Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Take a moment and ponder this question. Past or present, who has had the most influence in your life? Who are the people that come to your mind?
For me this one person is grandpa Herrmann pictured right next to the final result of the most severe accident I have been in thus far. Opa Herrmann did things in his life despite vast amounts of adversity he kept facing. Thinking of him keeps me inspired on so many levels.
He was born in 1909 and his family went through the first rough times during and after WWI. Then the depression era occurred and once again they were barely making ends meet. The Nazis took power and he took the unpopular route belonging to the liberal SPD party and thus never joining the NSDAP party. That was a very gutsy and highly unpopular position to take. Just before WWII he married the love of his life and two children were born during the war. He was part of a forward moving maintenance unit for a fighting group right behind Russian enemy lines.
His wife died from child birth complications not too long after my mom was born. The family could not care for both and they are divided and live with different relatives. His first wife’s sister could not stand that they are separated and abandons her own marriage caring for both children at Opa’s homestead – he was far away from all of this at the front.
The war is turning for the worse. He barely made it out of Stalingrad before it closes in on German Landser soldiers. The war ends and he was still in Russia when him and a few of his unit buddies threw their weapons into the ditch. They walked back West home bound. They hiked during the dark and somehow make it across the then Eastern border of Germany. Somewhere in Buttelstedt Germany an American officer most likely saved his life by writing him a passage letter allowing him to hike back home. He finally made it home after weeks worthwhile of hiking. Once home he fell in love and then married the lovely woman who had cared for his children – the sister of his deceased wife. Surviving and rebuilding after the war was not for the fainthearted.
He eventually took a chance on a factory job where he successfully worked for over three decades. He stayed active in the local community and became a volunteer in the local volunteer fire company. He loved helping others and most of all he was fair – very fair. He had no favorites amongst all of his kids and the grand kids. We always go the same treatment and also money. He did this with a passion that I have never seen anywhere else. He always had an open ear and time for people and loved listening to their stories.
He was a great mentor providing many opportunities for us to learn hard lessons in a safe environment. He would let you fail, but was always there to also save you when things started getting out of hand. He would not sugar coat the truth, but he would also not push his own agenda. I surely miss him and his razor sharp wit and sense of humor. His zest for life and unrelenting drive challenging the people around him to live up to their full potential has been truly inspiring.
I am sure that it is easy to see why Opa had such a big impact on my life. How about you? Who inspires you the most? Is this person still alive today? If so, please make sure that you tell this person how much he/ she means to you.