I called my grandfather “Granddad”, and he was the most important man in my life until I got married and had kids. His name was Charles Curtis Nipp, and his friends called him Curt. I named my son, Curtis Lincoln, after him and the other great Kentuckian.
He taught me that honest, hard work was the best thing a man could do. He taught me that family came first, and that there was no higher calling than supporting your family. He taught me how to respect others, no matter who they were. He lived through the Depression, and told me once that a man is lucky if he has five happy days in his life. He read the Bible an hour every night before going to bed, and he always woke up with a smile on his face.
He had uncles and great uncles who fought and died as Union soldiers in the Civil War – I still remember visiting their graves with him every Decoration Day on a hill outside Grayson, Kentucky. He worked on a farm in Carter County, Kentucky until his early 20’s, then moved to Ashland, Kentucky in the early 1930’s to get a job at the Armco Steel mill. He moved his mom and dad to Ashland, and took care of them and his wife (my grandmother “Meema” – Isabelle Herbst Nipp) and family, including me and seven other grand sons.
I can’t really say how far he ever went in school, but he was always adamant about me going as far in school as I could go. However, he never really knew what I was doing, and never really understood what I wanted to do with my life. When I came home from the University of Kentucky and told him I wanted to be a “Doctor” (meaning PhD research ecologist and evolutionary biologist) and work on insects, he told me I’d never make any money being a “Bug Doc”.
I watched him literally go crazy when my mother – his daughter – died in 1980. He died a few weeks later. I lost them both within about a month. I went in March 2011 to find the grave of his ancestor, Varner Knipp, who immigrated from Germany to Virginia and then Greenville, Tennessee before the Revolutionary War (I wrote about that here.) In a month, I’m going to Wyeth County, Virginia to try and find Varner Knipp’s original homestead.
Everything I am, I own to him. He’s the example I live by.