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  • He was the one, so they say, who figured out how to ship the tanks that defeated Rommel in the desert, the big businessman from Westinghouse, the industrial hero. He's in the history books for figuring how to get the giant mirrors of Palomar to float. I've heard so many stories of his Marshall Plan life, building dams and blustering Russian generals from his suite in the Sacher Hotel. He traveled the world and mingled with dukes and Einstein. He kept house servants, even as he lamented the distance of his rural Texas roots. He embarrassed his children by lecturing strangers on the street to disavow them of the notion that holding hands (and kissing) in public was the behavior of "ladies and gentlemen." And worse, he was the man who made his son-in-law, my father, feel small.

    But I remember him as the Big Daddy who brought my favorites - root beer lifesavers and fresh coconuts - whenever he came to visit, and who took me on drives to nowhere just for the pleasure of being together, outings that always ended at a diner with a fat, gooey slice of lemon meringue pie.

    Photo: ceremony at Westinghouse, 1937, demonstrating the Palomar telescope to Albert Einstein. My grandfather is second to the right.
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