Friday Focus: Paternal Grandfather

This week's assignment is to record memories of your paternal grandfather, your dad's dad. Often, we grow up visiting our grandparents on a regular basis - that was certainly the case for my mom's side of the family. Other times, however, a grandparent can be a mystery to us, either because of death or separation of some type.

I come from a long line of Acuff men who never had the opportunity to meet their paternal grandfather. I was born in 1978, three years after my grandfather Claude died. My father John was born in 1945; his grandfather (Claude's father) Dan Acuff died in 1928. Claude, being born in 1911, never met his grandfather Enos Acuff, who passed in 1889. Dan's grandfather Claiborne Acuff died in 1867, just a year before Dan was born.

Admittedly, we Acuff men tend to have children later in life (I am the first direct-line Acuff in five generations to have a child before his thirtieth birthday), but it's still a punch in the gut to never have the chance to meet your grandfather. Thankfully we have broken the streak: my dad has gotten to not only meet but enjoy multiple visits with all three (so far) of his grandchildren.

John (b1945), Azariah (b2012), Isaac (b2006), and Zeb (b1978) Acuff

Everything I know about my grandfather Claude Burgess Acuff (1911-1975) I've had to learn secondhand (more about that here). Here are some of the highlights - see if they spark any similar thoughts of your own paternal grandfather (and then write them down!):
  • Claude was preparing to attend medical school, but his father's death when Claude was just 16 years old made that dream a financial impossibility. He made his career working as a metallurgist for Alcoa, retiring a few years before his own death. 
  • Some of my own interests apparently run in the family - my grandfather researched genealogy (I have some of his notecards), enjoyed photography enough to include plans for a darkroom in the house that he built upon retirement, and reportedly was quite talented musically. Claude’s niece, Mary Burgess (Green) Parker, recalls “fun times, including when her uncle, Claude Acuff, and his friends would sit in a circle in the old living room and have a ‘musical’.” According to his son John, Claude “had a good ear” and could play just about any instrument. John and Hazel (Claude's wife; my grandmother) specifically remember that he played violin/fiddle, guitar, trombone, mandolin, and banjo. 
  • Claude grew up in East Tennessee, but his position with Alcoa moved him and his family to Central Pennsylvania just a few years after his son (my dad) John was born. Claude would drive his wife and son back to Tennessee every year to spend summers with family; after his retirement, Claude and Hazel moved back to Tennessee, building a house next door to his childhood home.
What memories do you have of your paternal grandfather? Did you get to spend time with him at all? Did he live near to you growing up, or was there a physical distance between you? Are there any traits of his that you see reflected in yourself?

Mary Parker quote taken from Biographical Sketch of Mary Burgess Green Parker (Article #117, page 45). Grainger County, Tennessee and Its People, 1796-1998. Published 1998 by Grainger County Heritage Book Committee. LC#98-84037 

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