And in honor of his 96th birthday this week, he gave us a few life lessons of our own.
This is appreciated, as I remember both my grandfathers very well and the wisdom that was shared with me was less philosophical and more a real world hack.
Grandpa Bill was a WWI vet who taught me how to play 8-Ball and not screw up the billiard felt, and when to hit the beach at the right tide to score the most little neck clams.
Grampy Jack was a Portuguese fella who taught me the value of skipping school on a hot day to see the Red Sox play at the Fenway and steal fruit from neighbor’s trees and not get caught, then to pretend not to speak English when one inevitably WAS caught.
They were both fond of hats and cigars. Both my grandmothers divorced them.
As fans of the show know, Grandad Schnabel has been a guiding force to his grandson Parker. Born in 1920, John is the son of a Kansas wheat farmer whose pappy was a bootlegger!
During those tough “Boardwalk Empire” years, he and the family had to leave the farm when the US Marshals came a knockin’.
At the tender age of 19, John packed up and headed up to Haines, Alaska, where he joined his father, who had set up a sawmill.
John was inspired to serve in the military after the Japs bombed us at Pearl Harbor, volunteering to join the US Navy, but he was snagged by the Air Corps.
After serving his country, he headed back to Haines and bought Porcupine Mill, which he renovated to produce 10,000 feet of board wood per day. John became a local hero and had a hardware store and was later even elected mayor of Haines!
Life, of course, is nothing but obstacles to overcome, as he suffered heart issues at 68 and had to have a triple bypass. When his doctor advised him to keep active, he began mining for gold in his own mine.
The family trade was then passed down to grandsons Payson and Parker, as they learned to prospect, pan and use the gold mining equipment.
As John turns 96, he continues to be a guiding force to all those who know him. He believes a positive attitude improves your chances of longevity and quality of life.
Monsters and Critics wishes him a very happy and healthy 96th birthday!
We recently caught up with Grandpa:
M&C: What is the most important virtue?
GJS: Honesty. When you tell the other person you love them – if you’re honest in what you’re saying – you’re going to be a winner. If you’re telling them because that’s what they want to hear, then you’re a loser.
M&C: How do you deal with bad people?
GJS: If a person is being difficult, try to find out why. If you can develop an ability to have some measure of empathy with them that will enable you to understand why they act the way they act.
M&C: What would you do if you could go back in time?
GJS: I am pleased with what I did. I’ve raised a beautiful family, I’ve helped a lot of people overcome their difficulties, I’ve tried my best to be a contributor to others – never to ask them to give something to me.
Be sure to check out Discovery’s Gold Rush airing Fridays at 9 PM ET/PT