Monday, November 24, 2008

Pay it forward

One Thursday evening in 1949, sixteen year old Pete Wagner went with his pals to Hilsabeck's Sporting Goods store in downtown Holdrege, Nebraska. The boys were ordering their letter jackets--a substantial expense at $30 each. While his buddies tried on samples for size, Pete stood quietly in the background. Although he was a new letterman, he couldn't afford a jacket. Pete's dad had died just a few months earlier, and it was up to him to work all the hours he could at the grocery store so the income of the short order cook mom and the apprentice meat cutter son could keep the family afloat.

Mr. Hilsabeck, the proprietor, talked quietly to Pete and asked him why he wasn't ordering a jacket. Pete told him he couldn't afford it, but that he might be getting a sweater sometime later. In a small town like Holdrege, everyone knew about Pete's dad and about the family's precarious financial condition. "You go ahead and order your jacket, Pete," said the proprietor, "and you can pay me a few dollars a week--whatever you can afford."

Through the kindness of Mr. Hilsabeck, Pete got his letter jacket, paying off his debt interest-free and the rate of $2 a week. It was a story Pete Wagner told me a dozen times or more, and it was an act of kindness and generosity I saw him repeat in his own life over and over. A proprietor himself in later years, he was always there to help the poor family in the neighborhood of his grocery stores, the disabled employee, the customer down on his luck, the shut-in down the street, the kid with no job, the college student with no place to stay, nothing to eat, and no car to get to class.

My father in law, Pete Wagner, the best fishing buddy I've ever had, died last Thursday after an intense battle with a sudden illness. We will lay him to rest this morning, a year after my own Dad's passing. A man is lucky to have a father he can look up to, aspire to be like, and learn life's important lessons from. I was blessed with two.

16 comments:

rainbowzinnias said...

Thanks for sharing that story. My thoughts will be with you and your family today, Chief Casady.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear of your loss Chief.

In the society of today many of our young people do not have the fortune of positive role models. Having Parents, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles to advise and set proper examples in how to live has been the backbone of the country. We need more people like Mr. Wagner.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

I am sorry about your loss. He sounds like a wonderful man.

Grundle said...

Awesome story...and an example of how it ought to be.

Very sorry to hear of your loss, my condolences.

Murph said...

My condolences Chief. Sounds like many person's lives are better for having had Mr. Wagner around.

Frequent Reader said...

I am so sorry to hear about your father-in-law's death. Thanks for posting this moving note.

Anonymous said...

Tom, I'm sorry for your loss and the inspiring clip from his life. My hope is that he had placed is faith in the only one who could give him everlasting life and that is Jesus Christ. God Bless you and yours in your time of loss.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss, Tom.

Anonymous said...

My condolences Chief...

Lorimor said...

Great story Chief! Thanks for sharing it.

My deepest sympathies for your loss.

Mary said...

What a beautiful tribute--no finer words can be said than that someone inspired people and lived a life of integrity. This was lovely, and I join everyone else in my sympathies for the loss of a great man.

Abbie Stanton said...

Tom, I'm so sorry for your loss. Please know my prayers are with you and your family (and your precious wife). I've talked with your daughter and I know my mom was there with you yesterday. What a sweet note. Thanks for sharing. God Bless. - Abbie

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear of your family's loss. Condolences to you and your wife.

Jenn

-JS- said...

Sorry for your loss Chief. You and your family are in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

I too lost my father before his time. If I sound a little bitter-well he was t-boned by a state of nebraska vehicle-so like I said if I sound bitter well................

Chris said...

I've been away from your blog for a little. I'm very sorry for both your losses. My father took his own life in 2004.