Super granddad is Father’s Day blessing
For Christine Jenks, her father Werner Dolle is a blessing. He washes laundry, dusts and vacuums the house, mows the lawn and cooks dinner four nights a weeks. He provides childcare to her two active sons and even helped her husband, Larry, build the family’s home in the Johnson Lane area.
The teachers at Pinon Hills Elementary School have another name for Dolle. They call him super-granddad. Four days a week he tutors children, assists at work centers, colors artwork, makes copies, cuts, pastes, and in general does anything that is needed for kindergarten through the third grade classes.
Dolle smiled shyly when asked why he devotes so much time to his family and the school.
“Because they need me, and it’s a good way for me to keep busy,” he said in an accent still laced with his Swiss heritage.
Dolle is from Kussnacht, Switzerland, and as a boy growing up, he quickly learned the importance of family unity. His parents owned a jewelry shop, and he and his brother were expected to pitch in with household chores.
“In those days, doing laundry wasn’t quite the same,” said Dolle. “We boiled the clothes, rinsed them and hung them to dry. It’s a little easier today with a washer and dryer.”
Dolle also learned how to cook from his mother, and when he joined the Swiss Army, he was assigned to the kitchen.
“It was because I had a bad arm, but it was a good thing because I learned a lot. I enjoy cooking very much,” he said.
Dolle enjoyed the kitchen so much that he apprenticed as a baker from 1953 to 1956. When he came to the United States in 1965, he easily found work.
“I was working in Palm Springs when my cousin invited me to go with him to Portland, Ore., for a Swiss dance,” said Dolle. “I met my wife, Rosmarie, there. She was also from Switzerland, so when she moved to Palm Springs after we married, she couldn’t take the heat. That’s when we moved to Lake Tahoe.”
That was in 1967, and since then Dolle has worked at most of the big casinos as a baker or a pastry chef. He and Rosmarie raised their family, Christine and a son, Daniel at Lake Tahoe.
Jenks said that growing up with her father was much different than watching him interact with her children today.
“He had a different focus. Then he was the provider. His dedication was to working, although we did have great times together hiking, camping or cutting wood. But now he is an important caregiver to the boys. And he tends to spoil them, quite a bit,” she said.
“Sure I spoil,” said Dolle. “But I also teach them to respect their parents and the rules. Their parents are the bosses, not me.”
Three years ago Dolle moved to Carson City so that he could be more accessible to Jenks and her family. But even before leaving Lake Tahoe he would commute back and forth to care for his grandsons.
“I would come down here, stay until 1:30 and then go back to the Lake and go to work,” said Dolle. “When that got to be too much, I moved to Carson City and worked for the Carson Nugget.”
Dolle semi-retired in April of this year, which explains the amount of time he is able to devote to his family. During the weekends, when Christine and Larry are home, he works at the Nugget, and on Monday. Larry’s day off, he has a day to himself. But from Tuesday through Friday he lives with the Jenks family and caters to their needs.
“Dinner is ready when Christine and Larry get home from work. They can sit down, relax and have a beer,” said Dolle with a chuckle. “And they know during the day that the boys are safe. Families should help each other that way, that’s what being a family is all about.”
Jenks said that if it weren’t for her father, she wouldn’t be able to work at David Walley’s Resort where she is the general manager’s administrative assistant, or Larry would have to reconsider his job with the Incline Village General Improvement District, where he works four 10-hour days.
“We are so lucky, actually, we are blessed,” said Jenks. “Larry and I don’t worry about whether Christopher and William are getting love and attention. Plus my parents used Old World values to raise my brother and me. My sons are learning those same lessons. My father is a godsend.”
Christopher and William also think that their papa is special. While they stroked the soft fur on their pet guinea pigs, their eyes lit up when asked about their grandfather taking care of them.
“It’s great,” said William.
“Paradise,” said Christopher.
Dolle is also a surrogate grandfather to many of his grandsons’ friends. Parents know that they can count on him drive their children to school and back when they get in a bind. He babysits. Kids come over to the house to play, and he hauls boys to Cub Scout meetings and swim lessons.
“But the best part is when one of them asks me if I am going to read with them at school,” said Dolle. “That is probably the most rewarding part of volunteering, when I help them with their reading.”
Even though Christopher and William are getting older, Dolle said that he would continue to help teachers with the younger students.
“The lower grades have more work for me to do, and I want to stay busy,” said Dolle. “I love working with these teachers. I love this more than I do working.”
Although Jenks said that there wasn’t anything that her father wouldn’t do for the family, Dolle disagreed.
“I don’t like to garden, and Christine is talking about putting one in,” said Dolle. “She’s going to have to take care of that on her own.”
Dolle then checked the clock on the wall and gathered up a stack of papers.
“It’s time to get back to work,” he said as he walked over to the copy machine. “And to think that I hated school when I was a kid.”