To Dad: Cecil Rospaw (aka Von Rospach) 1924-2008
Today is the day we celebrate our dads, and if we can, tell them what we think of them and how they matter to us.
If we can’t do that, sometimes today is the day we tell some of their story. We lost dad in 2008 to heart problems that were found late in their progression; he survived a triple bypass, but by that point the body was too weak to recover. He also, to be honest, was ready, and had always told us that when it was time, he’d lived a good life.
Dad’s grandfather, my great-grandfather, walked off a farm one day in the Alsace region (aka “French Occupied Germany”) and was never seen again. He never told his family he was leaving. He ended up on a boat, on Ellis Island, and and then in Illinois, where he met an Irish woman. They ended up in Kansas and started a newspaper. Dad’s father moved to California and started the Placentia Courier in (of course), Placentia California.
Valencia High School, Stanford University, where he played football and met his first wife. World War II happened, and he joined the Army and drove tanks in the South Pacific for MacArthur, also being part of the liberation of the Phillipines. After the war he joined Stars and Stripes and covered the Berlin Airlift, among other things. Later, he and his wife founded an alternative press for Army enlisted men called the Overseas Weekly, a combination of serious poking sticks at the failures of the military leadership and full on page 3 gossip and girls tabloid.
At some point he and his first wife split up, she kept running the Overseas Weekly and he came home and took over the Placentia Courier. He met another woman, it clicked, they married and I happened a year or so later. He was very active in civic work, in Kiwanis, and I think his great love in publishing the paper was the responsibility he saw in keeping the local government honest. The local politicians weren’t always as appreciative of this for some reason. He got very involved in the local historical commission as well and was very involved in trying to protect historical buildings in the area.
Mom and Dad ran the paper into the 1970s when they sold it as the first wave of newspaper consolidations were taking place — when I was young there were more than 15 newspapers in the greater LA area; today there are two. (during and after high school I actually worked in various forms for four, three of which do not exist today). He got a masters in communication, did some teaching in college, then became a permanent substitute teacher for local high schools, a time where I think he may have been happiest.
If he were around today and asked, I believe he’d say the thing he is proudest of is that he made it to 50 years with my mother. Later in life Mom and Dad fell in love with cruise ships and were always headed off somewhere or other, including a long trip through the South Pacific, which allowed him to go back and see some of the places he’d fought at during WW II, including Leyte.
One of the questions I get at time is why my name is different than my parents. In reality, it’s not. We’re all Von Rospachs, but during World War I, it wasn’t a good thing to be German in America, and my grandfather americanized the name. I grew up a Rospaw, and when I graduated from High School, made a choice to return to the original name (in retrospect given how fussy we’ve become about identify — hello TSA — a smart decision on my part). My family passports were always under Von Rospach, which sometimes made the credit card companies crazy.
So if you’ve ever wondered if I’m a Rospaw or a Von Rospach, the answer is “yes”.
I loved my dad, and we got along well. I am very much my father’s child, including my lack of hair and my tendency to say things about rap music that very much mimic what dad said about the Beatles.
I’ve wanted to write this piece for years, but this is the first year I’ve been able. I still miss him, but Father’s Day isn’t a day I dread now, but a day to remember and honor him.
Happy Father’s day, dad. Wherever you are, I expect it’s on a cruise ship somewhere dressing for dinner with the captain again.
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