Federico Atilio Bunsen Lastarria
Mostly coherent thoughts about my grandfather - a person I am most thankful to have had in my life.

Published 2 months ago.

To start

My grandfather died this morning, May 21st, 2024 at around 6:30 AM just outside of Jacksonville. He was accompanied by two of his daughters.
Me + my grandparents

I wrote two different versions of a eulogy for my grandfather before he died because I knew the end was coming, but the morning that it happened, neither of them seemed fitting. When I found out, the first thing that happened when I closed my eyes was flood of memories: the bathtub as a young boy, watching him do accounting paperwork for his gas station each night in his office, working with him at his auto repair shop, waking up on Saturday mornings to a big breakfast from McDonalds, going to the horse track with him with all those stinky old men who were smoking cigars, cleaning the house to Gypsy Kings, Sunday afternoon lunches with my grandmother at Los Ranchos, the list is endless.

My grandfathers life is the stuff of legends. The short version is he was born into poverty outside of Cusco in Peru, lost both of his parents before he was ten, wandered the Andes for months with his brother and sister before he was taken to an orphanage in the capital of Lima, enlisted in the Peruvian airforce, met and married my grandmother, immigrated to the U.S., worked hard, had more children, built a business, and lived a full life. A story of American success if I've ever seen one. He rarely let his circumstances define him, always believed in his children and loved his wife / family fiercely.

I want to share a few of the ways he influenced me as a way to remember him, for at least as long as this website stays on the internet.

The ever optimist

He reluctantly let me style him

My grandpa came from some of the hardest circumstances known to man. I think the only way it could have been worse was if he was a slave. To lose both of your mother and father before the age of ten, with no one else to take care of you and your brother and sister. To have to find food and shelter on your own in the Andes. No easy feat, and yet, he lived to 92 years old, having made it to the greatest country on earth with not more than a few dollars, built a family with 5 children, a business that served it's community, and to be with lucky enough to find someone to spend your life with not once, but twice. It all required an innate sense of optimism.

I often find myself comparing my situation to that of my grandpa when I think I'm having a hard time. While my life has had a few hardships, they pale in comparison. His struggle (& that of my mother) are the reason I have the opportunities I do. I will never take them for granted and I will never waste them.

You can do anything

Pondering it all, I presume

As a child, I simply thought the default was that your parents believed in you. My mom always did that for me, but I think she got it from her father. There are instances that I remember very clearly:

- When my mom opened her first restaurant - my grandfather told me about how my mom had a special talent. How she was doing something important by opening a restaurant and that it was going to be a success.

- My uncle Ulysses could have been anything - so many different times in my life my grandpa told me about my uncles potential. So much so that I almost thought of him as a super hero. A few of the things he believed about my uncle; he could have been a pro soccer player, he could be an inventor, he could run a multi-national business.

- Unafraid to bet the house - my aunt Penelope wanted to start a magazine once, without hesitation, my grandpa took out a HELOC and gave it to her. He knew she was going to be successful, there was no other option.

There's more, he would often go on about my cousin Jagger and my other cousin Madison's intelligence. Naturally, he believed in me as well. It's really infectious that sort of optimism. I plan to do the same for my children.

Love your wife and family

One of the other things I noticed early on with my grandpa: he was so desperately and hopelessly in love with his wife. By the time I entered the picture, it had been almost 30 years of them being together, but he always always cherished her. In so many different ways!
Fred + Genny

I remember that every Sunday, he would make sure to take her to any place she wanted, so she could go shopping and have a nice meal. I remember because I would be the third wheel often. The falls was a common place, even though we lived in the ass end of Broward, because my grandma liked a restaurant called Los Ranchos.

I remember that on every trip to Peru, my grandpa would pack as little as he could, so my grandmother could have as many suitcases as she wanted (mostly because she was giving away insane amounts of stuff to family in Peru).

I remember that my grandpa would never forget to open a door for my grandma, never forget to pull a chair, never forget to be a gentleman. He made sure she was treated as the queen she was.

My grandpa loved more than just his wife, he loved his entire family. He let me and my mother live with him and my grandma from the time I was 1 until the time I graduated high school. He let my uncle live with him until he was 26. He converted his garage to let my aunt Gina and her husband live with us while they saved for a house.

He loved completely and unconditionally. I struggle to do the same, but aspire to every single day.

Other things I hope to never forget

My grandpa was never afraid to learn new things. He kept a curation of his favorite songs on YouTube all on his own. He thought he might get a job again as recently as 8 years ago, so he figured out how to create a LinkedIn profile for himself.

My grandfather continuously told me the key to a successful life is to do two things: get an education. save money. He lamented that he never had the opportunity to pursue higher education, because he did not understand it as a path when the time was right, carried the load of a family of 5 when he realized the opportunity. He also realized a bit late in life that saving for retirement is important.

Every trip to Peru in my youth, from Huancayo to Machu Picchu, my grandpa made sure I saw his home coutnry and knew my family's origin. I enjoyed every moment I got to know and explore Peru. He took me to the church where he was an orphan in the center of Lima. He showed me every tasty peruvian snack. I feel Peruvian because of him and my grandmother.

Another thing my grandpa often told me he wishes he could go skydiving. For his 87th birthday, I asked him if he still wanted to go. He had a change of heart, but we did get to do indoor skydiving.
Indoor sky dive at 87!

I'll never forget his absolute love of the Gypsy Kings.

This video of him on Thanksgiving 15 years ago when I asked what message he had for me 20 years in the future when he's gone. 

Rest in peace abuelito

Good times 😁

I loved my grandpa so very much. My biological father was not a part of my life, my grandfather stepped up to the plate and made sure I lived a healthy and full life.

It will be tough to know I won't get to share my life's greatest wins with him, but I will remember him by sharing those moments with the rest of my family.

In his honor, before July 18th, 2031, when he would have been 100 - I will be starting a scholarship in his name for immigrants trying to change their circumstances. Details to follow.

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