My Grandfather: March 20, 1911 – October 24, 2006

Dr. Henry R. Mahler, Jr., died peacefully today in the loving company of his wife, two sons, one daughter, two daughters-in-law, one granddaughter-in-law, three fellow ministers and his grandson… me.Кирпичные столбы для забора

This was the day of ultimate peace for him on a calendar that spanned ninety-five extraordinary years, and for that I am both happy and proud. At the moment, though… and especially as I select photographs and write this entry… it’s truly the saddest day of my life.

My thoughts are still scattered, I’m exhausted and, quite honestly, I keep stopping to cry as I edit photos and write this entry. I don’t have the clarity or energy right now to write anything extensive or especially eloquent. It will take time for all the memories that are percolating in my mind to sort themselves and come out in any meaningful way.

In the meantime, what I have are some photos I’ve selected.


These are extraordinary photographs.
Not because of their composition.

Not due to some great artistic insight.

Not from megapixels or their passage through Photoshop.

They are extraordinary because of the man in them. My grandfather.

They are also extraordinary because of the context in which they were taken. Every single one of these photos was taken of a man surrounded by the family he loved and that loved him so dearly.

The same family – to a person – that was gathered around him today when he died.

My grandfather was an author and a poet and, had he grown up in a digital world, he would have taken to blogging like a fish in water. He vaguely understood the concept from conversations we had and never ceased to amuse me by calling it “the blodge”. I always knew what he meant. 🙂 He did, however, pitch his typewriter and buy his first word processor in his 80’s. He was the most prolific reader I’ve ever known and, when his eyesight became too poor for the constant reading that kept his mind so active, he became a voracious audiobook listener. He listened to them on an iPod Nano… at the age of 95.


I could never list all of the wonderful things he brought to my life or the countless ways he has influenced who I have become as I’ve grown up.

There is one thing in particular, though, for which I will be eternally grateful and that I know gave him tremendous joy. It’s in this photograph:

I love him and I will miss him dearly.

14 Responses to “My Grandfather: March 20, 1911 – October 24, 2006”

  1. Becky Maxey says:

    I too loved Henry. I was in awe of his intelligence, loved his kindness and his active mind and am a better person for having known him. Thank you so much for sharing your sincere thoughts and wonderful pictures.

  2. Donna Hobbs says:

    Aaron, this is a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary man! Thank you for taking the time during a period of such sadness to create something so lovely, and thanks to you mother for sharing it with me.

  3. Jeff Cornejo says:

    Aaron~ Very touching words. The few times that I spoke with him, I was impressed with his curiosity and depth. Now I know you came by it honestly.

  4. John Jaffe says:

    Aaron-What a wonderful tribute. He was a truly impressive and memorable presence in the life of everyone privileged to meet and know him. The distinct memories I have can provide only a hint of the extraordinary influence he has had on so many others. You and all the family have been truly blessed in him and provide a mirror in all you do of his influence.

  5. Rebecca McCord says:

    Aaron, The blessings that your grandfather shared with you will continue to live through you and members of your family. I see his thumbprint on your life — loving family and friends, enjoying intimate gatherings and good conversation, taking time for creative endeavors, and constantly acquiring skills and knowledge. This is a touching tribute of words and pictures. I am sorry for your loss today, but know that you have a lifetime of memories to cherish and rewards to share because of your grandfather’s presence in your life.

  6. Bernard Bangley says:

    With Henry, I recall a time when Presbytery activities were accompanied by much human warmth, compassion, honesty, harmony, integrity, and a prevailing spirituality that never became oily or coercive.

  7. Wonderful memorial, Aaron.

  8. Angela Hart and Raymond Ferguson says:

    What a sweet and encouraging man. We loved Henry and we will miss him too. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Joy Mahler says:

    I was so sorry to hear about Uncle Henry’s passing. I however know as you do, that we will miss him but he is in a blessed place with his Lord.
    It is a wonderful tribute you have done. He would be pleased to know how you felt about him, and probably did. Thank you for passing on these great single moments in his life and also yours.
    Uncle Henry also married Michael and I over 31 years ago. One of the things I remember him telling me was he married us for life and not to forget it.
    Much love, Joy and Michael Mahler

  10. Holcombe Hughes, Sr. says:

    The community of Lynchburg is better for having Henry Mahler, Jr. and his family live here. Around forty years ago when Henry became Presbyter of Appomattox Presbytery, he and Beth brought much to this area. Beth had spent her Childhood here and we love her, too. Francis Gaines, past President of Washington & Lee said that all smart Washington & Lee men marry above themselves. It’s the truth said as a joke; Henry did it and I did it too.
    He was a scholarly man and for me to pause and listen to his comments was time well spent. He liked the “Big Book” and the smaller ones too and spent a lot of time reading. Apparently, it was his joy to settle down and get immersed. He set us a good example for how to live. We will miss him.

  11. Giulia Witcombe says:

    Aaron, I think this is wonderful that you put this together. I really enjoyed meeting your Grandfather. It is very touching.

  12. Chai-Rista says:

    You brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful!
    –Liz

  13. jlangman says:

    Hi Aaron, just follwed your link from the PXC. Anyway, sorry for your loss, your grandfather is very special for sure. Your images tell a great story, as does your writing, but the images, you can see the kind soul your grandfather was. I feel lucky to be 36, and have a grandparent alive. She is 91 and doing great. She lives alone in NY and is very active, however the conversation comes up from time to time about when she will be gone. Surprisingly, it is not morbid as she is a devout Catholic, and at peace with herself and life. It helps me a little to know that, but I am the one picked to do the eulogy. I am sure I will feel as you do, but I hope to keep her strength in me to do my part when the time calls.
    Take care Aaron, see you @ the Pixel Corps.
    -Jim

  14. Nguyet Smith says:

    Dr. & Mrs Mahler were my chuch parent when I was living at the Presbyterian Home 1975-1979. They were very loving caring people. The last time I saw them was at the Presbyterian Home 100th year celebration. I love both of them! Wish that I have kept in touch. Will cherish the poetry book from Dr. Mahler forever.
    Nguyet Ha Smith