My grandfather, Robert Rundell, passed away on Saturday, August 8th at the age of 81. According to his wishes, we are not having a service, but I felt like I needed to do something to honor him. He was such a big personality that nothing short of an epic eulogy would do, so I wrote one here in the hopes that people who knew him will find it, read it, and maybe add there own epic Bob Rundell story in the comments. This is my celebration of his life.
You know those so-called “facts” about Chuck Norris? I hate to tell you this, but those facts are all wrong. Oh, the
facts themselves aren’t in dispute. There really was a man who pushed the earth down when he did push-ups, and inspired fear in the boogeyman. He just wasn’t an actor named Chuck Norris. He was a man named Robert Rundell.
Robert, or Bob as most people knew him, was born to hard times. He came along in August of 1933, smack dab in the middle of the Depression years. He was the fourth of six kids born to Minnie and Paul Rundell on a farm in a small town called Pillager, Minnesota. His childhood was spent getting up early to do farm chores and then going to school, and finally returning home to do more chores until it was time to sleep. As far as he was concerned, school was the worst part of his day. All that work made him a strapping lad with a wry smile and wary eyes, handsome enough to sometimes elicit comparisons to Elvis Presley. He left school in the tenth grade to put his muscles to work earning money to help support his family.
As a young man he moved to Iowa City and worked near the University of Iowa. He didn’t much care for the kids his age attending the university. He knew he could work harder than any of them, and as far as he was concerned that was as good a way to measure a man as any. While he was there, he met a foxy redhead named Carole Johnson, and the two of them were hitched the summer of 1955. About nine months later, Carole gave birth to their first child; a daughter they named Jackie.
Around this time the new family decided to move out West. In a move that was surely more bravado then good sense, Bob hooked a travel trailer up to their car and drove it out to Oregon. In his later years, he’d tell his family that they should never try anything half that foolish.
A few years later, Bob and Carole added a son named Jerry to the family, and not long after that they moved to The Dalles. Once again, all those muscles he built up working on the family farm were put to good use when he got a job with a moving company called Ralph’s Transfer. His company sometimes moved families, but often they were called out to businesses to move heavy equipment. It was on one such occasion that he found himself and his crew of two staring down a half ton safe located on the second floor of a bank building. I don’t know how big the other two guys were, or how they formulated their plan, but what I do know is that they strapped that safe to a dolly and while the two other guys stood at the top of the stairs, Bob Rundell took the position below the safe. Recalling it as an old man he would just shake his head and say, “I could have easily been crushed to death. Pretty stupid.”
One day he and his boss were moving a power bay* out of a telephone company. They had it tied up with rope and were slowly lowering it into place when his boss unhooked it from the winch too soon and the bulky equipment came crashing down. In a split second, Bob pushed his boss out of the way and the hunk of metal landed on his leg instead, crushing it. He begrudgingly took several weeks off from work, but he made good use of his time, driving his entire family out to Minnesota for a visit with his parents.
*I don’t really know what a power bay is, but I’m sure it was big and heavy.