To say this week has been a little bit hectic and overwhelming is an understatement. At midnight last Monday, SVV and I returned from a much-needed, 12-day vacation to the Caribbean. On Tuesday, his parents arrived at our house, marking the first time we have seen them since leaving California in July 2011. On Wednesday, my beloved grandfather died.
It was unexpected and without warning, which in some cases can be the best way to go. On Tuesday morning, as the ADT guys were at my house outfitting us with a camera security system, I received a call from my mom. Granddaddy, who had lived with my parents for seven years, had fallen and broken his neck and was in the hospital. But he had fallen many times over the years and was the most resilient man I’ve known; surely, he’ll get through this, too.
The hospital didn’t even want to admit him, but finally his GP came by and insisted. Mom was with him all day, then Dad and I headed over there that night. In the three hours we were there, he faded in and out of a morphine-induced sleep, but each time he woke up, he’d sleepily ask me how was our trip to the Caribbean, what islands did we visit, did we go to Barbados as he and my grandmother had so many years ago. And, of course, had UT hired a new coach. (They did two days after his passing, though my thought is that he wouldn’t have been happy with the answer so he was better off not knowing.)
As I was driving to the Grammys nomination concert in Nashville on Wednesday night, I received a call from my cousin Kelly. Granddaddy was gone, just like that. An hour before, he had been talking (Fox News) politics with my cousin Andrew. Andrew and my dad (his son-in-law) were there when it happened.
My cousin Rebecca immediately commented: “He never will find out what happens with the fiscal cliff.” I couldn’t help but laughing; she is completely right.
The next few days were a blur filled with family visiting and a funeral that was absolutely perfect—I spoke on behalf of the grandchildren and somehow managed to hold it together—and then the weekend ended with us all Christmas-ing it up on Saturday night. Some may have thought it insensitive to still hold our annual ugly sweater party last night, but it was rather the opposite: an homage to Granddaddy. Up until Thanksgiving, he was at every party our family had locally, always with a glass of sangria in hand. So we made sangria and talked about our favorite memories of him and had one last night altogether until who knows when.
As I said in his eulogy Saturday:
It’s hard not to be sad when such a huge presence leaves your life with no warning. I lived with him for the past year, and my day would start with greeting him at the kitchen at 8am each morning and him saying, “good afternoon, KIS-tin!” implying I should have been up hours before. He was always subtle like that.
And yet, it’s hard to wish for him to live on when he’s ready to go be with his bride again. He and my grandmother Dede had a love unlike any I’ve ever witnessed before, and the second I heard he passed away, I had this immediate vision of them walking toward each other, grabbing hands again and walking away into a (UT) orange sunset.
While there’s no doubt there will be a Granddaddy-shaped hole in all of our hearts for the rest of our lives, the comfort in this situation is seeing so much of him in all of each other, just as we do our Grandmother. And that’s something we will take with us forever.
I wrote his obituary for the local paper and thought I’d include it below so that you all could know about this amazing man who helped shape my life these last 30 years. We love you, Granddaddy, and not a day will go by when we aren’t thinking about you and Dede, walking hand-in-hand together, in the Great Beyond.
Bill Housholder, veteran, retired CPA and avid Vol, dies at 91
William Samuel Housholder was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday morning for a fractured vertebrae, but despite his pain, he was still focused on the important things in life. “Have they found a coach yet for my Vols?” he asked when he awoke from a sedated state. His family regrets that he passed away before finding out the answer.
On Wednesday, Heaven glowed a little more orange when Mr. Housholder died unexpectedly from complications due to his injury at Harton Regional Medical Center in Tullahoma. He was 91, a devout Christian and a pillar of the local community, an usher at First Baptist Church from 1955 up until last week.
Mr. Housholder was born the youngest of seven siblings on Aug. 28, 1921 in Century, Fla. but spent most of his childhood in Knoxville, Tenn. He met his lifelong sweetheart, Doris Watts Housholder, during his high school years; they later married in 1942 and spent a total of 70 years together. Mrs. Housholder died in 2008 in Tullahoma after a battle with dementia. Not a day went by that he didn’t talk about her and how he looked forward to seeing her again. His family is encouraged by the thought of their joyous reunion.
A math whiz and scholar with an elephant’s memory, Mr. Housholder graduated from high school at the age of 14 and went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (Class of 1941). At UT, he was on the Student Council; a varsity and all-conference tennis player; a proud brother of Sigma Nu fraternity, for which he served as President; and a member of ROTC. He was a co-op student with Alcoa Aluminum during his college years.
Once he and Mrs. Housholder married in 1942 at Fort Sanders Presbyterian Church, they immediately relocated from Knoxville to Camp Wheeler, Ga. for Mr. Housholder’s officer refresher course in combat tactics with the U.S. Army. In 1944, he left his bride behind as his division was assigned to England. In May of that year, he headed overseas on a Swedish liner and landed in Liverpool after 14 days at sea.
The following year, he was transferred away from General Hodges 1st Army to General Patton’s 3rd Army to take over the south flank defense in the Battle of the Bulge. Once his troops breached the line, they moved to the Saar River. Patton gave orders not to stop there, but to move on to the Rhine, and the division moved up to the Ruhr Pocket and spent the rest of the conflict in Dusseldorf, Germany. Mr. Housholder was the S-1 for the 302 Infantry.
His regiment received orders that there were assigned as occupation troops in Sudetenland, keeping the Czechs from slaughtering the Germans who had mistreated them during Hitler’s reign. They were ordered to parade through downtown Prague and be involved in turning the free Czech Army back over to their elected leaders.
His 94th division convoys left Czechoslovakia heading west for Aschaffenburg, Germany. At the end of 1945, Mr. Housholder was assigned to the 80th Infantry Division. He traveled by train to Le Havre, France and he crossed the channel to Southampton, England, where he boarded the USS Lake Champlain that would transport him home, finally.
“The Statue of Liberty has never looked more incredible than when we passed her on the way to the Port of New York. Upon disembarking, we were moved to passenger cars to make the last leg of our journey to be discharged,” he recalled in a past interview. “My first objective was to find my wife who was to meet me in our assigned quarters. I had looked almost everywhere when I saw this beautiful young lady come around the corner of the barracks. It was Doris!”
After his years in the U.S. Army, Mr. Housholder changed careers: He passed his CPA exam in 1951, opened an office in Nashville, then relocated his family and his business to Tullahoma in 1955, where he lived until his death.
Before his death, he told his son Bernie, “I moved to Tullahoma and finally found a town that offered everything: friendly people, excellent living facilities, excellent educational facilities and a prosperous economic outlook.”
Most locals remember him for his warm, ever-present smile, his respected reputation as a businessman, having started the CPA firm Housholder Artman, PLLC in 1955—and for the mid-70’s baby blue Datsun, lovingly dubbed the “Smurfmobile,” that he was seen driving around town up until it finally broke down for good a few years ago.
His son-in-law Greg Luna, who called Mr. Housholder “the father I never had—and a good buddy,” is managing partner of Housholder Artman, PLLC and has been with the firm since 1982. “For 35 years, Bill built the business by forming close personal ties with everyone he came into contact with. Many of those business relationships he formed more than 50 years ago remain today—as well as the friendships.”
Mr. Housholder retired in 1988, but continued to come into the firm regularly in the years that followed. He spent 50 years living among his closest friends in Oak Park Circle, then moved in with his daughter Jeanie and her husband Greg on the east side of town in 2005.
During the six decades he lived in Tullahoma, he was a member of First Baptist Church, where he served as superintendent of the adult and young people’s department, as a church trustee and as an usher throughout the 57 years of his membership. He also was a member of the Tullahoma Rotary Club and served as president in 1979. He was a Paul Harris Fellow, a member of University of Tennessee Space Institute Support Council and an active golfer and tennis player at Lakewood Golf & Country Club. He was a former member of the prestigious UT Development Council and UT National Alumni Council, as well as the Coffee County Cancer Society officer, Coffee County UGF officer, and the Coffee County chapter of the Sons or the American Revolution, for which he was at one time president. He also was a volunteer bookkeeper to the Tullahoma Suicide Crisis Center and the Coffee County Senior Citizens Center and donated his time to other charitable organizations doing tax returns for free.
But of all the things Mr. Housholder was, he was a family man first and foremost. He was surrounded by loved ones at ever major milestone in his life and spent two memory-filled weeks in Destin, Fla. this past summer with his two children and their spouses, five grandchildren and their spouses, and two young great-granddaughters.
His grandson Andrew Housholder, an emergency medicine doctor with he U.S. Air Force, was with him when he passed away on Wednesday and said, “Something that I could never imagine happening happened in front of me. This man of granite, carved from stuff that no one recognizes anymore, was gone. He was a great man, a proud man, a guy who valued his good mind and independence. The experience was holy in many ways, sacred to watch him pass from this life to the next. Now he’s with his beautiful bride, and he is at peace.”
Mr. Housholder is survived by his brother, Dr. Charles Hobart Housholder; children, William Bernard Housholder (Louise) and Jean Watts Housholder Luna (Greg); grandchildren, John William Housholder, Rebecca Jeanne Housholder Rawlinson (John), Andrew David Housholder (Kelly), Kristin Leigh Luna (Scott) and Kari Lyn Luna; and great-grandchildren McKayla Yates Rawlinson, Margaret Elise Rawlinson and Colton Oaks Housholder. The family asks that any donations be made in his name to the Tullahoma Daycare (P.O. Box 478), which his wife helped start, or Rotary International.
What a beautiful tribute to your Grandpa, K. Brought tears to my eyes. Thinking of all of you!
A beautiful tribute for a beautiful man. Truly, that was lovely. Your words so heartfelt. Weepy, too.
Kristin – I am so sorry for your loss; I am in tears over your eulogy and obituary. It sounds like he was one amazing man and grandfather.
This is so beautifully written. Made tear up & think about my own Grandpa. Love the photo as well. Hugs
What a beautiful tribute Kristin. My condolences to you and your family on your loss.
Wow, what an amazing man! He will obviously be very missed. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Also, he was absolutely adorable.
He was, wasn’t he? The funniest pictures are the ones where he forgot to put his teeth in and was giving the camera a big, gummy grin =)
Oh Kristin you have me in tears over here with this beautiful obituary. I’m so sorry for your loss and your family is in my thoughts today.
He had such a kind face, I’m glad you were around to spend time with him before he died. It’s a good reminder for people like me who always think “oh I’ll see them next time”.
That’s a beautiful eulogy. My deepest condolences to you and your family. Keeping you in my prayers!
Kristin, I cried real, fat tears reading this. I didn’t know your grandfather, but you brought his smile and his legacy to so many people as you wrote about him. It’s clear that not only was he very lovable, but also very loved.
It is always to specially when you here of a family that is so close together especially when something tragic happens. It sounds like your grandfather was a really great man.
Well, I am in tears reading this beautiful post. You are such an incredible writer and your words perfectly portray the love and respect you all have for your grandfather. Thank you so much for sharing. It makes me want to go hug on all the people I love!
Thank you, Jenny. I plan to write his biography for the family next. Luckily, I got some interviews on tape before he passed away, though I’m kicking myself for not making that more of a priority when I had him here.
What a precious tribute to your granddaddy! My grandfather had the same presence and impact on my life and I miss him everyday, but always smile thinking about him. I’m so sorry for your loss, but love that you have 30 years of wonderful memories to keep with you the rest of your life.
This is a beautiful post. You were lucky to have him in your life for so many years. I only had one grandmother that I didn’t see enough. I never met my other grandparents since they passed away before I was born. He will always be in your heart forever and I’m sure that he wanted you to have fun at the ugly sweater party.
It seems selfish to be so sad over losing him when we had him for 91 long years (who lives that long? seriously). And yet the fact that we *did* have him for so many years, and that his health never waned and his mind was sharper than a tack just made it that much harder to say good-bye.
Such a beautiful tribute Kristin on every level. Thank you for sharing it with us.
What a beautiful tribute. My grandmother passed away a few months ago, so I could completely relate to these sentiments. I must admit, I got a bit teary as I read the eulogy. God Bless.
Thanks, sweet girl. Grandparents are the greatest gift we have in life, I think, and I’m lucky I had my pair as long as I did (my grandmother died when I was 25 and my grandfather at almost-30…not many people are that fortunate).
What a lovely tribute. He sounds like an amazing man!
This is so sweet, what a wonderful tribute to an amazing, beloved man. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Hugs.
An incredible tribute to your grandfather — what a life and a legacy. Such a blessing that you were able to spend so much time with him. I know that he must be so proud of you looking down as he’s reunited with your Dede. You’ve honored him with your writing and the way you live your life, and will continue to. Prayers to your entire family.
He loved that “Irish woman down in Birmingham.” I am so glad that he was able to meet so many of my friends this year, so they have a reference for this great man of which I will speak the rest of my life.
Thanks for sharing, lady. Beautiful words for a great man.
Such a beautiful tribute to a life well lived. He sounds like an amazing man, and I feel for your family, it’s so hard losing someone you love.
Sending you and your family a big hug. Your words are beautiful, and it sounds like he was a very special man.
I was so sorry to hear about your grandfather passing away. He sounds like a wonderful man and it’s easy to see that he was well loved. Beautiful post!
I think my family all has such a sense of togetherness and love for one another *because* of him and my grandmother.
I loved this! Definitely brought tears to my eyes. He sounds like a wonderful man.
What a beautiful memorial, Kristin! Truly moving and loving.
Perfect in every way.
Great tribute post, Kristin. I bet you are happy to know you had the chance to spend so much time with him over the last year.
He didn’t approve of young ladies drinking bourbon (I often pretended that it was just straight-up ginger ale), but I’d like to think he was proud of everything else I stand for =)
Wow, your grandfather sounds like a real gem. So glad you got to spend the last year with him. Thinking of you and your family! xo
Thanks, Holly. It’s the all-living-under-one-roof part that has made it the hardest. Scott and I had dinner with my mom and dad at their place last night, and the table just seemed so empty without him there.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristin. What a full life he had and how nice it is that you have so many wonderful memories to hold dear.
Such an amazing man to have for a Grandfather. You are fortunate to have had him in your life so long. And although you will miss him every day the memories you have will carry him in your heart forever. I too can see him walking hand in hand with his beautiful bride.
This is lovely, just lovely. He must have been so proud of you all, and the love your family has for each other just beams out of these photos, his memory will live on through your words
Kristin- what a beautiful and moving tribute to your grandfather! His life and legacy are evident by your sweet words and I’m praying for you and your family to find peace, comfort and lasting joy. Laughter through the tears is the best emotion! My grandfather passed away the day before Thanksgiving this year at 95, in New Orleans. He too was a member of the 3rd Armored Division and was present through the Battle of the Bulge under Patton. I still tear up when I think of him being reunited with the love of his life, my grandmother Dottie! Thank you for sharing your sweet words!
Maybe our grandfathers knew one another and are reminiscing over their time in the service up in Heaven together, while their brides knit or play bridge or bake cakes beside them =)
So sorry to hear about your loss, Kristin. You wrote so beautifully about him. It reminds me of losing my grandfather 3.5 years ago, the first grandparent I’ve lost, and I remember how difficult that was for my family. Sending good thoughts to you and your family!
You think it’s going to be easier than it is—they are grandparents, after all, and have lived long, happy lives—and then there’s a big hole in your world every day after their loss, and everything reminds you of them. Someone told me that grief is selfish, and while I agree, I can’t help but be selfish in my sadness for the huge presence we all lost from our lives.
Thank you for sharing this Kristin! Such a wonderful tribute to a man who clearly made the most out of his time. Loss is very an easy pill to swallow, but I love that your family still had your holiday party. We live for those we lose and no doubt you’ll do it with bells on!
-Loss is **NEVER (gah!)
Oh my heart aches for you K. My Grandfather was in the hospital all last week and it was touch and go — he’s mending now. He’s a decade younger than your Grandfather though, so hopefully he’ll hang on another 10 years. What a beautiful life your Grandfather led and I’m sure he died so unbelievably proud of you!!! Much love.
I’m so sorry for your loss. You are so fortunate, however, to have had thirty years with him, and I am sure the memories will give you comfort and joy despite the sadness of not having him physically with you anymore.
Wow what an absolutely amazing post. My grandfather is sick with cancer and your post made me cry but also helped me remember that he is AMAZING.
Thank you for the post.
Poem for you:
That is beautiful. Thank you.
I’m so sorry for your family’s loss… but man, what a life well-lived. I feel cliche talking about the “greatest generation,” but honestly, he seems to have embodied its tenants. Thanks for sharing the obit you wrote, I loved reading about his life. Sending you hugs and a resounding “Go Big Orange!”
They played “Rocky Top” to close his funeral. So perfect.
You have truly honored your grandfather with this post, it honestly brought tears to my eyes. He lived such an extraordinary life (wow!) and must be so proud of you!
Thank you, Ashley! I feel like he had five successful, loving grandchildren, and that’s all just a reflection on what he and my grandmother taught us. We were truly blessed to have gotten to spend so much time with him.
I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s heartening to see so many mentions of his bride and their reunion — it must have been some love, and no doubt he was a lucky man for it.
It’s what he’s wanted for years–every day since she died, he has told me he’s ready to see her again “but no one knows when that will happen except the Lord.” So any grief is just selfish on our part (but trust me, there’s been a lot), as he was ready.
What a sweet tribute to your grandfather, Kristin. Something I’ve found in the wake of the loss of a loved one is that laughter and fun are the ultimate tributes. Not to mention they’re a welcome break from the sorrow. I’ve always gotten the impression your grandfather was delightful to be around from how you’ve written about him in the past. I’m sorry for your family’s loss but happy for the time you and your family got to spend with him.
I don’t think anyone can read that and have a dry eye, I certainly didn’t. It was beautiful, Kristin.
So very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. So glad you got to be so close to him this last year, what an added treat to being home again.
I have never been so grateful to be home for a long period of time. I’m definitely glad we spent the last year at my parents’ house and that I got so much quality time with him.
What a wonderful tribute, lady. So sorry for your loss, but I think it’s amazing to think of him and your grandmother reunited.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristin. It’s so great that you have these photos and stories to remember him.
Dear Kristin, I LOVE, so much, that you were able to use your writing talent to capture these huge parts of your grandpa’s life and share them with not only your local community, but your blog community too. Thank you. (I only teared-up like 5 times; it took a lot of effort not to ‘ugly cry.’)
Warm hugs and big kisses to you & your family. x meg
This is why you’re one of my favorites. I love how sweet and empathetic you are =)
What a beautiful tribute to a pretty incredible guy. Thank you for sharing his story with. Huuuugs to you.
Even though he always thought “the Internet is for pornography,” I’m glad all of the Internet gets to learn about the great Bill Housholder =)