Ed Theis: I’m proud of you. Remember, you still have a long way to go.

I’ve been thinking about my late father, Edward John Theis. The title of this post is one of his most memorable quotes for me. Although some think it sounds negative, his purpose was to remind me that the quest for excellence never ends, and that there is always opportunity to do more and to get better.

Ed Theis grew up very poor on the south side of Minneapolis during the Great Depression. He lived in a one bedroom bungalow with his parents. His father, Bill Theis, was an elevator operator in the Chrysler Building. Ed slept on the hide-a-bed in the living room. His family took in foster children to help pay the rent.

Ed joined the Army when he was 18, shortly after Pearl Harbor Day. During basic training, he met a man named Elmer Jones from Defuniak Springs, Florida. Ed and Elmer were stationed in Alabama, and one weekend, Elmer took Ed to Defuniak with him for a little down home cooking. Ed met Elmer’s sister, Bernice for the first time that weekend. They would fall in love and marry soon thereafter.

After the war, Ed farmed in Florida with Bernice’s family. But in 1949, a hurricane destroyed their home. Ed had been offered a job in Indianapolis by another war buddy, Orville Allen. Ed, Bernice, and their young daughter Gail packed their belongings and moved to Indianapolis. Indy was almost exactly half way between Ed and Bernice’s childhood homes.

Ed worked at an insurance company with Orville Allen until his retirement in 1982. He succeeded at whatever job he was given, whether it was management, data processing, or human resources.

During Ed’s retirement, he spent a great deal of time with my children. His kindness and generosity was noted by most everyone he met. A former alcoholic, he helped dozens of people with substance abuse problems through AA and through his eldership in the church.

Ed went home to be with the Lord in 2002. I miss his company and his advice. I honor his memory by trying to be as good a man as he was.

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