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Earlier this week I promised to share information about my father as a lead up to the May Springfield Brew Crew event. The event is to be a birthday celebration for me and a remembrance for my father who shared the same birthday with me. Gregory H. Wisdom, my father, was taken from us in August of 1991. His killer’s name was lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the body’s immune system.
My father was a firefighter in Hazelwood, Missouri, the small-town suburb of St. Louis where I grew up. He was an extremely dedicated man and worked hard to improve himself and his skills as a firefighter, a man, and a father. His dedication inspired me to seek adventure, never accept mediocrity, and continuously improve myself. He was a hard-working man working 24 hour shifts at the fire department and, on his days off, working long days as a paint and wallpaper contractor. He was not, however, an educated man. In high school he became bored and restless. History and geography lessons fueled his restlessness and stoked his desire for adventure. So, at the age of 16, he dropped out of one of the best prep schools in St. Louis to join the Coast Guard.
He had a zest for life that was unstoppable. The adventures he found in the service of our nation led him from the Caribbean Sea to remote lighthouses miles off the coast of Maine. He had a way of throwing himself headlong into his work, pushing himself to be the best. His was not book knowledge; he possessed knowledge of how the world worked through the school of hard knocks. He learned that a man who was willing to work hard could prosper.
My father worked hard at his two jobs to make sure we had everything we needed. He approached his role as the head of household and provider very seriously. Often he worked long into the night painting houses to get the extra money needed to take us on fantastic vacations. As children we visited the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Monument Valley, Williamsburg, Virginia, and Washington D.C. among other places. He arranged with our teachers for these trips to provide educational opportunities, and our teachers provided him with lessons and activities for us to complete for school credit. He was dedicated to providing us with quality educational experiences as well as the material needs of a growing family.
But, in the spring of 1981, he visited me during my fraternity’s parents’ weekend and broke the news to me that he was being admitted to the hospital with cancer. He was hopeful that he could beat the monster known as lymphoma again – he had had it before and fought it to remission. But, the doctors were not so sure.
In the end, his fight was valiant, but unsuccessful. At the age of 44, he succumbed to his attacker and slipped away from us.
I ask that you come and celebrate his life with me at Intuition Ale Works, Saturday, May 14th from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM. The wonderful friends I have at Intuition have made a very generous offer to donate $1 from every beer sold that evening to the Springfield Relay for Life which benefits the American Cancer Society. Help us put an end to the scourge that took my father from us and come have a few pints to remember the man that he was.