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Grandpa and George

Chris Hine | Friday, August 22, 2008

I can still remember those simple Saturday afternoons, going over Grandma and Grandpa’s house to watch the Notre Dame game with Grandpa.

He’d sit in his usual chair and I’d sit on the couch. Grandma or my Aunt Paula would make us something to eat. I’d have a lemonade or a soda in my hand, he’d have the remote – not to change the channel in case things went bad for the Irish, but so he could tape the game while cutting out the commercials. Grandpa liked to re-watch the games during the week and save the special ones, like the “Snow Bowl” game against Penn State from 1992.

We’d watch Lou nervously picking the grass from the sidelines, Mark Edwards gain about four or five yards every time he ran the ball up the middle, and watch a local hero of ours, Ron Powlus, come from our home in Northeastern Pa., to quarterback our favorite team.

When people say, “Life was so much simpler before,” they meant days like those Saturday afternoons with Grandpa. Grandpa loved Notre Dame, even though he never went there, and watching those games was his favorite thing to do in life. A part of me will always miss those Saturdays.

Flash forward a few years, and I’m a high school senior, and Grandpa, my mother’s father, is in the hospital. He fought through a stroke a few years back, but now this time it doesn’t look good. I went over to visit Grandpa in the Hospice wing of the hospital one day after school. I helped him drink his tea and we talked about Notre Dame. He didn’t have to say it, but I knew he wanted me to get into school there badly. It was one of his final wishes.

We said goodbye, but little did I know that it would be the last time I’d see him alive – he died a few days later.

About three weeks after his funeral – on a Saturday afternoon – mom cam running in the house, tears streaming down her face, with an envelope from Notre Dame in her hand. It was the big envelope. I hurriedly opened it and read the first sentence of the letter before being mobbed by mom and dad. I had been accepted. Grandpa’s last wish had come true.

Flash forward three more years. I’m a junior now at Notre Dame, and sitting in the Observer office, checking phone messages. I get one from a man named George-Porter Young, a former employee at LaFortune. George tells me he’s originally from England and has been in America for the past 30-some years. Now, he’s in his 70s and dying of cancer, and he wants to go home to be with his family before he dies. He can’t fly because of his cancer, needs help getting home and was hoping the Observer could do a story to help raise funds for his long, expensive trip home.

Before I called George back to do the story, I thought of my grandfather, and how this was a chance to help someone out the way God had helped Grandpa and me. I talked to George many times over the next few weeks, and we did the story about his time here at Notre Dame, but George’s final wish couldn’t have come true without the help from the Notre Dame family.

You hear stories all the time about what a giving and generous community Notre Dame is, but George’s wish was a witness to that generosity. After our story on George ran, donations came pouring in from alumni, professors, campus administrators, and students. Some people even gave thousands of dollars to help George get home. The generosity was overwhelming.

George will be leaving for England soon, and I suggest everyone go over to LaFortune and see if George is there. He can share with you a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.

I bring up these stories to remind you, freshmen, what a unique place Notre Dame is. It helped create a powerful bond between my grandfather and me that will last forever. And it has helped George find his way home one last time.

You learn pretty quickly that being a part of the Notre Dame community is more than cheering on those Saturday afternoons. Yes, you’re here to have fun and get a good education, but you have to do more with your time here than simply enter the business school to leapfrog your way to a high-paying job after school. As an institution, Notre Dame definitely has its flaws, but the Notre Dame community can be a powerful force that makes a direct, positive impact on the lives of many people.

So welcome to Notre Dame, now go out and be a part of it.