Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Portrait of my father: a list

—He was breastfed until he was five.  He can remember calling his mother over to a table, where he stood, when he was thirsty.

—He said he always wanted to work with electricity from the time he was young.  He lived his dream.

—At 18, he began attending the Mormon Church in Utrecht because of a girl.  He stood outside the building and counted down his jacket buttons: “I will go in. I won’t go in. I will go in. I won’t go in.  I will go in.”  Did he know he had five buttons?

—He was engaged to someone else before my mother.  (That same girl). Then one day, he was sitting in church and noticed that she was holding his hand on one side and his best friend’s hand on the other side. She married the best friend, but Daddy spoke at her funeral after she committed suicide in her sixties.

—I rode on the back of his bike in Holland.  I rode in his old ’38 Chevy in
1949.  He liked driving up the canyons where the car vapor locked, and he went looking for water. I hated driving up the canyons. Preferred the bike, even though I once caught my foot in the spokes.

—He saved ten Dutch men from being taken to Nazi Germany by letting them out of the filled up concert hall where they were being held (and where he was the lighting technician). Most of the men were afraid to leave. Ten escaped.  One of these men later stamped our passports before we boarded ship.

—When The New Amsterdam sailed into New York harbor early one morning in late April, 1948, we stood on deck.  My father lifted me into his arms, so that I could see the Statue of Liberty. Even writing it now makes me choke up.

—He entertained us by barking like a dog.

—When I was eight, he told the story of the Little Match Girl on Christmas Eve.  I thought for years that he had made the story up himself. (He was a fine storyteller). It was also the night my parents told me there was no Santa Claus. I was not surprised.

—He had an understated laugh: heh, heh, heh.

—He cheated at Checkers by playing “the Dutch rules,” which made me yowl “Unfair!”

—He listened to the Salt Lake Bees baseball games on the radio the first year we were in America.

—Once he took some of us older kids bowling in downtown Salt Lake after midnight, because it was then half price. He bowled crooked.  He showed us his crooked right arm.  He broke it, he said, when he was about ten, and it didn’t reset well.  So, his mother took him back to the doctor, and the doctor, without warning, re-broke his arm over his knee and reset it.

—He saved part of a Twinkie from his lunch bucket to share with us.

—He let us ride the running board of his Thompson Electric truck down the alley when he came home from work.

—He had his appendix out when I was in grade school.  Coming out of the anesthesia, he said, “Louise says I have a big nose, but I have a nose like Joseph Smith.”

—Dinner wasn’t a meal without potatoes.

—He loved Perry Mason the first round and ever after.  He must have had them memorized.

—At dinner, he told us “Willy,” stories. Willy was a young, new electrician he worked with.

—Later, he told us Mrs. Warshaw stories when they were working on Wasatch Towers, a coop in Salt Lake City, where she was to live in the penthouse. Mrs. Warshaw had red hair.

—He took all the family pictures and later movies with his Super 8 camera.

—I don’t know why he was referring to Henry III, but because of his Dutch accent, it came out “Henry the Turd.”  We fell down laughing.

—His favorite song in the fifties was “Oh My Papa,” which he sang with a tortured exuberance at the top of his lungs.

—He taught me to drive a stick-shift in our blue, ’51 Ford. He was not patient about it either, but hey, I learned.

—Whenever he returned to the Netherlands to visit his family, he was afraid he wouldn’t be allowed to leave.

—He loved long baths.

—Before digital, and after my father retired, he designed a box that would turn all the Christmas lights on at Temple Square at the same time.  Before that, they relayed.  President of the Church at the time, Ezra Taft Benson, gave his Christmas Devotional talk and was supposed to push a lever that turned on all the lights at once.  He forgot, and others on the stand, whispered loudly, “You forgot to turn on the lights!”  Under his breath, President Benson said, “It doesn’t work anyway.”  But, Voila, it did work. All the lights turned on with President Benson’s bringing down the lever. Bravo, Louis Roos!

—He was devoted to the Mormon Church, where he served as a bishop (twice), stake president, patriarch, temple sealer.  He and Mother served two missions, one in the Netherlands and one in the Bern, Switzerland temple.  He was able to marry several of his grandchildren, which he did with humor and delightful storytelling.

—What he missed most after he joined the church: black tea (which the Word of Wisdom, a health code, doesn’t allow).


  1. Loved this. Grandpa is one of my hero's.

  2. Every detail was fascinating and touching. Reading this was the best thing I did all day. Definitely beat attending the Pinewood Derby. "The Turd"! Ha! I can't help it. I love poop jokes.

  3. We had an electrician in Maryland that whistled while he worked. Before that, I thought it was just Grandpa. Maybe it's part of the electrician's code--or how to tell a good one from all the others!

  4. I love reading everything you write about your family and the Netherlands... so fun and so special.