Saturday, August 25, 2012


Walter Otto Krumich
 Born in Solothurn, Switzerland on February 1, 1921
Pass away on August 14, 2012

My grandpa was a resilient, determined, and talented man.

He came over to the United States when he was only seven years old. He came through Ellis Island and we have the records and a few of the trunks they used to make the trip. Grandpa didn't speak English, but he went to school and learned it.

Always a talented musician, he played the flute and taught lessons up until just a year ago. Many a night my grandparents would play flute duets on their back porch. He encouraged his children to become proficient on their own instruments and often quizzed them on pieces and composers when they passed through a room where music was playing. All four of his students chose occupations relating to music: two teachers, one composer and arranger, two children's music group directors, one music therapist and jazz flutist, and a professional trumpeter in the army band and assorted gigs, among other titles.
Grandpa & Marianne
Some of my fondest memories include picking blueberries in the evening with my Grandma while Grandpa played the flute down at his house. The music would serenade us from 100 yards away.

My father, a composer, said that my grandpa could always tell if he had written a song. I think my dad really enjoyed that.

Grandpa served in Hawaii and Guadalcanal and was a true war hero. He rescued a man named Brady from Philadelphia, whose ear drums had been burst, when their ship sank. When his parents heard that he had lost his nice flute, they were sure that was the last they had seen of Walter. He wouldn't leave his flute, right?

Best war photo ever.
Grandpa worked as an engineer drafting Sunoco stations for Sun Oil. He had great attention to detail and knew of most, if not every, Sunoco station in the Ohio and Pennsylvania areas.

He loved to travel and went on many trips throughout his life:  Switzerland multiple times, Scandinavia,  Japan, Germany, Alaska, and he went on a couple major road trips across the United States. Grandma and Grandpa always made sure to visit their children often throughout every year, so each family would get the chance to visit with them.

Not only did he love to travel, but he loved to take pictures and scrapbook. He has every trip carefully documented and every year since 1950, and some years before, included in a scrapbook. It's like memory lane looking through his wonderful albums. One time our family went on a canoe trip down the Clarion River and Grandma came with us. Grandpa decided to pass and he took pictures. We started they joke of "Where's Waldo?" because we'd come around the bend and there he'd be snapping a picture. Grandma often called him "Walter O" and so "Waldo" was quite appropriate.

Never could you eat a meal without Grandpa snapping a picture a few minutes into your chewing. There was many a meal when I would shove a hunk of steak into the side of my mouth and hope it wouldn't show in the pictures!

My cousin Marianne wrote a beautiful blog about my grandfather here and she reminded me of his dry, chapped hands. They were always dry, no matter the season. And those hands were strong up until the very end. He would often squeeze and not let go until you said "Uncle." That made us cringe.

He was so strong, in part, because he just never stopped working! He was always working in his garage, in his garden, or trimming the Christmas trees on my Uncle John's property. The smell of gasoline, pine, and his peppermint gum will always remind me of him.

He often wouldn't shave his cheeks for a few days and so you'd get a few prickles when you kissed him hello and goodbye. My cousin Julie often teased him about that and he always spoke of it fondly.

Grandpa had a few different sayings that he'd use: "Shape up or ship out," "You're a tough cookie," or "Finish the rest of your food!" He always called my grandma Butch... no one ever really knew why.

When we were younger he'd hitch up the wagon to his gravely and take us on rides around his trails. He always kept up a series of trails around his property and Grandma loved to take us walking up and down them.

He was a tough, gruff man, but he always had a tender side for my grandma. They cooed and flirted through their 64 years of marriage. His eyes always showed us his love.

Grandpa was a handsome man and very photogenic! I don't think I've ever seen a bad picture of him.

He was able to speak suisse deutsche fluently and without an accent whenever he returned to Switzerland. That was always impressive to my great aunt Lizzy, who was born in Pittsburgh, but has lived the rest of her life in Switzerland and has an "accent."

Wine and swiss fondue were regulars in the Krumich household. He always had burgundy in a glass pourer on a side table near the table.

Classical music was always playing in their house.

He watched the news at seven o'clock every night. Hardly ever missed it. One day last year I called during the seven o'clock news- what was I thinking? Grandma handed the phone to him during a commercial break, she thought, but it was just a quick break. Grandpa took the phone and said, "Hi Käthe, I'm watching the news. But I want you to know that you're fantastic!" Well, that's all I need to hear, Grandpa :)

Grandma and Grandpa would tape the Sunday morning show (the name escapes me right now) and then would watch it in the evening that day. They'd be so full from their Sunday dinner (lunch) that they would eat snacks and have a beverage.

Wedding day!

Walter O made it possible for us to have our safe haven of a summer home, The Pinery. When times were tight, he helped my parents out and allowed them to pay him back when they could. I never really knew this until last week. I am forever grateful.

At one point he was a trained beautician/barber in California and he did girls' hair who wanted to be in Hollywood. He cut my hair, my cousins' hair when we were younger and my Grandma's hair up until recently.

He was always interested in creating. He made sundials (all correct!), wood-burnings and photographed as many courthouses as he could all around the United States. He was so interested in the architecture of each one. Grandma said that he would often take them a half an hour out of their way, but she became interested in the architecture, too. "Might as well," she said last weekend.

National Geographics piled up on his side table and he avidly read the newspaper every day. Many an afternoon I would find him sleeping with the newspaper on his lap in his sun room.

When he was younger he carved his name in the chair at the dining room table. That same chair was the one he sat in every day at WalterWald, his home in Seneca, PA. I yearned to be transported back to when his mother discovered the vandalization.

Another thing he loved to do was transplant trees. My dad and his brothers have stories of times when he'd find a tree in the woods and get them to help him dig up the roots. Then they'd help him lug it into the yard, dig a hole, and plant it. He never wanted to tear anything down. He never wanted to destroy anything. My uncle Eric wonders if this may be because of the things he saw in the war. He never wanted it to happen again. We have many trees that have been transplanted from Grandpa's collection to The Pinery. He surrounds us, still.

He loved his family, always complimenting us on a job well done.

During my health debacle last year I called my grandparents a fair amount. They always wanted to hear the updates and didn't/don't have access to the internet. One time Grandma told me that Grandpa was sitting quietly and with his eyes closed. She knew that he wasn't sleeping, so she asked him what he was doing and he replied, "I'm praying for Käthe." That touched me so deeply.

I'll miss talking to him about the gas prices, the weather, and the price of bananas. I'll miss watching him give a tour of the drawings of his skilled father, Otto Krumich, or the paintings of his talented sister, Lizzy Löffel, to the new people visiting his home.

His hard work, determination, and courage are just a few of the qualities that I hope I've inherited from him. I inherited his draft table and I haven't taken anything out of the drawers. I love opening them up and being transported back in time to when he drafted for Sunoco. I don't think I could ever remove the items now.

Grandpa, you are greatly missed, but we know you are playing the flute in heaven! Thank you for being such a strong patriarch to our wild, crazy, and loving family. I love and miss you.

Walter Otto Krumich passed away in the company of his wife, three of his four children, and one of his daughter-in-laws. They arrived in time to tell him that they loved him and for his wife to say that it's okay to go and that they'll meet again. Those there said that it was the most beautiful and remarkable experience. A fitting and wonderful ending for an amazing man.


  1. Beautiful, Kathe. Your memories are similar to mine. . . and I'm crying with mourning/memories/ and happiness right now.
    Thanks for this.
    Love you!

  2. I love to hear you use your heart and soul to express your emotions. It helps me to read your blog, especially about my Dad. Thanks, Kathe.