Romulus Doyle Shields
(died Jan. 7, 2009)
Grandpa was born April 1, 1924 in Sugarville, Utah (which, for those of you not related to any Sugarville resident, is a small community near Delta) His parents were Rom and Cozy Shields. He was the 4th of what would later be 6 children. Grandpa attended school in Sugarville, Delta, Idaho and Salt Lake. After the war, he attended, and graduated from BYU.
Grandpa wore a lot of hats during his lifetime, and I don’t just mean the ball caps that he never left home w/o.
Starting in 1943, Grandpa wore the hat of a soldier after he was drafted into the Army during WWII. This hat had him serving in a wire communications group in the 364th Field Artillery Battalion of the 76th Division. During his service, he endured the bitter cold and the horror of the front lines during events such as the Battle of the Bulge, among others. His position in communications allowed him to be one of the first to hear, and consequently rejoice over the surrender of Germany. But like most soldiers, grandpa never got over the nightmares of battle, so never cared to discuss his experiences there, except to tell us about staying up for nights on end, and feeling blessed for the warmth of sleeping next to a cow, and how frozen he got without that ‘luxury’ particularly when riding in open trucks in -50* weather.
Grandpa said he’d never seen a sweeter sight than viewing the statue of liberty after his time in Europe. Consequently he was more than happy to return to civilian life. Which life soon found him working in the accounting department at U.S. Steel. Which is a hat he wore for 29 ½ years.
Another hat he wore, and cherished immensely, was that of a husband. He was married for time and all eternity to the love of his life, Iva Ann Nielsen on Sep 16, 1954 in the Salt Lake temple.
Shortly thereafter Grandpa proudly donned the hat of a dad when in the summer of ’55, he and Grandma welcomed Craig Doyle into the family, followed 2 years later, by Gleanne.
But of course we know his favorite hat of all was that of a grandpa, which he wore for the first time in ’79, when the real light of his life was born ;). Ok, so maybe he had a few more lights in his life than just me. Over the next 10 years the line to Grandpa’s cookie jar would grow exponentially with the addition of 4 more grandchildren to the family, Viola Nicole, Nathan Doyle, Andrew Vern, and CarolAnn. Grandpa always found time to support us in every church & school program, every choir concert, every ballgame, every academic competition, and whatever else we managed to get ourselves into, including countless hunting and fishing trips with the boys. He also managed to make regular visits to our homes to help with yard work and whatever else needed to be done. It’s no surprise with his willingness to do all of that, along with his big heart full of love, and his gentle spirit full of laughter it didn’t take long before he had a whole lot more youth, our friends in particular calling him ‘grandpa’. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that we all knew exactly which pocket he hid the candy in, no matter what coat or jacket he had with him.
Grandpa never seemed to mind the extra grandchildren, he teased them every bit as much as he teased us. I believe most of them managed to avoid being conscripted into the never ending water-war, but I’m sure one or two became innocent victims on occasion during one of the countless battles. In case any you dare to underestimate the extent of this war, allow me to testify right now, I have no doubt Grandpa is presently preparing the next round of artillery. And the next time any of us get caught in the rain unprepared or we inevitably have to walk through sprinklers to reach our destination, you can be assured that Grandpa had a hand in it. Unfortunately for us, Grandpa has always had the upperhand, We can’t win, we never could win, no matter how often grandma forced a temporary truce, and pulled out the pile of towels, but it was always fun to try to get at least a few good shots in on him.
Despite having one son and two grandsons, we always knew he really favored the girls ;) Which might be why all 4 of his great-grandchildren are girls. Sorry guys.
Grandpa loved life! If there were ever any doubt, we could try to count the number of times various individuals expected him not to live, and the number of times he proved them wrong. In later years, his caretakers often referred to him as the “Energizer Bunny” since he just kept going and going. I think it also had to do with Grandpa’s love of surprises. Grandpa always blamed his birthday for his sense of humor and love of surprises, saying he was just an ‘April’s Fool” So I’m sure despite his gratitude for them, that he’s laughing at the doctors and caretakers and the number of times he surprised them. But they’re not alone, during his army days, they gave him a life expectancy of about 7 seconds for his position, he managed to survive that as well. But the one that will really have him chuckling is when he meets the doctor that cared for him during the critical illness he suffered when he was just 10 years old. That doctor didn’t expect him to live either. Can you imagine Grandpa’s delight when he gets to tell him that he lived another 75 years.
He got such a kick just trying to scare us kids. Sometimes it was threatening to push us off things, even if it was just the 2 foot high footbridge across the street, or hiding behind the door as we came in, or if the door was locked, he’d sneak to it below the site of the windows then pop into the window with a funny face. I had to laugh as I saw a picture of grandpa, taken last summer, and noticed his hand was reached out in classic Grandpa form. I can never mimic the sound he would make, but it translated into a combination of “boo” and “I’m going to get you”
Like a refiner’s fire, we know that it is the trials we have in our lives help reveal our true character, and help shape who we become. Grandpa’s early illness, and miraculous recovery, was no exception. For one thing, he learned to hate doctors, and over the years developed his own methods of cure-alls, which seemed to work because he did manage to stay healthy until recent years. He swore by garlic pills to prevent illness, and should you get sick, the cure-alls were jalapeño peppers (the key was swallowing them whole, he claimed) and mentholatum vapors. Both remedies were enough to horrify me as a child. But while I have still not learned to appreciate hot peppers, it is my children who now hate the vapors of mentholatum which I turn to first.
His early illness erased all his childhood memories, as well as put him behind in his schooling, and caused him to struggle in many subjects for years to come. Grandpa was the oldest living son of a farmer. He knew how to work! I am sure it is this work ethic that helped him overcome those struggles. But it was also the struggles that taught him to appreciate the value of an education; Which is a lesson he NEVER let any of us forget. He always looked for, and found, ways to teach us daily, from sending us to buy Hershey bars and making us figure out the exact amount needed, including tax, and counting out the change, to figuring out how many candy bars we would need if we wanted x number of people to have y number of squares, or to a poor pre-schooler who learned her abc’s by typing them out on the typewriter after her grandpa thought it would be funny to teach her the alphabet backwards before she knew it forwards. I think I’m the only one he got away doing that to, the rest got to learn them forwards first. But he still liked to quiz each of us at random times to make sure we still knew the alphabet backwards and forwards, literally. I passed my last pop quiz just a few months back. As you would expect from an accountant, Grandpa’s strong point was always numbers. So he started us out early helping him reconcile books. But even today as I struggle to remember all my id numbers and usernames and passwords and…. I grow increasingly amazed at Grandpa’s ability to remember his Geneva co-workers by their id numbers. Even years after he retired, he could meet them in town, and still recite their id numbers.
Yes, grandpa wore the hat of a teacher, very well. His lessons went far beyond Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmitic. (one of his favorite sayings) Maybe it was growing up in the depression, but Grandpa always taught us to be grateful for what we had. He especially hated to waste food. "Eat what’s put before you!” was a saying we often heard. And he liked to make sure we gleaned all the fruit we could off something before we threw away the core, or the rind, or the pit. I was always amazed to watch him find more fruit on something I thought I’d gleaned off. His favorite meal was always a simple bowl of bread and milk. And Grandpa was ‘green’ long before being ‘green’ was cool. Always teaching us the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling, even if he didn’t put it that way. And around the house wasn’t enough. Many might remember the two very large Irish Setters Grandpa had when I was little, Oso and Aero, he always managed to find pop cans or other items which could be recycled when he would take them for their walks ‘on the hill” around the old jr. high track. And nothing was too small to recycle either, right on down to the tin foil from his favorite snacks…ding dongs, (back when they were wrapped in foil) and even his other favorite, Hershey kisses.
Grandpa was very observant, and taught us to be as well, he could always see little things in the road, and of course was always picking them up (or having us do it for him) and trying to find some use for it, or keeping it til he could find one. And sometimes it was amazing what he could find, especially what he would find ‘floating down the ditch’ in front of his house. We were always so amazed when he would find this big fish floating down the little ditch, and we wondered how it could possibly fit. A stray tomato or two seemed strange, but logical enough to a child, but when he’d come up with some other material good like a toy, that had been floating down the ditch-- that was just cool-- and we began to wonder if grandpa had a magical ditch someplace. But as we got older, and grandpa started finding whole grocery bags full of fresh vegetables just “floating in the ditch” and we knew that not only, was the ditch dry just moments before, but the sack was dry now, we knew there had to be more to the story. Took us a while, but we finally caught on. Just like it took mom and Craig a while to figure out why Grandpa could always predict what time they would arrive someplace when they traveled. So you know, he wasn’t psychic, he would just alter the speed to make sure he arrived when he said they would.
Before I get into some of the other lessons he taught us, I think I need to also add that Grandpa never took off the hat of student either. And occasionally it would fall to us to teach him some things. But we weren’t nearly as good of teachers as he was. It took us years to teach him that he could have his picture taken without putting his hand, or his ballcap in front of his face. But the one lesson Grandpa never could learn, no matter how hard we all tried to teach him, was how to open a wrapped gift, he always insisted that his grandchildren, and in later years, his great-grandchildren, help him open his gifts because he didn’t know how. We think this is one reason Grandma started wrapping all gifts in grocery sacks. And apparently grandpa had the same problem opening new shirts wrapped in plastic. Because he would get new shirts for Christmas, but by the next Christmas, they still hadn’t even been opened. He claimed that there was no reason for the new shirt, his others were perfectly good, they were worn in and comfortable, but since some of them had patches upon patches, we had to keep trying. One year, grandma decided just to wrap up the previous year’s shirt, to see if he would notice, (or if he’d get the hint). We all thought it was pretty funny. But when it still hadn’t been opened the next year…it became tradition. It’s a good thing he had such a sweet tooth. We knew we could get him a bag of candy rocks or bridgemix for a gift, and he’d figure out how to open those. Those were the ones that usually ended up in his coat pocket.
Yes, we learned a lot from Grandpa, like how to tie a tight bed roll. And he was the first to try and teach me to drive. And I guess we can forgive him for the lessons he never learned, since there were a few he never could teach us either. Like marbles, it was always more fun to look at the big box of marbles, or play our own games with them, that it was to play his game, and he never could seem to teach Nik or I to fish, no matter how many poles he ‘found’ for us or how many times he took us to the creek behind his house. And sadly, we never could figure out how to make his coin pouch work, so he had to keep opening it to show us. It was another of his ‘magic tricks’ not only could he make it magically open, but it was usually magically lighter when it went back into his pocket.
Grandpa played hard, but he worked hard as well, and that was another lesson Grandpa taught us all. From the time we could speak he would have us play secretary for him (since Grandpa avoided the phone like a plague, I know he had ulterior motives there), from the time we knew our letters, we were doing the filing, and when we learned our numbers, we would help with the books. But we needed physical work too, so he taught each us how to mow a lawn and handed over the responsibility in like, and for many years, he engaged us all in a job recycling the old newspapers at the Citizen office.
No one can dispute the power of a single song to evoke memories of a time or place, or person. Grandpa gave us a whole soundtrack to remember him by. The way he stood a little taller when the bagpipes came by, (Grandpa was ½ Scottish, so it was in his blood). The delight he found when he would take the grandkids to a Cougar football game and we would sing the fight song (He didn’t even seem to mind the hours we spent playing the corresponding lp over and over again, at his house, so we could learn it). Or the laughter from his renditions of “On top of Spaghetti” “Clementine” and “She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain”. Or the way he said “I love you” to the melodies of “a bushel and a peck” and “Let me call you sweetheart” And while I was on a recent roadtrip, I was sure I heard Grandpa’s voice singing along in the car with me when his old cowboy favorites “Back in the Saddle Again” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” came across my speakers. Yes, I admit. I apparently spent too many hours listening to those tapes with him while I was growing up because one day, the tapes disappeared. But after a 20 year respite, Somehow, those songs have found their way into my now digital collection.
Probably the most important lesson, however, that Grandpa taught us was the true meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For various reasons, he wasn’t always active, but He was a faithful home teacher, never missing a month. He spent countless hours loving and serving his family and his fellow men. Teaching us to find joy in life, and to realize that most things were not worth getting upset about, they wouldn’t matter in the eternities. But what would matter was the love that we shared, as families, and as friends. Grandpa knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that families are forever. He knew his departed loved ones lived on and he often reminded us how thin the veil can be. The great thing about eternal truths is that they are in-deed eternal. So Grandpa, we’ll See ya later alligator, we all wish you Happy Trails until we see you again at the Lemonade Springs in a while Crocodile.