February is my least favorite month. It seems far too long to be the year’s shortest month. February plays host to both the winter blues and the seasonal blahs, making me ache for the first day of March.
Perhaps, then, it is fitting that my Grandfather passed away last Friday, February 17th. He was 99 years old. Or, as he liked to put it, he was in his 100th year.
I’ve known my Grandfather for nearly 45 years, meeting for the first time upon my arrival to the United States in 1973.
By all accounts, my Grandfather lived an impressive life. But he was an even more impressive person. He lived each day with purpose, determination, and understanding, including those days after he entered hospice earlier this month.
He was an avid reader, an ardent puzzle solver, and formidable bridge player. I am unable to recall seeing him at home without a New Yorker or major New York newspaper nearby. Once a daily crossword puzzle solver, his enthusiasm for the puzzles waned as he found them less challenging and started dabbling in creating them.
My Grandfather was an intellectual heavyweight. He was well-read, well-traveled, and well-informed. His thirst for knowledge was unending. He asked thoughtful questions, listening intently to the response. One could tell what he thought by watching his facial expressions. He was never one to suffer fools or indulge in false flattery. But he was never rude or disrespectful, only matter-of-fact. Indeed, not one to waste words or effort, he reserved many of his opinions and thoughts for those closest to him.
Growing up, I loved visiting my Grandparents; as a young adult, I enjoyed my Grandparents’ company. They were a pair–a team–when I thought of one, I thought of the other. I couldn’t imagine enjoying cocktails with only one of them. I couldn’t think about having a telephone conversation with only one of them. I couldn’t think of visiting only one of them. Being close to my Grandmother left to me wonder about the relationship I would have with my Grandfather after she passed away almost nine years ago.
Looking back, there was no need to wonder. My Grandfather was still my Grandfather. My desire to impress him–a desire speaking volumes about me and little of him–was replaced with the desire to love him, to comfort him, to be with him. After my Grandmother’s death, the sternness I recalled from years past had been replaced by a gentleness of spirit. He talked about missing his wife. He spoke of loving me. He spoke of my parents lovingly. Of course, he still articulated his thoughts. The man who traveled to more than 127 countries, wanted our family to travel. The man who had been a successful businessman, wanted me to continue working as an attorney. And the man who had been married to his college sweetheart for 66 years and raised two successful children, wanted us to enjoy being a family.
My favorite memory of my Grandfather? When I lived in Manhattan he would ask me the same question each time I saw him: “What have you been eating?” The question was both genuine and reflective. He had lived there. He had worked there. And he had eaten there.
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Hugh Millan Cleveland, 99, died February 17, 2017. A resident of Willow Valley Communities for 24 years, he formerly lived in Chatham, NJ where he was active in community affairs.
He was born January 27, 1918 in New London, CT, the son of Irvin L. and Florence Cross Cleveland. Growing up, he was an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Ceramics Engineering and was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity. An avid golfer, he was a member of The Madison Golf Club, The New Jersey Seniors, and The Summit Old Guard. He had traveled abroad extensively and during retirement was a tour director in China.
Lt. Cleveland served in the U. S. Navy and commanded Sub Chaser SC-1365 in the Pacific theater during WWII. His Sub Chaser served as a Beach Control ship during the battle of Leyte Gulf and survived typhoon Cobra. Remaining in the reserves after the war, LCDR Cleveland USNR retired in 1966.
He was with AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City and Murry Hill, NJ for 38 years and retired in 1983 with four credited U.S. Patents and as Head of the Department for Information Analysis.
In Lancaster, PA, he was a volunteer Appraise Counselor at the Office of Aging, a member of the Leader Lancaster SVS Council, the RSVP Council, the American Red Cross of Susquehanna Valley, and First Presbyterian Church.
Hugh Cleveland was married for sixty-six years to the late Margaret Merchant Cleveland who passed away in July of 2008. He is survived by a son David J. Cleveland and daughter-in-law Charlotte G. Cleveland of Bozeman, MT and a daughter Diane C. Baldwin, her husband John D. Baldwin, Jr. of Columbia, MD, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be private and burial will be in Mount Freedom, NJ.
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