missing my dad on his birthday

Dad Up North 1987

In honor of my dad’s birthday, I’d like to share a few of my favorite photographs. The following images don’t just document my father’s life, they’re also beautiful examples of early twentieth century portraiture and a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era.

Born and raised in Pewamo, Michigan – a tiny German-American farming community in the middle of the state – he served in WWII as a medic in the 5th Army, landing on the beaches of Anzio – Hell’s Half Acre. He returned home from the war to marry his sweetheart from Detroit and for the next 43 years he worked at The Ford Motor Company while helping my mom raise six children: Bob (born in 1950), Tim (1953), Nancy (1954), Gary (1959), Kathleen (1963) and finally, “the baby” (as I was referred to for the longest time) born in 1967.

Like so many of his generation he didn’t talk about the war, but preferred to simply get on with his life, quietly and with great humility. When he wasn’t working long hours at “the plant” (as he referred to the Rouge River assembly line), he like to spend time with his family. Rather than join golf or bowling leagues, my parents saved every penny in order to take the whole family on a yearly vacation “up north” and in later years, down to Florida. As you’ll see in the images below, my dad had a soft spot for animals (he always had a pet dog or cat, and drove my mom to distraction by bringing home strays on a regular basis) and cars (though he didn’t buy a new car until he was close to retirement). Being a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy, he once informed my mother to lay off the casseroles by tossing a package of pork chops on the kitchen counter. She claimed the package was aimed towards her, he vigorously denied it – the jury is still out. His favorite food or “weakness” was ice cream … and Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without everyone asking / teasing dad if he’d like some pie with his whipped cream.

The quintessential family man, my father rarely drank, never swore (for the longest time growing up, I thought “B.S.” – as in, “that’s a bunch of B.S. !” – stood for “Bobby Schafer”) and condemned violence and cruelty. He enjoyed innocent practical jokes, but frowned upon crude humor. Despite only having graduated from high school, he was as sharp as a tack, religiously reading every issue – from front to back – of National Geographic magazine and keeping up-to-date on world events to the day he died. A devoted husband and father, he taught me the value of hard work, how to respect and appreciate nature, and most of all – how to lead a life well lived. We all miss him dearly.

Dad's Note 1940Dad - baby portrait Robert M. Schafer – born November 2, 1923 – Pewamo, Michigan

Dad 1929Dad, Aunt Helen & Sandy

Dad & VictorDad & his ParentsDad & his momDad, Aunt Helen & MickeyDad On Bike in PewamoDad - young man - 1941Dad in PewamoDad on leave 1943 with cat “Bob on leave, 1943”

Dad WWII Medic with dogDad - Collisum WWIIRome, 1945

Dad 19461946

Mom n Dad Wedding1

October 4, 1947 – Holy Redeemer – Detroit, Michigan

Dad & Mom 1948


Dad 1949 1949

Dad, Bob & Tim 1950s

Dad,M,B,T,N,GaryDad 1959 1959

Dad & Carolyn 1969

 my dad holding me – Detroit, 1969

Dad & Mom 1970 Up North, 1970

Dad's 47th Bday 1970 Dad’s 47th Birthday, 1970

Dad Christmas 1980 Christmas, 1980

Dad & Mom 1984 California

 California, 1984

Dad & Mom in Sausalito 1984

Dad, mom, baby Matt 1985Dad canoeing 1987northern Michigan, 1987

Mom & Dad formal portraitcirca 1990

Dad, Mom & John 1998Dad & Michael 2004?

Dad Christmas 2003

   Christmas 2003

Dad & Mom 1987 sunset Dad passed away, two years to the day after our mom, on February 12, 2011.


3 thoughts on “missing my dad on his birthday

  1. I was checking my reader before I headed to bed, and noticed this post you wrote on the 2nd. I’ve been away from my blog reading…..oh what a beautiful life your father led…what a treasure and a gift he was in your life. My father is 81 and this year we almost lost him in a terrible car accident in January that he was the only one to live. His best friend ( the driver) was killed…I was unable to get to where they live until 4 days later since I do not live near my parents. I count my blessings this Thanksgiving….so as I scrolled through your memories, it made me think how lucky those of us that are blessed with amazing fathers..as your was……..I loved reading your stories of your father….thank you for sharing…beautiful post:-)

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