RICHFORD — He was the guy with the jolly smile, a red Mustang, and a German Shepherd in tow.
According to Josh Jacobs, 23, that’s what his father, Lonnie Jacobs, was known for in Richford.
“A lot of people knew him,” said Jacobs in a recent interview. “He’d ride around, visit, help people out. He was awful friendly.”
Lonnie passed away at 48 years old on July 9, 2013, something that is still difficult for Jacobs to talk about. Jacobs described himself as close with his dad, sharing his love for cars and guns and his cheerful personality. At the time of Lonnie’s death, Jacobs lived just a mile down the road from him.
This Sunday will be the first Father’s Day with Lonnie gone. But, as Jacobs said, he doesn’t want to “sit and cry over him.” Instead, he’ll remember him.
Jacobs, who was born and raised in Richford with siblings Matt and Lindsey, has a lot of memories of hanging out with his dad.
“When I was little, my mom worked second shift, so I spent most of my time with him,” Jacobs said. “We were always buying cars or trucks and fixing them up. We were always going four-wheeling, shooting guns.”
Jacobs parents separated when he was seven or eight years old, but he said they would all still get together for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Lonnie would make the gravy.
“He’d always come over to my mom’s and eat holiday dinners with her, with everybody,” Jacobs said.
When Jacobs graduated from Richford High School, started working as a truck driver and married his wife, Jamie, 25, he moved a mile down the road from his dad. There, he said, Lonnie would come by often, sometimes bringing one of Jacob’s childhood favorites, macaroni salad.
Lonnie would also go by every night to check in on Jacobs, Jamie and their only child at the time, Lexi Mae, and say goodnight.
“[He’d] make sure everybody was home safe before he went to bed,” Jacobs said. “Every time he’d come over, he was in a good mood, big ol’ smile on his face.”
A challenging year
About a year before he passed, Lonnie lost his job of 17 years as a forklift operator for Rock-Tenn Company in Sheldon. Despite this, Jacobs said, his dad was as jolly and helpful as ever.
“Just before he died, he helped me dig my lawn for my pool,” Jacobs said. “He didn’t have a lot of money in the end there, but every other night he’d be over with a pack of chicken. He was always there to help.”
In the months before his death, Jacobs said his father started doing things he hadn’t before – he started going to church, and at one point, he brought a rose to his former wife, telling her how thankful he was for everything she had done.
“Until the last year, he always worked seven days a week,” said Jacobs.
Keeping dad in mind
At this time last year, Jacobs said he and his family brought Lonnie to brunch at The Abbey restaurant in Sheldon.
“It meant a lot to him,” said Jacobs.
Two months later, Lonnie died of a heart attack unexpectedly, and event that took Jacobs and his family by complete surprise.
Because of the sudden nature of Lonnie’s passing, Jacobs said that he has started looking at family time in a different way. Like his father, Jacobs works quite a bit, often keeping him from spending time with the people that mean the most to him. Recently, however, Jacobs has been making an effort to talk more with his mom, Becky, and be home with his own family more often.
“I try,” he said.
Jacobs also honors his father’s memory in other ways. In the first few months after Lonnie’s death, Jacobs said he’d return the favor to his dad and stop by his house each night.
“I used to go up every night and knock on the door,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’ children also remind him of his father. Lexi Mae, 3, tells Jacobs each night there’s a brilliant sunset that Lonnie is painting the sky pink, since he knows it’s Lexi Mae’s favorite color.
Jacobs’ other daughter, Lauren Rae, who was born in April, also holds a connection to Jacobs’ father. In a serendipitous twist of timing, Jacobs said he and his wife were told by their doctor that Lauren Rae was most likely conceived the day Lonnie died.
“We didn’t know that Jamie was pregnant when he died,” Jacobs said of his father.
Photos also help Jacobs to remember his dad. “I got a picture of him in my truck. We ride around everyday,” he said.
Jamie also has made a scrapbook for Jacobs to look through. Covering many of its pages are photos of Jacobs with his siblings and with his dad at various points in his childhood.
“It’s always nice to have good memories,” he said.