“My grandpa was somebody. He mattered.”
Editor’s note: Elizabeth Alvarado writes this letter in memory of her grandfather Frank Slate Jr. who was killed Sept. 15, 2012. Two men have pleaded guilty in connection to his death, Christopher Grant and Theodore Wickham. Grant is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in Chautauqua County Court. Wickham’s sentencing is scheduled March 17.
I am Biz, Cheryl Deering’s oldest daughter and Frank Slate’s oldest grandkid. Between the stories released to the media and the coverage of the two men responsible, I feel like who this family lost has been sidelined. I just want to take a minute to tell you who my grandpa was to us.
My brothers, Mike and Alex, and my sister, Tina and I, practically grew up at my grandpa’s house. My parents had to work and my grandpa drove cab – his job was more flexible than theirs. If I got sick at school Grandpa picked me up. When cheer practice was over Grandpa brought me home. During summer vacations we spent the days at grandpa’s house, playing in the creek or keeping cool in the house.
My parents insisted that we eat only healthy foods; Grandpa was Italian and an amazing cook. He made us lunch and dinner and kept us full on his freshly baked cannolis, cupcakes and cookies.
My parents believed that kids should be outside – playing not inside watching TV. We didn’t even have cable at home. I know we were deprived! When it was too hot and sticky to play outside Grandpa bought us popsicles, turned on the fans and handed us the remote. If you knew how Grandpa owned that remote you’d understand what a big deal that was.
Before my parents separated they used to wait until us kids were in bed and then they would argue. We would get scared and call Grandpa to tell him what was going on. Five minutes later, no matter what time it was, Grandpa would be at the house barking like a dog at my dad to calm down. There were times when we were calling him once or twice a week; he showed up every time.
In 2002 I had my first daughter Kenzie. She was his first great-grandkid. The morning after I had her he showed up at the hospital with a plate of chocolate cupcakes. He set them down and quietly sat down in the rocking chair in the room. Kenzie was out of the room at this time in the nursery. He had this sly smile on his face; he glanced at my still swollen stomach and he said, “Well your mother told me you had already had the baby, but it looks like I’m early.” That was his sense of humor, that’s our whole family’s sense of humor.
Halloween of 2007 I was pregnant again. I brought Kenzie over to his house to trick or treat and while I was there I mentioned to him that I had been craving his beef tips and homemade noodles. The next afternoon my phone rings and he tells me he just finished cooking dinner and I can swing by and pick up my beef tips and noodles while they were still hot.
I am due with baby three any day now. I have no fun story to tell you involving my Grandpa and this pregnancy because he’s gone.
Grandpa was murdered in September of 2012. My youngest daughter, Adri, was attending school at Fredonia Baptist Christian Nursery School. In January was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I received a call from the school to come pick Adri up early.
When I got to the school she was crying in the hallway with one of her teachers trying to console her. When she saw me she ran up to me and clung to me, crying. The teacher explained that they had been discussing Martin Luther King Jr. and had discussed that he had been assassinated. At that point Adri became scared, upset and inconsolable. These two men taught my 4-year-old daughter that not only do “bad people” exist here in our safe little town, but that they can come in the form of “friends.” My children’s image of what a monster is will be sitting in the court room Monday.
My Grandpa is gone forever. As hard as you try to look past the manner in which his life ended to remember the positives – that’s not really possible. My Grandpa was somebody. He mattered. No one deserves to have their life ended that way. According to the plea deal, these monsters will be out of jail long before my daughter finishes elementary school. I urge the court to place a higher value on my Grandpa’s life and sentence those who are responsible for ending his life to the maximum time allowed.
Elizabeth Alvarado of Silver Creek is the oldest grandchild of Frank Slate. She writes this on behalf of all 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, two of whom will never know him. They are all residents of Chautauqua County.