a tribute to my grandpa…

My phone rang at 8:30am this morning.  That is a little early for a Sunday, so I was concerned.  I went downstairs and saw the missed call was from “home,” which is my parent’s phone #.  The message from my dad was something like, “Hi Ash, call me when you get this…there are some things we need to talk about…”

= something bad happened

I called right back and my mom answered.  She asked if I just woke up and what I was doing and I said, “Please tell me what’s wrong!”  She said that grandpa passed away last night in his sleep.  I fell to the ground and burst into tears. 

This past week, I was talking to Natalie and Laura [at different times] telling them about my grandparents and how I was SO fortunate to still have all FOUR of them at the age of 26.  It was my Grandpa Florida that passed away at the ripe age of 92.  This was my dad’s dad.  They lived in Florida for most of my childhood and we lived in Michigan, until I was 7 [then moved to Cleveland].  My mom’s parents lived in Cleveland, OH.  Hence, Grandma + Grandpa Florida and the others were called Grandma + Grandpa Cleveland.  The FL grandparents moved to North Carolina while I was in high school, but the Florida name always stuck.

I remember taking yearly vacations to their amazing house on Boca Grande Island.  I wish I had digital photos from those trips!  It was a tiny island [only 9m long] of the southwest coast of FL.  My Grandma worked in Tampa, FL, at the Univ. of S. Florida.  She had a pretty big wig job there, that I can’t think of the title of!  My grandpa chartered fishing trips, which seemed like the coolest job ever. 

Their house sat on a channel that led out into the Gulf of Mexico, and they of course had a boat.  The area they were in was known for Tarpon fishing.  My grandpa was 6’ tall and I remember a photo of him standing with a friend and a HUGE Tarpon fish.  It was AS tall as he was!!  Whenever we would visit, we always went fishing.  He taught us SO much, and my favorite part was driving the boat.  I was pretty much a master by age 9 ;)  Then, after fishing, my grandpa would clean all of the fish [strip off the skin and nasty stuff] and we would feed it to the pelicans, that would come right up to the dock.  Just like a hungry dog!

I’m not sure why it started, but my grandpa always had this long running joke of calling me Ugly!  It never hurt my feelings…and is SO hilarious when I think about it now.  “Whaddya doin, Ugly??”  “Come over here and give me a hug, Ugly!”  It may seem odd, but we have had MANY laughs over the years about this nickname.  That also makes me think of the nickname my brother gave me…Chubster.  THAT one I did not like!  I was never even a chubby kid!  But thinking about that makes me laugh a lot too.  Nice one, bro ;)

My grandpa has always seemed like he was made of steel.  Never a complainer, always a do-er.  At 80 [or around 80] he had a quintuple bypass surgery and came back from it stronger than ever.  He also had 2 knee replacements at some point as well.  In his late 80’s he bounced right back after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.  He was a trooper.  I’m pretty sure he always bounced back for 2 things.

Golf + my grandma!

This man loved golf!!!  And, he was REALLY good!!  In recent years he was still shooting in the 90’s and low 100’s and even shot his age a few times.  Although, he was never quite satisfied with his game [that might be all men though].  Chris, my dad, and grandpa got to play quite a bit of golf together.  I made it out for a few games too!  He was still golfing 3 or more times a week, even into his 90’s!!!  I told you, he was made of steel.

He had a few health problems here and there, but you really never heard him complain about anything….except if he wasn’t getting out to play enough golf!  His memory was sharp, his personality was always on, and his hearing was impeccable!  I guess to go in your sleep…peacefully…without struggle or pain…is all you can wish for someone.  Of course it would have been nice to say a formal goodbye, but he knows how much we love him.

Yesterday, Halloween, was actually his birthday.  We don’t know exactly what time he passed, but it could have been on his actual birthday.  No one can say, “he almost lived to be 92.”  He made it and had a great birthday at that.  I didn’t hear all of the details but my grandma said he had such a great week.  His brother, my Uncle Creighton, was visiting from Michigan.  He went golfing a few days ago and his friends threw him a small surprise birthday party during the week as well.  He spent his birthday, happily, with his wife + brother. What is so amazing is that since it was his birthday he got SO many phone calls and got to converse with his closest family members and friends right before passing. 

I bawled my eyes out for a few hours.  Sad…wanting to be with family, wishing I would have caught him on the phone yesterday and not just left a message…sad for my grandma, sad for my dad and uncle, sad for my mom and brother, etc.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things that made my grandpa so unique. 

I went through my hard drive looking for all of the photos I had with him.  I know this is getting quite long, but all day, all I could think was, “I just need to write.”  I’m not a writer, by any means, but I have a lot to say and just need to get it out.  If you want to read on, please do, if you just want to look at photos, that is also quite fine!

Along with the photos I am going to talk about memories with Grandpa Florida.

My grandpa FL [far left] usually had a serious look on his face.  He was somewhat quiet and was a bit intimidating as a little girl.  However, when this man laughed his whole body would shake and he would let out the.best.chuckle. 

This photo was taken at StoneWater, a golf club right down the street from my house, where I got married.  This photo was at my Ohio State graduation party.  – Grandpa FL, Grandma Cleveland, me, Grandma FL, Grandpa Cleveland

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Even though my grandpa may have seemed a little tough on the outside, he had the biggest heart.  He gave great hugs and always smelled like clean aftershave.  It is a smell I would know anywhere!  And, what you wouldn’t expect, was that he would be the first one in the room to get faklempt [choke up] during a meaningful speech or at an important event, etc.

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My graduation party was also on my birthday weekend, so they were in town for that as well.  Would you look at how stinkin’ cute and little AJ and Jenna were! 

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It looks like my g’pa was trying to help me blow out the candles in the background =)

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Chris + I lived about 2hrs away from my g’rents in NC.  We would visit every so often, and my grandpa would always say “why don’t you spend a few days here” or “come back when you can stay awhile.”  We had a lot of fun just being together and going out to dinner.  It was always an adventure with grandpa behind the wheel ;)  I think I kept my eyes closed while he made left turns!

I got to spend one Thanksgiving with them, which was great.  I helped my grandma cook and we ate off of their fine China.  Fancy + fun!  Last year, Chris + I drove up to help them get their Christmas tree all set up.  It felt so good to be able to help them do that.

My grandpa was always in shape and always had some new piece of sports equipment in the house.  In Florida, I remember he had the NordicTrack ski machine.  Does anyone remember this thing??  I remember playing around on it with my brother. 

One time I went to visit, he was already 90 at this point, and he had just purchased a small exercise TRAMPOLINE!  It was about 3’ in diameter, and I’m not quite sure what it was for…circulation maybe?  I guess if you jumped for 20-30min it could be a cardio workout.  There was a bar that came up vertically that you held onto, but still…at 90??  Hilarious!

Out to dinner, during one of my visits in NC.


The year he turned 90, we went on a family trip to Fripp Island, SC.  It’s about 1hr away from Hilton Head.  They rented a huge house on the beach, for one week, and the whole family was there.

Mom, Dad, G+G, Josh [my bro], Uncle Pete [dad’s bro], Aunt Cindy and Elizabeth

We are all wearing our Sherman family Fripp Island shirts.  The trip was awesome.  It was so great to have the whole family together.  We played games, cooked a lot of food, talked, swam, walked on the beach.  It was fabulous.


I played golf with my dad, g’pa and uncle one of the days. 



Of course my bro brought his drums to Fripp.  He barely lets them out of his sight ;)  My grandparents were always interested in music and loved to hear Josh play.  My grandpa would sit, tapping his foot with his eyes closed, as my bro played away. 

Sometimes, he even joined in.



One thing about the Sherman family, is that they like their naps.  I can’t tell you how many photos I have, of my grandparents and dad all fast asleep on couches or chairs, mid-day.  The best was when you would catch all 3 of them fast asleep in 1 room together.


One of our big dinners on the trip.


Grandpa + Dad on the beach.


I was so lucky that they lived so close to us in NC and were able to attend my graduation from grad school at UNCC. 

Look at how good they look!!!  He was 90 in this photo!


Family, at my graduation lunch in Charlotte.


I was also extremely lucky that they were able to make it up for our wedding. 

Ceremony rehearsal


Brunch, the day after the wedding.


We visited numerous times after the wedding, the last visit being right before we moved to Colorado.  My dad was visiting them over Labor Day weekend so Chris and I went up for lunch.  We had such a great visit.  As soon as lunch was done, we took some photos and chatted a bit, but my grandpa had golf on the brain. 

My delicious mushroom soup, at lunch that day.  My grandparents knew all about my love for food + photography!


My dad and grandpa were playing 9 holes and my grandma was going along for the ride that day.


Standing on the tee box.


Today was a day with mixed emotions.  True sadness, disbelief, anger, guilt, but most importantly love.  I am sad I didn’t get to say goodbye, but happier that he left us in true peace.  He had the BEST week and I’m sure he went to sleep with nothing but happy thoughts running through his head.  His body must have really just.been.tired.

I love you Grandpa Florida!!!  Rest.In.Peace.

Can you imagine how different life was 92 years ago??  He got to see a lot in his lifetime!

Here is what stands out in my mind the most when I think of Grandpa Florida =)

  • driving his boat
  • teaching me how to fish
  • feeding the pelicans
  • “ugly”
  • he loved rhubarb pie [how random!]
  • he loved peanuts
  • he would always have his BIG dog jump up on the chair, on top of him, after he was done eating to eat the crumbs off his shirt…
  • his aftershave “man” smell ;)
  • helping them put up their Christmas tree last year
  • buying a trampoline at age 90!
  • his hearty chuckle
  • his big heart

Thank you for reading/skimming/looking at photos.  I just needed to get all of the thoughts out of my brain.  Call your parents, grandparents, siblings…and tell them you love them.  Life is too short…even with 92 years of it!