My grandfather Avery Lorenzen died last week at the age of 80. I went to his funeral last Wednesday. My grandfather worked for many years as a security man at Bowling Green State University and later as a sexton of a cemetery in Bowling Green, Ohio.
My grandfather was a good man and I miss him. He had been ill for several years and 50+ years of smoking finally did him in as lung cancer claimed him.
My grandfather was not a presidential historian. He was not active in presidential politics. He did not teach presidential history.
Despite this, I owe this man much appreciation for my lifelong interest in the American Presidency. Simply put, Avery Lorenzen was opinionated about every American President from FDR on and he shared these opinions with his oldest grandson (me!) often and eagerly.
My grandfather was a frustrated socially conservative Democrat. He watched his party change as he grew older and it angered him. Yet, he could never bring himself to vote for Republicans. ("I do not vote for the friends of millioniares!") This meant that as time went by he had reason to dislike just about all of the presidents of my lifetime.
Nixon: "Like all Republicans, he was a crook except he got caught. And like all Republican crooks, his croonies saved him."
Ford: "Dunce of Nixon who did as he was told and pardoned Nixon."
Carter: "Good man with few brain cells for reality."
Reagan: "Warmonger who almost killed us all!"
Bush Sr.: "He had potential but blew it by selling out to the rich."
Clinton: "Good man with terrible taste in women. Could he have not done better than Hilary, Monica, or that bimbo in Arkansas who sued him for sex harassment?"
Bush Jr.: "Idiot with power."
I remember grandpa lecturing at length on these presidents. He had a passion for it and he always shared his views. I remember debating with him my own views on these men (always different than his even at a young age) and then going to the library and looking stuff up when grandpa annoyed me too much.
Avery Lorenzen had some strange views. He believed that the communists controlled the Wood County, Ohio government based on the water/sewer replacement system being implemented. He also was convinced that some of the trees in the area had been seeds which had been planted upside down which explained their strange appearance. I remember my conversations on these topics.
However, these are not the conversations I remember the fondest. I remember best:
- The debate as a 10 year old I had with grandpa in 1980 when he was convinced that the election of Reagan meant that World War Three was certain in 1981.
- The praise grandpa had for Clinton's willingness to use his power to get women but his disappointment with which ones Clinton was selecting!
- His views that all presidents, no matter how well intentioned, invariably are the tools of the rich. The essence of this view is that politics is about compromise and that the rich rig the game by setting unrealistic goals which are still served when a middle ground is reached.
My grandfather never went to college as a student. Some of his views are odd. However, he was a smart man and he could articulate his points well. I learned a lot from him and I know it did not bother him too much (or surprise him in the least) when I registered as a Republican at age 18.
Avery Lorenzen, I will love you forever. Thank you. Rest in peace.