Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Exemplary Lives

I admire my sister, Suzanne Jurgens. She's the mother of three champion swimmers. She works full time and helps her husband, Gregg, at the Comfort Inn in Estes Park, Colorado. She's a breast cancer survivor and active on behalf of cancer research. This past weekend she undertook a grueling 12 hour hike to find the wreckage of our father's plane at the foot of Paiute Peak. He died there in 1974.
"We left the car at Beaver Reservoir just past Peaceful Valley on Highway 72 (?) We hiked 4 miles up a rough 4-wheel drive road then took the Coney Lake Trail. We didn't take the correct trail and had to go off trail to Lower Coney Lake. From Lower Coney Lake to Upper Coney Lake it is off trail, bushwhacking intense hiking. Very grueling. This hike was the most physically exhausting thing I've ever done in my life. But so worth it! We all commented this trip was one of the most memorable times of our lives. Interesting."

Interesting, indeed, how much emotion is still there after 33 years for all of us.

Philip Shockey had his stories to tell. He was a member of the West Point football team that was expelled for cheating in 1951. After earning his doctorate in geology, he returned to Idaho, where he'd done his thesis. The prospector mindset made geologists unemployable, so he worked as a lumberjack, hard rock miner, and school teacher.

Eventually, he made significant contributions to the science of uranium geology and significant discoveries for his company. The West was still wild then. He once photographed a rancher shooting at him in a dispute over mineral rights on federal grazing lands. He said he heard and felt the bullet go past his ear!

One night when I was in grade school, he was awakened by the voice of a farmer he worked for in high school. He heard his name called so clearly that he got up and searched the house for an intruder. A few days later he received notice that the farmer had died that day. My father was such a rational person that this shook him--and us--to the core.

I want to live up to the examples provided by both my sister and my father. I know that my actions in the last few months measure up to the family legacy. I hope I have made them as proud of me as I am of them.

Next summer I will take my son Philip to the crash site so my father can tell one more story to his namesake.

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