Don C Tingey: A Grandpa and a Hero

As we continue our trip around the world, we received news from home that my Grandpa Don C. Tingey passed away. It was expected but no less piercing. He was my last living grandparent. Life is definitely darker without any living grandparents.

It’s impossible to sum up all that he was to me, and so many others, but I need to record and share some thoughts anyway. He was not perfect (none of us are), but he was so many things that I want to be. 

Grandpa was “no respector of persons.” If you watched long enough, you would see him care for anyone and everyone. It could be a law school friend who was one of the most powerful politicians in the world or a man literally brought home from the street behind his law office. Grandpa cared personally for everyone. 

Living a Story to Tell

Grandpa was a master story teller. Perfect cadence. Concise with the detail and yet never drawn out. 

Once in middle school, I played my saxophone in a parade downtown. It was during the business day but I looked up to see Grandpa standing along the street as I marched along. It meant so much to me that he was there. 

It meant even more when for years after that, he would tell other people about watching me march and be so focused on the music. He would mimic my march and swagger while telling the story and always get a laugh from the person hearing the story for the first time. (And yet, I knew that I was the real audience for that story every time.)

Consistent Life

More than anything else, I appreciated that Grandpa was so consistent. If I needed to find him, I could count on some things:

  • If it was during work hours, he would be at his law desk. 
  • If it was in the evening, he would be at his Westwind house. 
  • If it was Saturday morning, he would be in his backyard garden. 
  • If it was Sunday morning, he would be at church. 

You could have set your calendar by where he was located. I strive to be like that as well. 

When Candace and I lived with him at the beginning of our marriage, we would go to church each week with him. As we sat in the pew and sang hymns, he would always obverse the second hand of his watch and tap his wrist to determine whether the song was keeping the correct beats per minute. 

He was like Mr Banks from Marry Poppins:

I run my home precisely on schedule

At 6:01, I march through my door

My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02

Consistent is the life I lead!

Some short thoughts

Grandpa had a nickname (or two, or three) for everyone. He remembered them all. It was his way of making you feel special. And yet, he was known and referenced by nearly everyone with his initials: “DCT.” 

Grandpa always had a trailer and a truck ready to use. He was so proud of his trailer lineup and kept them in work-ready shape. One of my uncles went to law school in the East and he made the drive out there with a truck and trailer full of their household items. He invited me to travel with him. I felt like the luckiest kid in the world. 

When I was in high school, a driver went through a stop sign and crashed into my car. I called Grandpa right afterward. The first thing he asked was, “Are you alright?” I’ve never forgotten that. 

The second thing he asked was, “Do you need a car to use for school and work?” He then sold me one of his trucks for way below cost. A couple years later, he bought back that truck for way above cost. Then he went with me to a person’s house to negotiate a price on a used truck…for which we paid way below cost.

Negotiation: another of his skills.

Grandpa Tingey would say, “If we sat in a circle surrounding a paper bag filled with written notes of everyone’s struggles. As we read them one by one, I think we’d all prefer to have our own struggles back.” In other words, everyone is pushing through something. Be patient with them and be accepting of your own struggles.

In high school, I made a poor decision. It sat in my heart for years for many reasons but mostly because I knew that Grandpa knew about it. I wrote him a letter from the mission field apologizing. He wrote back and said, “I will forgive and forget. Forever.” He did. That’s the right way to be forgiving. 

He would call on Friday night and ask me to come work with him on Saturday morning. He paid so well with money and life lessons.

At parties he was the perfect host without being the center of attention. He was the first person to jump up and grab a chair so everyone could have some place to sit and feel welcome.

Grandpa is the reason Candace and I are married. After college, I worked in his law office. He came in and asked if I had met Candace upstairs yet. I told him I had not. He told me I might want to make that happen. Here we are.

I could go on and on about Grandpa Tingey. My journal and my personal quote book have large sections dedicated to DCT. I have been shaped by him in so many ways. Everyone else has too. That’s the thing about him: he makes everyone feel like they are the ones with the special connection. All of my dozens and dozens of cousins will no doubt confirm that they are the favorite grandkid. It was his grandpa gift. 

Grandpa and the Gospel

His life was one of faith but also reason and science. He built a career on justice and a life on mercy. All of this showed up in the way that he worshiped. It was one of the most unique and personal testimonies and I loved him for it. But it’s not my story to tell. 

Luckily, he is a teller of stories. 

Late in life, Grandpa returned to full fellowship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Of course, he was never really far. He always attended church. He supported countless missionaries. He was a man of faith.

He also knew that one could “forgive and forget. Forever.” This especially includes our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Starting anew, Grandpa revisited the same steps he took as a child. “first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

I will forever admire him for this return. Perhaps his greatest lesson to me. 

At his baptism, among many remarks, he shared a dream he had. It occurred soon after a bout with pneumonia that nearly killed him a few years ago. He said:

I had a dream and it saddened me so much. It is still so impressed on me and I can still see it. And this is what is was. 

This family of ours, which is all of you, had gone to some sort of family reunion and we were returning on a railroad train. I guess I should stop watching old Western movies. And this train it came up and it slowed down and it stopped and all the family peeled out, including Nid. And we’re walking down the tracks to this beautiful city. When I was sitting in the back, I got out and started to follow. 

And the train guy came over and said “You can’t go.” He said “you’d don’t live there.” And you gotta get on the train again and we’ll take you down to another town and that’s where you’re going to live. And you’ll be with people more like you.

And I woke up from that, still stuck in my mind. And of course I knew what it meant. It meant you’re not going to have it that way, ever again. Certainly not for eternity. And you’re not going to have those kids. They were all sealed. They were all born under the covenant but they’re not going to be yours. Don C Tingey

He went on to share his testimony of Jesus Christ, the Atonement that can apply to all people, and his desire to continue family relations in the next life. 

Then he finished with this line:

“Next time I get off the train, I’ll be with everybody else.”

Well, the train has reached the station. I know he is with everybody else. And he has a lot of stories to tell.