Sad news to share today: I’ve just learned that Grand­pa George Storm, the patri­arch of my moth­er’s fam­i­ly and the best sto­ry­teller I’ve ever known, died peace­ful­ly this morn­ing, before dawn. He was nine­ty-eight years old.

My fam­i­ly and I had known this day was com­ing for some time — Grand­pa had been cop­ing with com­pli­ca­tions from strokes since late Decem­ber 2012 — and it is com­fort­ing to know that he is final­ly at rest. But we will miss him greatly.

Born Novem­ber 10th, 1915 to Mar­tin and Jovi­ta Storm, George was the sixth of fif­teen chil­dren, four of whom died in child­birth. He had two old­er broth­ers and two old­er sis­ters, as well as two younger broth­ers and four younger sis­ters. He grew up on a farm in cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia near the town­ship of Chest Springs, at a time when com­put­ers did not exist and avi­a­tion was in its infancy.

Grand­pa lived through a near­ly a cen­tu­ry of rapid change, tech­no­log­i­cal progress, and world­wide con­flict. His life spanned two world wars and over a dozen pres­i­den­cies (from Woodrow Wilson’s to Barack Obama’s).

He grew up in the roar­ing Twen­ties, came of age in the depressed Thir­ties, and start­ed a fam­i­ly in the war-torn For­ties. After the war, he grap­pled with the death of his young wife Gertrude, with whom he was rais­ing five children.

He remar­ried in the Fifties, and, with his new wife Isabelle, became a par­ent to three more chil­dren… my moth­er and her sisters.

He and Isabelle lived togeth­er through the Six­ties, Sev­en­ties, Eight­ies, Nineties, and Aughts in Port­land, Ore­gon until her death in April 2008.

Grand­pa was a hard­work­ing man who held many dif­fer­ent jobs through­out his life. He once sold pota­toes and bibles door to door. At anoth­er point, he was a hot dog ven­dor and  a pro­pri­etor of a drain clean­ing busi­ness. Ulti­mate­ly, he devel­oped a suc­cess­ful milk route which was tak­en over by one of his sons.

He was a huge fan of the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, and unlike most of us here in the Pacif­ic North­west, was not dis­ap­point­ed in the slight­est when they defeat­ed the Seat­tle Sea­hawks in 2006 to win Super Bowl XL. When the Sea­hawks were not play­ing the Steel­ers, how­ev­er, he would root for them. He owned a lot of Steel­ers para­pher­na­lia, includ­ing a Ter­ri­ble Tow­el that I brought back from my Net­roots Nation trip for him in the sum­mer of 2009.

He pre­ferred to watch low-scor­ing foot­ball (grid­iron) games that pit­ted two great defens­es against each oth­er. A game that end­ed with a score of 6–3 was the kind of game he want­ed to watch from start to finish.

He was a pru­dent investor and care­ful with mon­ey. He nev­er real­ly retired; he was an extreme­ly active per­son who loved work­ing in Port­land’s Hoyt Arbore­tum and fix­ing up old hous­es, well into his eight­ies. He was always ready to lend a help­ing hand at the Carmel of Maria Regi­na in Eugene, the monastery where his sec­ond old­est daugh­ter con­tin­ues to live and work. At his home in Port­land, he main­tained a veg­etable gar­den and grew food for him­self and Isabelle.

Thanks to his hob­by of fix­ing up and reselling hous­es, he had a good van­tage point from which to observe the burst­ing of the hous­ing bub­ble in 2007. When Wash­ing­ton Mutu­al col­lapsed the fol­low­ing year, it was no sur­prise to him. As I can well remem­ber him telling me: I knew that no bank that was oper­at­ing in that fash­ion could stay in busi­ness for long.

He was the kind of per­son who would actu­al­ly read the annu­al reports that com­pa­nies sent to their investors, from cov­er to cover.

He was also a beloved and car­ing grand­fa­ther. He adored his dozens of grand­chil­dren and we loved him in return. When­ev­er I vis­it­ed him, he would greet me with a loud and cheer­ful, “How do, Andrew?”

Pri­or to his stroke in 2012, Grand­pa had an amaz­ing abil­i­ty to tell sto­ries. He could hold my atten­tion, and my cousins’ atten­tion, for hours. While there were cer­tain­ly many sto­ries I heard sev­er­al times, there were a greater num­ber that I heard only once. Grand­pa had a rich mem­o­ry and a knack for recall­ing details.

Begin­ning around the time that we lost Grand­ma Isabelle, I began mak­ing an effort to cap­ture as many of Grand­pa’s sto­ries as I could using pro­fes­sion­al equip­ment. I’d place the audio recorder on the table or on the swing and it would run for hours and hours as Grand­pa earnest­ly told one sto­ry after anoth­er. I would ask ques­tions in between, and Grand­pa would some­times began his answers with an excla­ma­tion, “Oh! Well!” and a chuck­le as he launched into anoth­er tale.

Being a his­to­ry buff, I was always hun­gry for more. Lis­ten­ing to Grand­pa, I got a sense of what it was like to live through the Depres­sion, through World War II, and through the Cold War. As any schol­ar will tell you, pri­ma­ry sources are bet­ter than sec­ondary sources. Grand­pa had lived through all these events that I had only read or heard about. I pre­ferred his sto­ries to my favorite his­to­ry texts.

Aside from lis­ten­ing to Grand­pa’s sto­ries, I enjoyed play­ing Scrab­ble with him and going on walks and day trips. We did a tour of the Colum­bia Gorge a few years ago, stop­ping in at Crown Point and Mult­nom­ah Falls, among oth­er places.

My fam­i­ly once jour­neyed back to cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia and met him there to vis­it the farm­house and the town where he grew up, as well as to see Get­tys­burg Nation­al Bat­tle­field for our­selves. At the time, sev­er­al of Grand­pa’s sib­lings were still alive, and the fam­i­ly back there orga­nized a big reunion to wel­come us.

There were so many Storms in atten­dance that I could not keep track of all of the cousins I was being intro­duced to. Every­one wore nametags which read, “I BELONG TO…” fol­lowed by the name of one of Mar­tin and Jovi­ta’s chil­dren. (My fam­i­ly and my clos­est cousins, of course, wore nametags declar­ing, “I BELONG TO GEORGE”).

Since that jour­ney to Penn­syl­va­nia, Grand­pa’s remain­ing sib­lings have all passed away. He was the last of his big fam­i­ly. And now he’s gone. But many of his sto­ries, thank­ful­ly, have been pre­served as dig­i­tal audio. We will lis­ten to a selec­tion of them when we gath­er as a fam­i­ly for his memo­r­i­al ser­vice in a few days.

Grand­pa and I dis­cussed pol­i­tics on many occa­sions. He was not a pro­gres­sive, but he held pro­gres­sive view­points on impor­tant issues. He was a spir­i­tu­al man and his views gen­er­al­ly reflect­ed the teach­ings of the Catholic Church. His work eth­ic was cer­tain­ly pro­gres­sive and he believed in giv­ing back. He was beloved by the staff of the Hoyt Arbore­tum. He often gave guid­ed tours there, delight­ing untold num­bers of young peo­ple with his sense of humor and knowl­edge of flo­ra and fauna.

George is sur­vived by sev­en of his nine chil­dren and sev­er­al dozen grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren. We keen­ly feel his loss but we know he’s in a bet­ter place.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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4 replies on “Grandpa George Storm: 1915–2014”

  1. Although I knew it was inevitable, it was with great sad­ness that I learned of your grand­fa­ther’s death. I felt we were relat­ed, because my sis­ter, Sr. Mau­reen of the Trin­i­ty, (Cecelia Camp­bell AKA “Mis­sy”) entered Carmel just after Sr. John Marie (Olive Storm) in 1958 and we all became part of the extend­ed Carmelite fam­i­ly. He and my mom, Celia Camp­bell, dug up blue­ber­ry bush­es, fac­ing demo­li­tion, from a neigh­bor of my moms. They trans­port­ed them to Eugene where they were replant­ed and have been hap­pi­ly pro­duc­ing lush berries for decades. Our fam­i­ly has been in awe of the heavy work that Mr. Storm has done for Carmel for over 50 years. About 2 12 years ago, I start­ed stop­ping by with my grand­son after his near­by swim­ming les­son. What fun that was. It did not take long for shy Owen to warm up to invit­ing Mr. Storm. In the fall of ’12 we found him out­side saw­ing up a tree that he had just felled. I was won­der­ing why he kept putting the wood into the wheel­bar­row as it was already full and I could not even lift it. But soon, George picked up the han­dles and eas­i­ly rolled the full wheel­bar­row across the humpy bumpy yard, into the garage. He tossed the wood into the base­ment through the hole in the thick con­crete he made for the pur­pose of more eas­i­ly stok­ing his fire. Soon after we had a won­der­ful trip to Eugene to vis­it Sr. John Marie and Sr. Mau­reen. He regaled us with sto­ries down, dur­ing our vis­it and back to Port­land. He tru­ly was “one of a kind” and will be sore­ly missed.

  2. I had the plea­sure of meet­ing Geroge three years ago at Ascen­sion Parish for my broth­er in law’s vow cer­e­mo­ny. George was vol­un­teerig at the lun­cheon. We had a long con­ver­sa­tion while he ate his lunch. His shar­ing of the times of his life made a sig­nif­i­cant imact on me. He shared such in depth details of buy­ing the first wed­ding ring for Gertrude and some very fun­ny details of their hon­ey­moon. I am blessed to have met George and got­ten to know him through his shar­ing. May he rest in Peace. Dea­con Micheal Marcum

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