My grandpa is wearing some random hat just for kicks and my loving grandma looks much more serious than she ever really did when her grandchildren were around.
My oldest cousin is in back holding our youngest cousin, then just a baby. I’m kneeling front-right, with the buzz cut and my hand under my grandpa’s huge, strong hand.
This photo surely was taken on a summer Sunday afternoon because we are at our grandparents’ cottage on Lake Wisconsin where we spent every summer Sunday. My grandparents gathered weekly with their three children, their children’s spouses, their ten grandchildren, and assorted friends, neighbors, and other extended family members. It was a day of non-stop sports and play, swimming, water-skiing, and huge amounts of food.
This photo makes me sad now because not only are my grandparents gone – they died over a dozen years ago – but so is the first of those ten grandchildren around them. The very blond boy in the back-left, my cousin Bob, died suddenly last month.
Though Bob was the second oldest of this group, he had a special role among us, especially for me. He was an older brother to all of us, a teacher, coach, motivator. He was generous to a fault. And he never changed – his whole life was dedicated to helping others.
As a gifted high school and college hockey player, Bob became famous in the Madison area and throughout Wisconsin. In 1979, Bob tried out for and made the US Olympic hockey team and in 1980 won a gold medal. He was now famous nationally and internationally – Bob Suter – but he was always the same person within our family.
Bob dedicated the rest of his life to his family, his sons, his grandchildren, and to thousands of young hockey players whom he inspired with his high expectations and persistent care. He founded and coached teams, he was at the rink working hard every day.
In spite of all this fame, Bob for me was always the kid in the photo, the older brother/cousin – one of ten beloved grandchildren of my deeply loved and loving grandma and grandpa.