I’ve dedicated this past week to pay homage to a remarkable soul, my maternal grandfather, Johann Peter Hausner. From Dia de los Muertos, to his 125th birthday on November 8 (shared with Brie, a gift from him, I believe), to Veteran’s Day – there’s a lot of reasons to honor this brave man.
Grandpa Johnny served in both WWI and WWII as a pilot, trainer, and translator. He was a 17-year-old boy when he joined – lying about his age so he could serve. Fluent in at least seven languages, he helped coordinate and train troops across Europe.
Our roots trace back to hardworking Prussian immigrants who came through Ellis Island in 1905 and homesteaded in Gallup, NM. My great-grandparents, resilient farmers, persevered against the odds. Amidst the dry, hot, red-rock terrain, my grandfather, found kinship with the Navajo people, immersing himself in their culture and becoming a custodian of their traditions.
Post war, Grandpa Johnny returned to New Mexico, where met my grandmother, Kathryn Janet Wolf. They had my mom in 1947. He remained true to his passion, intrinsically linked to local culture, he opened The Turquoise Trading Post just north of Santa Fe where he shared the art and stories of the indigenous people.
This photograph captures me and my grandfather on my third birthday, a brief yet impactful intersection of our lives. Sadly, Grandpa Johnny passed in December of that same year, just a few months after welcoming my brother into the world. My memories, though rare, are vivid and poignant – a testament to the safety and kindness he exuded, leaving an indelible mark on my soul.
Over the years, I’ve yearned for the untold stories, the chronicles of his childhood on the reservation, the years he spent in service, and the tales of Native American art and culture that he loved.
Our connection remains potent, a spiritual teacher transcending time and space. I feel his benevolent gaze, a steadfast guardian guiding and enveloping me in a wrapper of love from the ethers.
Thank you, Grandpa Johnny, for your service to our country and your gifts to our family.