My dad, Floyd Falconer, was born in 1911 and passed away in 2011, a life-time of 100 years. I once asked him what was the best thing that had happened in his life other than the obvious answer of God and family. He didn’t hesitate at all: “Education,” he said. “Get a good education and you can do anything.”
My dad was born on a farm in South Dakota. They weren’t particularly poor, but they weren’t particularly rich, either. His dad, my Grandpa Harry, had big Belgian horses for plowing and pulling wagons.
Daddy’s education consisted of grade school and then an agricultural school, but no high school. This was a time when a high school diploma really didn’t matter. You didn’t need one to plow your fields or fix your fences.
When Daddy was 17, he left the farm and joined the Army. It was peacetime then, World War I was over and World War II had not yet begun. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor and served as his company’s bugler, among other things. He loved music and had taught himself how to play the banjo and fiddle before leaving South Dakota.
His discharge date from the Army was coming up, so Daddy came back to the mainland. On the trip over, he began to feel sick and by the time he arrived, he was in agony. Something was wrong in his gut. This was in the early 1930’s, before penicillin, before all of the fancy machines and tests we have today.
But my dad was a tough, wiry guy who had grown up working on a farm doing manual labor every day. When they told him his appendix had burst, he saw it as something he had to overcome. Daddy had to stay in bed for a year, but he did it. He had to learn to walk again, but he did that, too.
Since his discharge from the Army was not complete when he got sick, an officer who knew Daddy and liked him, decided that while Daddy was in bed, he could do some typing for him and made it possible for Daddy to be in the Army for another year. That meant free medical care. If he had been discharged, Daddy himself didn’t know what would have happened to him. He didn’t have any money for anything, much less medical care.
My dad lived through the Great Depression. Times were tough. Taking a job through a government program was embarrassing to most men, but it had to be done. It was the only way to feed their families. My dad proudly told me that he had worked only a short time on one of those programs before finding a better job. That started him on his road to successful living.
Successful living doesn’t mean lots of money, a big house, and a fancy car. Daddy worked hard for years, finally moving to a job in an office. He earned his GED when I was a child. It was important because it made him eligible for better positions.
He ended up working in the Civil Service for the Army Missile Command in Alabama. It was the Army that helped him out when he was sick, and it was the Army that he helped out as a technical writer.
Daddy was a natural-born student. He was constantly learning how to do something. His job was to write the manual on how to, for instance, assemble a gun. He had to know how to do it first so he could write the instructions.
But he was curious about a lot of things. He taught himself how to fix television sets back in the late 60’s; he taught himself how to be an auctioneer around that same time and ran an auction in a little town nearby. He was fascinated by gems so he and my mother would take trips to certain places to look for them so he could make jewelry. The list could go on and on.
There are many types of education. We usually think of colleges and universities. But Daddy’s education was more of a hands-on, self-taught way that served him well throughout his 100 years.
From a South Dakota farm boy to a technical writer for the Army is a pretty long road. But I think he was satisfied with the reward of knowing that he always provided for his wife and two daughters.
I know his wife and two daughters are very satisfied, and we miss him every day.