Jack and Pat Leddin

Jack and Pat Leddin, Taylor's paternal grandparents.

Often, we fall victim to taking the wonderful gifts we have in life for granted. During our daily routines, it is easy to lose focus on what is truly important in life. However, every once in a while, life can hit you and remind you just how lucky you are.

For me, I am lucky to have such an amazing family. One thing I constantly am thankful for in life is the amazing role models I have been able to look up to, especially Jack Leddin.

Jack Leddin is many things. He is a father, a retired employee of the Illinois Bell Phone Company and a great golfer. He is also my grandfather, and he always has been a source of inspiration in my life. One of the most important qualities Jack holds is he is a reliable man. You always can count on him to stick to his word and to lend a helping hand.

This, among many of his other outstanding qualities, was something he learned while serving in the United States Navy.

In the interim after he finished school and before he was married, Jack spent four years in the Navy, which he described as a great time. He joined the Navy by choice after finishing high school as opposed to being drafted by the Army.

“Any branch of the service, I think that is one of the greatest things a kid could do if they don’t want to go to college because they learn the basic things of discipline, responsibility and organization. You learn to take care of yourself and be responsible for yourself,” Jack said.

He also explained one of the reasons the Navy was so great was he was able to travel the world, which he might not have been able to do otherwise. During his four years, he visited Japan, Korea and China and even spent three months living in Hawaii. He worked as an officer on a destroyer.

“[It was] a good job, and [the ship] was very accommodating and very nice,” Jack said.

When his four years were coming to a close, Jack had to think about what steps to take next.

“I probably would’ve thought about shipping over at the time. The problem is, when you ship over, you don’t really know where you’re going to go,” he said. “They can tell you a lot of wonderful things, but you never know for sure.”

He instead opted to come home and start off a life of his own, meeting, as he kindly puts it, his “sweetheart,” and the couple went on to have five kids and 10 grandkids. Although Jack decided not to continue life in the Navy, he still looks back fondly at his time in the service and still describes it as one of the best times in his life.

His home is filled with mementos from the Navy, ranging from an American flag to a window from the destroyer he worked on. He made a lot of great friends in the service, as well as some good memories, but most importantly, he learned the skills and qualities of what it takes to make for a great man, which is what he is today.

“It had a big impact when you finally got to work and got a job because you have the responsibility to [take on a job], and you’re happy with what you’re doing, especially if you get a job you like,” he said.

Jack said the best part of being in the Navy was the privilege of being able to do it. While his time in the Navy made him proud to be an American, his service and dedication to his country and his family, has made me proud to be his granddaughter.

Much has changed since the time he served, but his reliability and dedication never has wavered. Between his kids and in-laws, 10 grandkids plus spouses and four (almost five) great-grandkids, he never slacks on a birthday card or a “How ya doin’?” phone call. We’re all so much better for having him in our lives.

My favorite moments with him are when we’re all together and you can see on his face he’s taking it all in — this large and loud family he’s created.

Next month, the family will be heading to Indiana Beach for a long weekend to celebrate Grandpa’s 90th birthday. I can’t wait — though it feels like just yesterday Grandma was still with us and we were having a big bash to celebrate Grandpa’s 80th.

I hope you all have a Jack Leddin in your life — someone to remind you of the important fundamentals of being a good person, and someone you always can call just to “shoot the breeze.”

Taylor Leddin is the Life editor at the Daily Journal and is the editor of Lifestyles of Kankakee County. Her column, “A Taylor Made Life,” publishes every Saturday in the Life section. She can be contacted by phone 815-937-3369, email tleddin@daily-journal or via Twitter @leddinlife.