A Modest Tribute to Wayne Disseler
My mom’s husband of twenty-two years died yesterday, and though words are never adequate to sum up a person's life, I’d like to at least pay a modest tribute to the man my kids called grandpa.
My earliest memory of Wayne is probably from 1992, when he drove me in his truck to downtown Milwaukee to pick up a recliner that I’d left behind at an apartment on Juneau and Van Buren. This is actually a fitting memory, because more often than not, Wayne was helping someone. He wasn’t happy relaxing – he wanted to be doing something. As luck would have it, I was often in need of just such a person, both at my first home in Pennsylvania and again in Illinois, where Wayne helped paint my wife’s and my bedroom, build a broom closet in the kitchen, and insulate around the radiators. Whenever he assisted, he was a master at handing me a tool before I needed it, like a gifted nurse to a surgeon, and now everywhere I look around my home, I see little improvements that Wayne helped complete.
It was fortuitous that Wayne – despite having been raised outside of Wisconsin – was a Packer backer, often vocally so, for it helped solidify our relationship. Wayne’s mood often rose and fell with Green Bay’s performance. I have a funny memory from October of 1999, when Wayne and my mom visited my young family in Pennsylvania. The Packers were playing Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers scored a touchdown with less than two minutes to play in the 4th quarter to take the lead. In disgust, Wayne couldn’t take anymore and retreated to the spare bedroom. And then Farve did the same thing he’d done in weeks 1 and 3 that year: he drove the Packers for a game-winning touchdown!
Wayne loved hanging out with my kids, and for many years my family flew annually to Texas (where my wife had lived years earlier, and where she had earned Wayne’s nickname for her: “Alice from Dallas”). It was here that my daughter Sarah crawled for the first time, and over the years Mom and Wayne loved showing her, Jessica and Sam their recently adopted state, from the Kennedy Museum on a very blustery February day to the Stockyards on a very hot day in July. Some days were more low-key, spent playing in the pool, enjoying Wayne's chilli, or playing the card game sheepshead, during which Wayne would harrumph about my mother’s poor play and accuse the kids of cheating when they took a trick.
I have many other fond memories, from our trip to Clearwater, Florida, to the time Wayne and Mom babysat my twins so that Alice and I could get away for a three-day vacation, to our seeing "Damn Yankees" on Broadway. He was always joking, always loving, and always supportive. My kids, my wife and I were blessed to have him a part of our lives.
So long, Wayne. Peace.