Profile: Harold Decker (aka "Grandpa D")

Harold Decker.

My grandma calls him “Hal” because that’s how she was introduced to him at the bowling alley. They were later married in that bowling alley, so it seemed appropriate to keep the same name too.

I just call him Grandpa. Or Grandpa D. Although now that I think about it, I’m surprised we didn’t come up with “Grandpa Deck” sooner since he loves playing cards.

How I met Harold Decker

I’m born. I start crying. Grandpa says, “Stop pinching the baby.”

Actually, that’s probably not what happened. But his classic joke has been around ever since… and most likely before even then. Welcome to “Harold World.”

Who Harold Decker is

  • Retired carpenter
  • Carolyn Decker’s husband
  • My mom’s step-father… my grandpa

What Harold Decker likes

  • Bowling
  • Cards
  • Suspenders

One fact about Harold Decker

Grandpa D never wears shorts. If you ask him why, he’ll usually tell you, “Well, we never wore shorts back on the farm.”

Of course, my dad responds, “Hal, how long were you on that farm?”

“Twenty years or so.”

“So what about the other 60 years since then?”

Interesting side fact: Grandpa’s brother, Ervin, grew up on that same farm but he wears shorts.

One reason I like Harold Decker

I’d actually forgotten about this until just now. How could I?

Growing up, I always lived in the city or suburbs, so I was used to trash either going in a dumpster or in a garbage truck. Not so in Boonville, Indiana.

Back then, my grandpa had these rusty, old, oil drums that he’d fill with garbage and then set ablaze. But that was just for the little stuff.

On special days, which often coincided with the days I visited (thanks, Grandpa), he’d heap everything into a huge pile on the ground, including tree branches and yard clippings, and we’d burn the whole thing. I’d throw loads and loads of leaves on and watch as they either burst into flames or billowed with smoke. I loved how different kinds of trash burned differently… or melted or exploded or oozed or didn’t.

Yeah, I liked Grandpa D because he’s the one who burned his trash.

One memory I have of Harold Decker

Last summer, we gave Grandpa a surprise party in California. I’d already attended other 80th birthday parties for him, but this was the grand finale. We gathered in his son’s home with other relatives and friends while he and Grandma D drove over.

Thanks to Grandma, they took a while. She was trying to stall him to make sure we were ready. Uncle Marty’s sitting on the steps about to fall asleep (but that’s a separate story).

Grandpa and Grandma finally arrive, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Grandma inches the door open. Grandpa steps in.

“SURPRISE!” we all yell.



Grandpa scans the room.

More silence.

Finally, he motions to a man toward the back, “I don’t know that guy.”

Lesson #1: At a surprise party, after everyone yells, “Surprise!” be sure to start singing “Happy Birthday” or blow a whistle or turn on some music. Something. Anything.

Lesson #2: Keep in contact better so the party is a surprise but not the guests.

Harold Decker in one word