Four years ago, with the help of Chuck Radke, my dad, Peter Kremer, wrote a book about his life called Isn’t That Nice? Reflections on a Blessed Life. I wrote this as the foreword to the book. It seems fitting to share on Father’s Day about my dad and the positive influence he has had on my life and the lives of many others. Parkinson’s Disease has slowed him down physically and cognitively over the past several years, but he’s still the optimistic, loving dad and grandfather he’s always been.
As has been our ongoing tradition, my family spent a week with my parents in Ketchum, Idaho, over our winter holiday in 2013. It had been 21 years since my husband Steve and I were married in Ketchum at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood, on December 31, 1992, so we especially enjoyed celebrating our anniversary and New Year’s there this year. The festive reception that followed our wedding was in my parent’s beautiful river-front home, called “Woodhaven,” which they built in 1989. My dad had the garage carpeted prior to the wedding so that there would be more room, and all of the downstairs furniture was moved out of the house on the day of the wedding to make room for tables, chairs, a dance floor and the live band. In typical “Poppi” (that’s what we all call him) fashion, there were ice cream sundaes in addition to the traditional wedding cake. In typical “Nani” (that’s what we call my mom) fashion, every fine detail of the party was elegant and amazing and not a penny was spared in making it a phenomenal event.
This week, as I sat with Poppi reading through the manuscript for this book, the memoir of his first 74 years, I learned some new and interesting things about his life, especially some fun stories of his childhood that are so “him” and many interesting details about his incredibly successful career. I’m convinced that his upbeat, personable character contributed a lot to his success. People like him, and that’s important in business and in life. He is the most positive, upbeat, and enthusiastic person I know, and each day starts with some comment about what a beautiful day it is. Each meal gets commended as the “most delicious ever.” Because of his enthusiasm, it is extremely rewarding to cook for him, as he effusively compliments food, whether it’s a simple meatloaf or a vanilla ice cream sundae. We all know that as we sit down to dinner together, he will invariably look around, smile, and comment, “Isn’t this nice?”
In addition to these extremely endearing traits, which make him fun to work with and be around, Poppi is brilliant when it comes to business, especially regarding real estate. When we built our home, he was incredibly helpful with the details. One specific thing he did was to go through the plans for several hours and make all the window sizes bigger. So, for the rest of my life, as I walk into one sun-filled room after another, I will remember my sun-loving dad and the gift of extra light he gave with his architectural advice.
As a young person, I never thought I would do anything to do with business, as I always wanted to be a teacher and work with children. And yet, perhaps due to the strong pull of genetics, I found myself as a small business owner in 1989 thanks to the support and assistance of my parents. Even to this day, 25 years after purchasing Gold Arrow Camp, Steve and I seek the advice and input of my dad, as his wisdom regarding business and finances are truly incomparable. I’ll not forget his careful measuring and coordinating of a brand-new dining porch cover during the early years of our camp ownership. In his hands-on enthusiasm for the details of the project, I saw why so many have appreciated his hard work and stick-to-itive nature over his life.
During my early years, I don’t have a lot of memories of my dad. I do remember dinners – usually quite late because he got home from work late. Often, we’d have conversations about manners and grammar. One particular dinner conversation was one in which we had to decide whether “less than” or “fewer” was more appropriate in a sentence. One of the side benefits (curses?) of this upbringing is that I bristle when someone uses improper grammar. Another trait I learned from him, and now badger my own children with, is the importance of cleanliness, especially hand washing. It may border on Howard Hughes-esque OCD, but instilling the importance of cleanliness is definitely one of my dad’s legacies. And, I mentioned to him it’s one reason I think he likes donating to clean water projects.
I remember my dad teaching me to waterski on one of our annual trips to Tahoe with our friends the Greenes. I was five years old and the water was freezing, but he got me up on double skiis. Later, when I was 11 and we purchased our first family ski boat for use on the ocean outside Newport Harbor, a 15’ Boston Whaler named “Toonsiewoo” after my sister’s and my childhood nicknames, my dad spent many hours teaching me proper boat care and safe boat driving and docking. As I read about my father’s love of water and boats, I see that that is something he definitely passed on to me. In fact, it was my love of water skiing and my boat driving skills that got me my first job at Gold Arrow Camp as a waterskiing instructor. And, so, again I see the huge influence my dad and his hobbies and personality have had on my life.
Over the past two decades, after he finished his corporate career and started his entrepreneurial one, he has found a great balance in his life. He enjoys his morning tea, walking his dog, and, usually, a nap in the sunshine outside. He loves doing chores around the house and yard and wiping down his boat. He likes to sit and chat a lot, do Sudoku, watch football, and relax. He’s much more relaxed and has a lot more time to hang out than he did during his stressful corporate years.
We have many memories of dinners and trips together, and my children know their grandparents much better than I knew mine. I am so grateful for these relationships and the time they invest in us. Particularly memorable for me are many long walks with my dad along the beach at the Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hosting the entire family (a rather large group of 15) on trips to Hawaii has been one of the nicest gifts my parents have given to us. Those vacations are some our children’s best memories and are certainly our best whole-family times with the exception of some Christmases in Sun Valley with the extended family. And those hour-long brisk walks on the beach, which now often include an older grandchild or two, are filled with great advice and wisdom being bestowed on us. Not only is he super enthusiastic, but Poppi is also a natural teacher. He loves sharing and teaching about life, especially about conservative social values, the importance of taking an economics class in college, and real estate.
When I think about my dad, I have a deep gratitude. Not only does he have a great personality, which causes people to want to be friends with him, but he also has an integrity worthy of copying. When I was around 9 years old, I excitedly told him that the cashier at the candy store had given me an extra dollar in change. He sent me right back to the store to return the dollar. I’ll never forget that lesson and would never have thought to keep something that wasn’t rightfully mine ever since. In business, he has always been honest and upright, although I’m certain I wouldn’t ever want to be negotiating against him, as he’s astute, knowledgeable and, to me, unbeatable.
Often these days, my dad tells me how proud he is of me and my family and our success with camp and life. I know it shouldn’t matter too much what my dad thinks, but it makes me very happy. Happy to know that he likes who I’ve become and what I’ve done with my life. And happy that he loves and enjoys my husband and children. When I’m with him, I feel like I must be one of the greatest people around. I realize that this is a huge gift. The world can be harsh, and, of course, I know that I am not that special, but to Poppi I am, and his confidence and support has propelled me to dream big.
Blessed am I to have such a dad.
Audrey Kremer Monke
January 2, 2014
More Poppi photos….