My Horse Named Dot, a Tribute to My Grandfather

December 14, 2009
A whole family joins in tears, remembering the man they lost, Robert Frances Garretson. His six sons and daughters take turns at the altar sharing about their father and hero. Their hope was for him to be remembered forever, and even after his death for his legacy to go on. He had never had an easy life. At the age of six his father died of a heart attack while he went to go get his paycheck. This was during the great depression so his mother had to put him and his two brothers in an orphanage while his sister and mother stayed at home. The orphanage life wasn’t easy. At a young age he was forced to grow up and learn to take care of himself. He spent his senior year with his mother and went to high school; soon after graduation he joined the army. After completing his training his brigade was sent to the Philippines to drive out the Japanese during WWII. One day he was shot in the left hip. He was sent to the hospital and discharged from the army; years later he would be given a purple heart for his injuries and would suffer the rest of his life. After coming home he married and began his family. He dedicated the rest of his life to his children and grandchildren, trying to give them the childhood he never had. And even though he's gone, he will always be remembered as a hero because of his quickness to act, his toughness, his loyalty, his determination, his passion, his caring heart, and his strength.
Bob was always quick to act when he needed to be. At one point a few neighborhood kids were putting on a Christmas play in someone’s basement. Bob was in the audience when the young boy playing Santa Clause's beard caught fire. Everyone in the room began to panic except him. He jumped over the rows of people and jumped on the young boy with a blanket, extinguishing the flame and saving the boy's life. Another time Bob and his eldest son were at the Indy 500 in the pit area watching the race. Suddenly the pace car lost control and started heading towards the people in the pit. He and the other on-lookers ran for their lives trying to avoid being hit, when the car suddenly changed directions causing Robert to have to act quickly to get out of the way. The car missed him by inches while the man next to him was hit and broke his leg. Him and his son then worked to help all the injured people until the paramedics came.
From a very young age he was forced to be tough. Because of his age in the orphanage he was separated from his brothers. The adults in the orphanage were never very compassionate, so he was forced to learn to care for himself. During the winter the kids would skate on a frozen pond near the orphanage, they would keep a stick near the edge so that if one of them would fall in they would just use the stick to pull them out, and then continue playing. This shows how tough they had to be. Then after suffering in an orphanage for eleven years he entered the army. He had to leave his family and friends behind to spend days training in the cavalry throughout Texas and California. After his training he went into the war. He spent his time in the army jumping from one island to the other trying to get the Japanese out of the small islands in the Pacific. Robert was forced to, day after day, run out dodging bullets and trying to keep himself alive while watching his men die on all sides of him. He couldn't let the fact that he was watching his friends dying get to his head, instead he had to leave them behind and stay focused on keeping himself alive.
He was very loyal to his wife and family. He stayed married for almost 57 years during a time that very few couples remained married at all. He left college at Purdue University to be able to take care and support his growing family. He jumped from one job to another to be able to make money, so that he could give his children good lives. He was loyal to his country as well. He spent years in the army working and training and then spent even more time fighting on the front lines in WWII. He traveled from island to island trying to help other countries earn the freedom he had, and he eventually ended up seriously injured.
Robert was a very determined person. Even though he had been placed in an orphanage, he spent much of his life working to give his children the childhood he would have dreamed to have. He worked long hard hours so that he could have the money to spoil all his children. When he wasn’t working, he spent a lot of time with his kids helping them improve in whatever sport they wished to play at school. He also always made sure he followed through his promises. “If you tell someone your going to do something make sure you do it.” That’s the saying he lived by and always encouraged others to do the same

He was also very passionate in everything he did. He absolutely loved his wife. One of Robert’s daughters said his wife was one of the things that changed him most. Everyone who saw them would certainly agree. She had loved him whole-heartedly and made him feel like he truly mattered, a feeling he didn’t have much growing up in an orphanage. When he was training in the cavalry he named his horse ‘Dot’ after his girlfriend and future wife he had left at home. He also adored his children and had a real passion for babies. He loved being a father and a grandfather and spent his time devoted to his kids and grand kids. He also loved flying. He was a trained pilot and shared ownership on a plane. He loved taking his wife and his kids up into the sky. He even used to fly himself and his wife all the way out to Texas and Washington to see his kids. But after he had a heart attack, he was forced to give up his plane since he was no longer allowed to fly alone.

Robert lived his life as a very caring person. He cared a lot about his kids. He tried to raise them to be good successful adults, but he was known for being very strict on his kids. His often used phrases were “I’ll give you something to cry about.” and “Get home now!” He was usually just looking out for his kids to keep them safe. He also was always helping his children and driving them to sports and events. Many of his kids’ friends thought he was ‘very distinguished, good looking, and really a nice man’. He had bright white hair, a big smile, and a loud laugh that made him look just like he acted; strict but also kind-hearted and caring. He was very sure to be honest to his kids and tell them exactly what he thought. Even if they didn’t agree at least they could see he loved them enough to tell them his opinion. He probably had learned to be compassionate from one of the men at the orphanage he called ‘Pop’. Pop was a sweet caring man that acted as Robert’s mentor when he lived in the orphanage. At one point he and some of the other boys in the home had stolen Pop’s car and drove it around town. When they came back, Pop could have easily called the police and had them arrested, but instead he gave them a warning and a second chance. After that, Robert was determined to be like Pop and give others a second chance to learn their lesson.

One of Bob’s biggest heroic characteristics was his strength. Throughout his life he struggled through many tough challenges. He lived through losing his father, then being separated from the rest of his family at the age of six. He was put in a boys’ home and life there wasn’t easy. All the boys’ were given many difficult chores, and they were forced to wake up early in the morning to milk cows. The adults of the orphanage would take away their shoes at night, so that they would be less likely to run away. Then during the war he was in a foxhole when he and other soldiers around him were shot by a Japanese machine gun. He was one of the lucky ones, but was so skinny they had to use a skin graft to cover the hole in his hip. He then spent the rest of his life with a large dent in his hip and a discolored spot of skin on his back because of the graft. Later in life he struggled through having ‘Type II’ diabetes and having to give himself insulin shots in the stomach. Bob also suffered from heart deterioration because of his diabetes. He had to struggle through by-pass surgery and later getting a pacemaker to keep his heart beating, sadly this was the only fight he lost; nevertheless, throughout his life he had always been a fighter and showed the people around that life is worth fighting for.

Robert Garretson was a hero because of his heart. He was quick to act, tough, loyal, determined, passionate, caring, and strong not only by his words but also by his actions. He will always be remembered as a hero.

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