If you live anywhere near Yorkville Illinois who do you call for an extra hand if your hay needs bailing, your field needs tilling, your electricity needs wiring?  Family, friends and neighbors in the farming community-turned-to-sprawling-suburb have been seeking Cliff Westphal’s services for years. He is the first to lend a hand at the truck pull, 4-H stand, blood bank, local church and Yellowstone Lane neighborhood get together.

My brother-in-law has spent his lifetime serving others from a boyhood working the farm in the family for 65 years to his four-year tour in the Coast Guard during the Vietnam War as a young man, to donating his time for 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Yorkville High School where he once wrestled as a Red Fox.

A small town, family man with a strong sense of loyalty to his country and his community, Cliff understands the complicity between the land and man and shares its abundance with all.

He treats YHS staff to a hotdog and hay rack ride every fall, brings Westphal corn to cabin folk in Northern Wisconsin, works the best car deal for his nephew and drives his pick up half way cross the continent to follow his niece’s college basketball team.  He runs a regular O’Hare airport shuttle for family and friends.  Then he spoils the travelers with gourmet meals from the finest fare Mother Earth has on offer.

As beloved Bumpa to seven grandkids, he celebrates every passage of their lives, helping one granddaughter parade pet pigs at the fair and watching his grandson make his first tackle.

Ever the big kid at heart, he still sleds in winter and rides water park slides in the summer.  The day after he retired as an electrician at Com Ed, he returned to farming; any energy to spare, he pours back to the community. There is nothing Cliff can’t fix, so we all felt shocked when his body broke down unexpectedly.

The day before his scheduled surgery to fix drippy sinuses, his family doctor discover his heart had a leaky faucet. So instead of a nose job, a cardiologist cracked open his sternum, borrowed a vein from his leg to bypass an artery, fined tuned the bicuspid valve and repaired the mitral valve, then wired him shut again. Twenty four hours later, he was sitting up in a chair, chatting about the latest Illini scores and asking « What’s for dinner? »

Oh sure, he’ll have to lay low a few weeks, but come spring planting season, he’ll be back on the tractor helping his brother in the fields on the Westphal Farm. This summer he’ll be driving the boat pulling the boat for gran kids on skis. And if all goes well, he’ll be flying abroad with his lovely wife,  my sister Sue, to « climb » mountains in Switzerland.

After all you can’t keep a good man down. As Yorkville knows, Cliff is its best.

Bon rétablissement et bisous de ta famille overseas!