The family tradition you will want to steal

Many older Americans find it difficult to stay connected to younger family members. In our busy world between work and raising families, it’s not as easy to carve out free time and with extended families living farther away from one another,

But Don Thomas of Miamisburg believes everyone must make time to visit and make memories. And his extended family has done just that for the past seven years.

Thomas, 89, started working at Frigidaire in Dayton when he was 18 and around the same time started a part-time construction and cabinet business. When he was 48, he retired from Frigidaire to run Thomas Cabinet Shop, located in West Carrollton.

Thomas has two children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

One Friday morning in 2010, he and his grandson Brandon Hedrick decided to meet for breakfast at Scrambler Marie’s in Miamisburg.

“We had a really good time together, and so we thought we should do it again the following Friday,” said Brandon, whose mother Donna is Thomas’ daughter. “And we’ve been meeting every Friday since!”

Next, Hedrick’s younger brother, Andrew, decided to join these “breakfasts with Grandpa,” as they became known.

As the years went by, the other grandchildren, Michaella Thomas of Waynesville, Christine Hoover of Springboro, Danielle Smith of Waynesville and Jason Hedrick of Cincinnati all joined their grandfather for this weekly breakfast and time together.

“When we first started coming, it was about was about sharing stories,” Brandon said. “We’d ask Grandpa questions about his life and looked at pictures.”

The oldest great-grandchild, Elise Hedrick, now 8, started coming to breakfast in 2013. Now, there are many toddlers and infants present.

“We are always at the same table, and usually we have the same waitress,” Brandon said. “We get great service, and they know what we like to order!”

For the family, the weekly time together is important because it gives them an opportunity to really get to know the man who started the now three-generation family business that continues to thrive today. Thomas’ son Jon and daughter-in-law Cherie are the owners and operators, and one of his granddaughters, Christine, works for the company.

Thomas still goes into the shop on a regular basis and makes cutting boards out of Corian cut-offs and gives them to everyone he meets.

“Friday breakfasts with Grandpa endure amongst life’s changes. Jobs, college, graduate school, weddings, and great-grandchildren are born,” said Steve Divnick, Thomas’ son-in-law. “A lot happens at these breakfasts besides the consumption of waffles and pancakes. Grandpa tells stories. Questions are asked. Some of the most incredible conversations have started with simple questions regarding ordinary things. New events are shared. Baby stories are a highlight, as the various adult grandchildren take turns holding and feeding the little ones.”

And as unbelievable as it seems, the family continues to make it happen year after year. All of the grandchildren are busy professionals and include an attorney, a couple of doctors, an engineer, a carpenter, a finance director, a sales manager, a few hospital professionals and a department director for a global fortune 500 company.

But it continues to happen because, according to family members, they choose to stay connected because of the love they have for one another.

“I feel honored that they take time to do this,” Thomas said. “They have always been close, and we have vacationed together and have celebrated parties and holidays together. It’s nice that we do things like this. It’s important.”

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