Posted by: Mike Willoughby | February 18, 2012

Saying Goodbye to The Greatest Generation

Have you heard of the term, The Greatest Generation?  Tom Brokaw coined the phrase, “The Greatest Generation” in his book of the same name referring to the generation was born in the first two and half decades of the 20th century.  Brokaw wrote in his book, “it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”  He argued that “these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. When they came back they rebuilt America into a superpower.”

This generation’s impact was not only felt in our society, it was felt within our families.  These have been the patriarchs and matriarchs of our families and now they are moving on.  Last week, my family said “goodbye” to the last of our own members of the Greatest Generation – Kristal’s beloved maternal grandmother, Grandma Mim.

Mildred “Mim” Yeager was born on July 1, 1917 to Nels and Marna Hoagland on a farm in Western Nebraska.  Nels Hoagland was a successful Swedish immigrant homesteading on the frontier married to Marna Johnson who was a second generation American also of Swedish immigrant parents.  Mim experienced that typical life journey Tom Brokaw described in The Greatest Generation.  Growing up during the Great Depression, supporting family members serving in various branches of the service during the war and doing her part in the “bread basket to the world” to build America into a modern Super Power – Mim was in many ways typical of the women of her generation.

However for her family, she was anything but typical.  As the last surviving Grandparent on both sides of our family, she was truly the matriarch of our family.  From that position she continued to influence our entire family in her own special way.  Mim was never the kind of women that would exert influence forcefully or often even directly.  She preferred to affect people in a kind and gentle way that left you encouraged and feeling better.  She lived the motto that “if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Fortunately for us, she frequently had good things to say.

If I were to try to sum up the kind of woman Mim was, I would simply quote this piece of beauty advice from I Peter 3:3-4:

Don’t depend on things like fancy hairdos or gold jewelry or expensive clothes to make you look beautiful. Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special.

Mim was beautiful on the outside, but even more she was beautiful in her heart by nature of her quiet and gentle spirit.  God considers this kind of lasting beauty to be “very special” and we have to agree.  She was and still is very special.  I can’t wait to see her again in heaven – this time in the perfection of her eternal body – beautiful inside and out.

For those of us remaining, there is a call to action embedded in the loss of this generation.  Into that void we must step and provide the same kind of courageous leadership they displayed within our society and within our individual families.  All of us Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and even the up-and-coming Mosaic/Millennials have an obligation to follow in their footsteps and take on the challenges of our age with courage and vision.  Courageous leadership is their legacy to us and we have an obligation to extend that legacy to future generations or risk seeing everything they helped build fall into disarray.  We have walked  hand-in-hand with The Greatest Generation to this point, but now the challenge is for us to continue life’s journey with their examples and our fond memories to sustain us.

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Copyright © 2012 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Mike,
    Thank you for your insight. I was very fortunate to be in my mid 20s before I lost my first Grandparent. I count that as one of the greatest gifts the Lord blessed me with. I pray for our generation that we step into our roll with wisdom to influance our children and grandchildren in a manner that we can be as proud as our Grandparents.


  2. Thanks for remembering the greatest generation. My “greatest generation” has passed on and I now feel that awesome responsibility you spoke of of carrying on their legacy and protecting what they so valiantly fought for, both on the military front and on the home front. May we never let our children, grandchildren, and every generation we are blessed to know, forget the sacrifices made by their forefathers/mothers. What a blessing to have known them! Thanks for your insight, Mike.

  3. Mike, I read your article with great interest. My father passed from this life on Christmas Eve 2011. He was born in 1923, was drated at age 19, and a little over a year later landed on Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day invasion. He was in Germany, when the war in Europe ended. In October 1950, he made the anphibious invasion of Korea, and was in combat for 18 months. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1963, and then worked for the Post Office for 23 years. He was a great American and a member of “The Greatest Generation”, but most importantly, he was a great Christian. As with your Grandmother, he will be missed by his family and friends, but he is in a much better place.

    Kevin Chilcoat

  4. Thanks for writing this tribute to Mim and reminding us to walk in her footsteps as she followed the Master. Sometimes I want to get “noisy” when what is needed is that gentle and quiet spirit that was exemplified by Mim. Can you just imagine the reunion of Mim with Malcolm and Wendell and Tennys and B.T.

    Tearfully, but with joy in my heart for them.
    Sheila Yeager

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