— “Heroes,” David Bowie
By Randall Grantham
Years ago, after putting in four years at the Public Defender’s Office in Jacksonville, I decided to come home and got a job with the PD’s office in Dade City for about two years.
One morning, on the way to a calendar call with Judge Ulmer, I was running a little late and may have been exceeding the speed limit on SR 52. That’s when I met Florida Highway patrolman R.J. Kraus.
He pulled me over, and even after I explained that I was an attorney headed for court, he wrote me a ticket. I still remember walking into chambers, even later than I would have been, telling the judge that, yes I was late, but had a note from my trooper.
I got to know and respect Kraus, and we had many cases together. I haven’t seen him lately, but noticed there’s more than one Kraus on the roads these days. His two sons are with the FHP and his daughter is a sheriff’s deputy. Kraus is no longer on the road, because a couple of years ago he was diagnosed with ALS and is struggling with that horrible disease.
Occasionally, I run letters from readers, or use their input to write this piece. For this week’s article, I want to run an essay written by his son’s mother-in-law. Having just lost my own father, I think it is a heartfelt tribute that we can all relate to.
The Making of a Great Hero, by Lisa Pitts
He spent six years serving his country as a Marine, another 27 years serving his community as a Florida Highway patrolman. I met him two years ago when his youngest son asked my youngest daughter to be his bride. He is a quiet man who had difficulty speaking clearly that night as we celebrated the future of our children and the people this union would touch forever.
Soon after that wonderful night, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. As our children began their lives together, his began to unravel. It is not his role as a civil servant that makes him a hero to me, but as husband and father that has shown me what true heroes are made of.
We have celebrated several holidays, each one a celebration of life as children and young adults wrestle and play together. I have watched him hold a baby in arms that ache due to deteriorating muscles. I see the love he has for his family as he watches his boys wrestle with his grandson. Most of all, I watch him doing what real heroes do — make a difference in the lives of others forever.
My daughter, whose faith in the Lord is strong, asked me why he suffers so. I tell her his work for the Lord is not yet done. There are lessons left to teach his children and grandchildren.
I see them daily, and he makes sure his wife of 25 years is taken care of. The mortgage is paid off, gifts of love given. I watch as they teach their children the meanings of marriage, commitment and family.
Most people think of heroes as people who do great deeds for others. But real heroes are men and women who share a lifetime together, providing for each other, sharing the good and the bad life has to offer. They give themselves to spouses and children. Heroes teach their children values and morals, love and commitment. These are things that add to our community in ways beyond measure.
This man may not be able to speak anymore, or walk, or hold his grandchildren. But his love for them is forever spoken in his eyes. Their love for him is in their deeds as they lift his body to bathe him, as his wife prepares his food for him, as his grandchildren play around him.
Too many of us forget to look at our spouses and see the hero inside. He has shown us humility in the face of adversity. He has given of himself to our community, and now his children will serve us well. Heroes can be average people doing their jobs to the best of their ability and loving their families. Leading their children by example and giving us, the community, so much more.
Oh, and don’t worry R.J. I paid the ticket.
Randall C. Grantham is a lifelong resident of Lutz who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway. He can be reached at . Copyright 2009 RCG