me and T.J. shaking hands. I looked at the shot later and saw that, while I’ve always looked far more like my Swedish-descent mother than my Irish-Scottish father, I could see Irv’s face in the way I was holding mine.

My family is gathering again. I’ll join them this afternoon. What happens next…happens next. He had made it clear he wanted to be cremated, and his ashes left at Slick Rock Creek in the Oregon Coast range. He and Jean had a small vacation home there, a mile off of the Salmon River and 10 miles from Lincoln City. We’ll return there…later. Before that, we’ll meet, and cry, and laugh, and remember.

I love you, Grandpa, and I miss you.