My grandfather was born as Ludwig Johann Klafke in 1910 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Polish immigrants. He grew up poor and tough, left school after eighth grade, and became a member of a street gang. He decided to clean up his life after some incident involving a murder that was never fully explained to me.
Things didn't get clean right away, though. He and my grandmother eloped when she was four months pregnant. The Great Depression was underway, and they depended on welfare for several years. Prohibition was also underway, and he made pocket change by selling bootleg liquor. Some old family friends entertained me once with tales of riotous drunken parties.
Eventually, he settled into a long and successful career as a factory worker. He fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he was able to buy land and build a weekend cottage at a lake in central Wisconsin. I was born while construction was underway.
He taught me how to fish, how to find sly humor in everyday life, how to tell tall tales, how to enjoy a cold beer at sunset listening to the whippoorwills sing, and how to cheat at dice and cards.
He died as Louis John Klafke in 1985.