Friday, September 28, 2007

In Memory of Michael John Drazdoff

January 15, 1930 - September 28, 1997

Today, September 28, 2007 is the 10 year anniversary of my father's death. It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since he made his transition.

I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my dad and some of the many gifts he gave me.

My father was a kind and generous man. Everyone like him. He had a great sense of humor. His warm wit charmed everyone he met. He was a hard worker and he also loved to have a good time. He was a great friend and a wonderful father.

Dad holding me with my brothers L to R: Garth and Troy

Here is a bit of the obituary that we published when dad passed away.
Michael John Drazdoff, of Forest Grove, OR died September 28th, 1997. He was 67. Mr. Drazdoff was born, January 15th, 1930, in Buena Vista, Oregon, son of Mary and John Drazdoff. He grew up on the family farm in Buena Vista.

He married LaJuana (Pike) Gibson on Nov. 30th, 1963. They moved to Forest Grove shortly after their marriage. They were married for 34 years.

Mr. Drazdoff graduated from high school in 1948. He then worked for a saw mill in Independence and for the SP&S Railroad. He spent 2 years in the U.S. Army, and was stationed near Los Angeles, CA. He went on to work in a variety of cabinetry and construction related jobs and eventually became a building contractor. He managed many large scale apartment and custom home construction projects throughout Oregon. He was a co-owner of Equitable Builders and GEM Building Components, in Hillsboro, OR. He later spent several years working as a project manager for Universal Contracting Corporation, on projects in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Memphis, Tennessee. He retired, due to ill health, in 1980.

His interests included fishing, camping, hunting and gardening.

Dad in 1959

Dad taught me so many things. He taught me about the value of a hard day's work and accomplishing things by the sweat of your brow. We all worked around the house including doing special projects like going to the woods to get firewood for the winter. I carried and stacked a lot of firewood back then. It's still one of my favorite things to do.

He encouraged me to spend summers on his family's farm, which I did. I grew up working hard picking cherries (pie cherries, bing cherries and Rainiers), blackberries and a variety of other crops. We clipped and pinned back canes in the berry fields, and harvested fresh produce for our meals. It was a good life, but a lot of hard work. I came to appreciate where food comes from, and the efforts that go into being self sufficient.

He taught me never to give up on anything until I had done what I set out to do. That is one of the reasons I attended a small, private university. My dad gave me $500 towards my college education and I did the rest myself. I had scholarships, grants and loans, but I worked a number of jobs (administrative work, cleaning houses, painting houses, gardening, tutoring grade school kids, selling software) to put myself through school. In fact, I worked full time my last two years of college, doing computer support and desigining software for Weyerhaeuser Real Estate company, while taking a full load of classes. It was a very tough way to get through school, but that is the type of tenacity that I inherited from both my parents. It wasn't a question of whether I would do it or not. I simply knew that I would do what I had to do.

I spent many happy hours fishing and clamming with my dad. He allowed me to drink coffee with him on the weekends when I was a little girl. He'd fix it for me...mostly milk, sugar with a little splash of coffee in the cup. I felt so grown up. :)

He taught me to drink coffee while bouncing around in his 1969 Ford pickup truck. I still have excellent 'shock absorption' skills when it comes to holding beverages without spilling them while in moving vehicles!

I can still remember him saying, "Gimme your mit... kit" when he would take my hand as we crossed streets or parking lots.

I had some problems in school. I was a great student, but I was very sensitive emotionally. I struggled with being picked on, especially in Junior High School. My dad was known to come and sneak me out of school on occasion and take me fishing. Those were incredibly important days for me. He knew how to help me get myself back in balance: fresh air, nature, fishing and being with him.

I miss his booming laugh and the way he could tell a story. I miss getting funny little things in the mail. I have a shoe box full of the things he sent me when I was in college and beyond. When I was struggling financially in college and for the first few years afterwards, he would often send me a couple bucks or a 'five-er' in the mail so I could go and buy myself a diet coke. (I no longer drink it, but it used to be a daily ritual). We all miss his funny little 'gag' Christmas gifts. He had a knack for finding the funniest stuff.

Daddy really liked his little girl! That would be me. I'm afraid that in some ways, I was pretty spoiled. :) In other ways he expected me to toe the line and pull my own weight. I think he struck a pretty good balance at indulging me and requiring me to be a fully responsible person as I grew older.

He taught me to drive (which often involved him having to have an alcoholic beverage or two to remain calm!) I remember when he helped me purchase my first car. A 1975 orange (yikes) Datsun B210. It was a stick shift and I didn't know how to drive it. We went and bought the car for $2,200. (I had saved $1000 and he loaned me the rest. I paid him back all of the money until the last $100. He let me off the hook for that!) He took me to the Junior High School parking lot, gave me about 15 minutes worth of instructions and then told me to head out onto the highway to drive towards my uncle's farm!! I was mortified! That was his way (and the Drazdoff way, actually) of teaching you to do something. Show you once or twice, then throw you in the deep end. I'll never forget that drive! We had to stop in a little town so my dad could get himself a few beers! :) I'll never know how I got us out to the farm. There were many hills. I know I killed the engine several times, but, I made it! I didn't think I could, but he KNEW I would. That's how he taught me... so many things in life.

On May 10th of this year, my uncle Johnny (my dad's only brother) passed away. Interestingly enough, he passed away on the same day of the year (May 10th) as his father, my grandfather John Peter Drazdoff. When my uncle passed away, I started to think about what I could give to my cousins, Dan and Marilyn as they moved through the loss of their father. I didn't have a lot of photographs of their dad, but I did have something I thought they might really like. In the last year of my dad's life, I interviewed him on tape and got him to tell me about the fondest memories of his life. This included many stories about his escapades with his brother, Johnny. I have about 6 hours of him on tape! I had been too sad to listen to them when he first died. Then, as the years rolled along, I started to get scared that maybe the tapes wouldn't be any good. I avoided playing them, because I was dreading the heart break I would feel if the tapes weren't any good.

With the death of my uncle Johnny, I decided to pull out the tapes and see what I had. They were in PERFECT shape! I was able to get all the tapes onto my computer and I put them all onto CDs. I now have a 6 CD set of recordings of my dad! It is such a pleasure to hear his voice, and his laugh. Hearing him tell those stories is just like sitting with him at the dining room table drinking coffee and visiting. It is such a treasure! I've given copies to many of my family members. I think its very interesting that I finally completed this project almost exactly 10 years after his death. We are all really happy to be able to hear him telling stories again. I know I've missed that terribly.

So, to my father on this bitter-sweet anniversary, I say, "I love you Daddy! I miss you... and I thank you for everything you ever did for me, taught me and gave me. I am who I am today because I am your daughter. Give Uncle Johnny a big hug for me."
Nola Gay (or better yet... Gayser as he would call me.)

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