My grandpa died last night. He’s my last grandparent to go. I want you to know about him.
My grandpa’s name is Loran H. Runnells. He went by the nickname “El,” which nickname we proudly gave to our oldest son as his middle name. He was born in the mining town of Eureka, Utah just a few months before the Stock Market crash of 1929 and near the advent of the Great Depression.
My grandpa’s life began with the cards stacked high against him.
When my grandpa was just two years old, his father abandoned him and his mother in Mesquite, Nevada, where they were living at the time. My grandpa’s mother — in desperation — called her parents-in-law for help and they quickly went down to Mesquite from Eureka to pick them up and bring them into their home.
A few months after being rescued by his paternal grandparents, my grandpa’s grandpa passed away. This set the stage for a childhood where he had to quickly grow up and help take care of not just his single mother but his widowed grandmother. My grandpa continued to help take care of his grandmother until she died when he was 11-years-old. Grandpa’s mom got remarried and he later became a big brother and mentor to his half-brother and half-sister.
After graduating high school, my grandpa went to work for the railroad and the mine. He was in charge of repairing and fixing equipment that the miners used. He was unable to work inside the mine though as his mother refused to sign papers allowing him to do so, as he was underage and she didn’t want him to be put on that path. He voluntarily gave his mother half of his paycheck to help pay the bills.
My grandmother lived in a nearby mining town called Dividend. She met my grandpa during their high school days when she visited Eureka. They fell in love, got married and moved to Payson, Utah. He worked for the Geneva Steel Company and hitch-hiked the 25 mile trip to Orem from Payson each evening. He worked the graveyard shift at Geneva and had a second job during the day delivering propane gas.
After saving his money, he was able to buy a truck and could stop hitch-hiking to work.
My grandpa was a man who refused to settle in life. He was a family man and father of three who cared deeply for his family’s welfare and future. He knew there was no real future working for Geneva Steel or most of the jobs in the area at that time. He took a job working with his brother-in-law drilling water wells.
The job of drilling water wells required the family of 5 to move into an 8 ft. wide and 45 ft. long trailer that would move the family to numerous places in Utah, Arizona, Las Vegas and California for a couple years during the 1950s and 1960s. The company asked my grandpa to relocate his family to Hawaii in the 1960s to help grow the company on the islands. This began a love affair between my family and the Hawaiian people and culture that spanned over 40 years and still does to this day.
My grandpa rose up from his humble beginnings to becoming CEO of the company. Yet, he never let accomplishment or wealth change his character as he never forgot where he came from.
Grandpa was a very non-judgmental and kind man who respected, loved and trusted people and they respected, loved and trusted him.
I felt this trust and respect as a 17-year-old kid with a car accident already under my belt when he gave me the keys to his new truck several times to surf around Oahu.
I felt that trust and respect again as an entrepreneur when he let me borrow tens of thousands of dollars to buy inventory for my business. No contracts. No interest on the money. Just a check, a hug, and trust that I’d do the right thing.
I felt his non-judgment, respect and love when I became disaffected from the LDS Church. He never treated me any differently.
My grandpa was an extremely generous and selfless man. He was a man of forgiveness. Despite being abandoned by his father when he needed him most in childhood, my grandpa took care of his absent dad in his old age by not only getting to know him better but by financially supporting him until he passed. He did the same thing for his mother by supporting her throughout her life. He did the same thing of extending great generosity and kindness with no expectations of return for many, many people.
God, I’m going to miss him. He truly made the world a better place and left a profound model and legacy of love, generosity, forgiveness, hard work, ambition, persistence and dignity that I aspire to in my own life.
Farewell, Grandpa…aloha wau ia ‘oe.