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by Abigail Van Buren

Content of His Character Made This Grandpa Great

DEAR ABBY: I've never been one to cry, but my grandfather, Jesse "Mim" Toney, died in October 1996, and I miss him. He was a hero. A REAL hero. Not just because he was Gen. George S. Patton's chauffeur and valet during World War II, but because of who he was.

His life taught me something I need to share. It's something we are losing as individuals, as families, and even as a country. It's something that is there, like faith, even when everything else falls apart. You need it. I need it. The whole world needs it. You can't build enough of it. It won't leave you when times get tough. It will carry you. It's what makes real men and women honorable. It's being underappreciated. It's what grew the fastest the weaker he got. It was his character!

Yes, character. Like respect, it is not something you ask for; it's something you earn. Like strength, it's not something granted; it's developed. It may only count to those who have it -- but character counts.

He was not impressed by what someone accomplished, but by what they had overcome. That's character.

He didn't take the easy way. He took the right way. That's character.

He accepted responsibility for his actions, faced the consequences without complaint and lived his life the best he could. That's character.

His road map was the Scriptures; his compass was his heart; his passion was his family; his character was his art.

That's what he taught me, and I think the message is worth repeating. -- JEFF POWELL, DUBLIN, OHIO

DEAR JEFF: Please accept my sympathy on the painful loss of your beloved grandfather. Obviously, your letter was written from the heart. It would have made a beautiful eulogy. Thank you for sharing the important life lessons your grandfather taught you.

DEAR ABBY: I was raised in an old-fashioned home. I was taught to sew and cook and be a worthy wife and mother. I cooked and fed my family wholesome meals.

Unfortunately, one of my sons ("Tom" -- not his real name) married a woman who never cooks. She waits until Tom comes home after a hard day's work at the office, then she sends him out to some fast-food place to pick up their evening meal. This is not just occasionally; this is every night of the week except when they go out to eat. I invite them to my home for dinner as often as I can.

Tom is a good husband and father. He doesn't drink, smoke or gamble. He's a good provider and allows his wife to stay home and not work.

My question is, why aren't mothers these days preparing their daughters for marriage? Don't you think men should consider this a requisite when courting? It could save marriages. -- OLD-FASHIONED AND GLAD OF IT

DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: You and I are a generation apart from your son and his wife, so it would be easy for me to agree with you.

However, these days it takes more than talent in the kitchen to make a marriage work. I find it telling that your son is not the family member who is complaining. As long as he has you, I'm betting neither he nor his wife will learn to cook.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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