My dad, Ray Landkamer, was born on the 11 of March, 1935, in Alexandria, Nebraska and shortly moved to Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Most of his childhood stories involve fishing, hunting or camping. He loved the outdoors. He also loved basketball, as almost as many childhood stories involved it, too.
He loved his brothers. He admired his eldest brother, Fred and took great pride in his service during WW II in the Merchant Marines. Some of Dad’s old books feature intricate hand-drawn maps of Pacific islands whereabouts Fred sailed. He loved his brother John’s creativity and highly-detailed toys and other sculptures. I got to spend a fair amount of time with John, too. We tied fishing flies and went trout fishing. I always loved to hear the two of them and their sense of humor. Dad also proudly told of the adventurous life of Leo, from going West at an early age, to working at Boeing, and service in the Peace Corps. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him and his family on several occasions –always to hear about neat stuff.
He met my mom in an almost ‘50s fairy-tale setting. Dad, the basketball player, and my mom, a homecoming queen from another school literally bumped into each other at a roller skating rink. They married in June, and things worked out that I was born in 1957 and my sister came along in 1959.
I have so many happy memories about my dad, and quite honestly, no ugly memories about him. We went fishing quite a bit, from fly fishing for crappies at our local suburban Minneapolis lake, Medicine Lake, to trout fishing at some of his favorite childhood streams, and lots of dusk fishing for sunfish. We’d always yell our count at each other. He said I usually won, but I don’t know about that.
We’d sometimes go squirrel or partridge hunting around Grantsburg, or behind my mom’s parents’ place. We’d also go hunting for wildflowers. He had a hedge at their place in MN where he took care of big clumps of wild trilliums, Jack-in-the-Pulpits and yellow lady’s slippers. I donated several other specimens to the collection –pitcher plants, wake robin trilliums and so on.
I remember one of our last walks in the woods at our place in Warrensburg, MO. We walked quietly, and I started to hear scratching in the leaves. I guessed what it was, and signaled him to go ahead and to look to the right. When he slowly crested the ridge, he got to see his first bunch of close-up wild turkeys. He was pretty happy about that. He also got to be there when I got my first deer. It was just a few years ago, and I wasn’t still a “little” boy, but it was still fun. He lit our brush fire as I went off to the woods to “see if I can spot a deer”. Just a few minutes later, I fired a shot. He thought it was a misfire, and shortly, I yelled up from the woods, “ONE!” Within a half hour of my leaving Dad to the fire, the deer was hanging in a tree.
We did lots more than just hang around with fishpoles or rifles in our hands. Dad was a builder and contractor, and I got to spend a great deal of time working alongside him. Even when we were little, he’d let us hang around while he built cabinets or even cabins and houses. Lots of times, he’d make us bugboxes or toys or stools or birdhouses. I might have picked up some of my creativity from him. Hopefully, I picked up some of his work ethic, too. He’d start early and work ‘til he couldn’t see anymore. He always said we were to do the job so we never had to be called back to fix something we should have done right the first time. And to do the job so our customers wanted to have us back for other jobs. Being a builder, he also taught me how to cuss. He had a few unexpected painful accidents, at which, in a flash of no self-control, he’d yell “Horse Biscuits!” Then he’d explain how he loved to hit himself with a hammer because it felt so good when he quit.
I always loved Dad’s sense of humor –even when I was the subject. He’d often tell people, “I taught him everything I know, and still he don’t know nuthin’.” And that he had lots of free advice and it’s always worth the price. One time while I was putting a ridge on a roof and he was cleaning up some of the scraps on the yard-side of the roof, he spied the high school bus dropping off the kids. I’d just graduated early by taking summer courses for credit, so the pair of girls walking up the road were pretty much just my age. He poked his head over the ridge and yelled, “Hello girls!” and ducked back below the ridge and out of sight, leaving me on the ridge. A good friend commented that he wanted to assign to Dad, something Dad frequently said about others. He’s one of the good guys. Dad would usually add, “There’s not many of us left.” He always had a fun sense of humor.
A lot of Dad’s non-work activity was with church. We volunteered several years for parking lot duty. He coached many many years of church youth basketball –even when I wasn’t in it anymore. He took foreign mission trips for various building projects in Haiti and Equador, and was also a Habitat For Humanity volunteer. My son, Nick, got to go with him on some of that work, as well as tornado clean-up in Wisconsin. He built crafts for church fund-raisers, and even chaperoned youth trips. He was also active at Calvary Lutheran Church of Golden Valley, Minnesota’s, outreach committee.
Our last family outing was a trip to the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near the Canadian border, in Minnesota. He was already showing strong symptoms of the disease which finally claimed him, but we still had a good time fishing, canoeing, picking wild blueberries, taking walks and watching bugs, fish and other wildlife. On that trip was Dad and Mom, my son and his wife, Kristina, my wife, Becky, and I. We rented a cabin at Kawishiwi Lodge, near Ely, MN. We played during the day, and ate fish at night, and before bed, we read bedtime stories from Patrick McManus books. I’m so glad we took that trip.
Another friend of mine said of Dad, ‘He was pretty sharp! He always knew when we were up to no good.’ He was my dad and my friend, and knew, appropriately, when to separate the two.
My dad and mom moved to Missouri in August of 2011. Dad’s illness pretty much had control of him. But even under that influence, he never let down his activity. He paced and walked almost constantly. He was always busy doing something. But he frequently stopped at their big window and looked out over the pond and said, “That’s beautiful! Not a ripple on it.” He always watched when I made repairs on the place, and he’d marvel that I could do it. I’d remind him it was him who taught me. He also loved to be close to God (we worked on enough roofs to prove that). Dad always had a favorite Scripture, the 23rd Psalm.
Dad was always active in life, and now Jesus has made him to lie down in green meadows and by still waters, where he’s always loved to be.
We love you, Dad.