High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, January 16, 2012

Remembering John

19 years ago today

on the 16th of January, 1993

John Ettline passed away.

John spent the last nine years of his life without Helen.
Can you imagine the strength and courage that it took
for John, a man in his 80s, to go it alone...enduring the hardships of winter and keeping the Dell in operation even
as the clientele became increasingly rough and rowdy?
How many of us could have stood up to that challenge?

 Things to know and remember about John: 

 * John never had any children of his own 
 but he loved kids and believed in them.

 *John was the oldest of eight children, 
 four boys and four girls, and took on the 
 responsibility of caring for his siblings. 

 * Shortly after marrying Helen in Texas 
 John enlisted in the U.S. Army. Nearly 
 40 years of age, John was one of the 
 oldest enlisted men in WWII. He was 
 promised the cavalry but as fate would 
 have it he wound up in a communications 
 unit. John’s unit referred to him as Pops
 John attained the rank of sergeant, served 
 in the European Theatre, and participated 
 in the Battle of the Bulge. John was struck  
 in the head with shrapnel and ordered to  
 go home but he reportedly refused to leave 
 his men.

 * John was a card shark, a gambler, and 
 a wheeler dealer – a larger-than-life type 
 of person – a colorful, loveable, and 
 memorable character.

 * Am I my brother’s keeper? 
 To that question, John Ettline boldly 
 answered “Yes!” To John, a friend 
 in need is a friend indeed was more 
 than a familiar old proverb. It was a 
 policy statement.  They were the 
 words that John lived by. John was 
 known to give financial aid to friends 
 who were down on their luck or owed 
 money to unsavory individuals. 
 Neighbor helping neighbor was the 
 John Ettline philosophy. John and 
 Helen opened their doors and opened 
 their hearts to troubled youth, battered 
 or pregnant women and others who needed  
 their support. John and Helen walked their talk. 

 * As a member of his family expressed it, 
 "John was loved and respected by 
 everyone he came in contact with... 
 especially his family. He offered love, 
 guidance and advice to anyone who 
 would give him the respect and listen.” 

 Please take a moment and watch this video 

 as we honor the memory of Mr. John Ettline. 

 John, you were the King of all Dell Rats

 If we have anything to say about it 

 you and Helen will always be remembered! 

 We love you and miss you, John! 


  1. I count it a loss that I never knew John and Helen in real life, although I am delighted to get to know them through your loving posts.

    I can't help but think this world is a poorer place without them. I am glad their values and philosophies live on in the people they touched, like you, my friend.

    Reading about these fine people makes me want to go out and be a better person. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Do you know where in Texas they were from?

  2. Shelly - I'm sorry to tell you that I don't know exactly where the Ettlines lived in Texas. Information about their earlier lives is scarce. The trivia about that I pass along about Helen and John in these posts observing the dates of their birth and death was obtained from John's nieces. Thank you very much for your touching words this morning, dear Shelly, and have a great week!

  3. He did it his way and so many benefited from his life of service. I truly wish I could have known him and Helen personally. He certainly was not like the average man on the street and lived his life to the fullest. Thanks for sharing his life with us.

    1. You would have liked Helen and John, Odie. They were your kind of people, down to earth and unpretentious. Thanks so much for paying your respects today, good buddy!

  4. This was a very enjoyable post. It sounds like John was truly a great man and I read your previous post about Helen too. They must be sorely missed by so many. I've often wondered how my paternal grandfather kept going after my grandmother passed. I guess people just do what they have to, although I can't even imagine how difficult it must be. Thank you for sharing these wonderful people with us. Wishing you a fabulous week, filled with pleasant memories like the ones you always share here. :)

    1. Jenn June - Hello again, my new friend! How are you? Helen and John are missed individually and many of us also miss the type of people they represent. Sadly, the Ettlines were already part of a vanishing breed even in the 60s. Today, too many people have become isolationist. They don't know their neighbors and they wouldn't be particularly eager to help them out. John and Helen moved TOWARD trouble, not away from it. They stepped up and did what most people expect government agencies and charitable organizations to do. They rolled up their sleeves, got their hands dirty and helped people. Thank you very much for sticking with me, Jenn June. We're back to music and fun in tomorrow's post! Till then, have a great day!

  5. I feel blessed to know of John and his life through you, Shady. I can see clearly into this place and this time through your memory. If I were to write the screenplay, I'd hope that John Goodman would be cast in this role! But the real man who was John and what he stood for is more valuable than anything we can attempt to recreate. I'll think of his philosophy of neighbor helping neighbor today in his honor.

  6. Jenny - Hello, dear friend! John Goodman would be a great casting choice to play John Ettline. John Ettline was a stocky, sturdy man with a deep voice and a larger than life presence. He commanded attention when he entered a room and people listened when he spoke. He never needed to shout because his authority was unchallenged. Thank you very much for taking the time to learn what little I know about this remarkable couple and to understand the profound impact they had on the lives of countless teenagers. Have a wonderful week, dear Jenny!

  7. He sounds like such an amazing man and what a huge gap he's obviously left in so many lives..

    1. Hi, Gawgus! John made an indelible impression on young lives and left in his wake a void that cannot easily be filled. Thank you very much, dear Emma, for paying your respects today to Mr. John Ettline.

  8. John came from the generation that survived the Great Depression. He was in a WW that's purpose was to shut out evil, as Tom Brokaw put it The Greatest Generation. And then he came home to create a kind and caring place that was unique enough to keep the interest and enjoyment of teenagers going strong for decades. I've always loved where you write about him calling you all 'gentleman'. I attended a seminar on raising children by the author Mary McCracken. She said always refer to your children in a way you would like them to grow to be. Specifically when correcting them call them Young Man or Young Lady. Not you lousy so and so. John Ettline got that and helped raise generations of young men and young ladies. What a better place he created for us all.
    Thank you for sharing your memories Tom.
    Blessings to you today...

    1. It certainly was a powerful presupposition for John to refer to us as ladies and gentleman as we passed through the entrance of his Shady Dell. It made most of us act as if. John and Helen represented the best of the WWII generation and it's hard to find people today who rally to the aid of their fellow man like they did. Thank you very much for helping me to remember a man who greatly influenced my life Sush! Have a wonderful week, dear friend!

  9. He sounds like he was a great man to have in your corner. I'm sure he is bringing music to the masses wherever he is.

    (so what did you think of Lana? She seemed so nervous on SNL and I thought her performances certainly suffered because of that.)

    1. Amber - Thank you for showing up for John today. Clearly you understand what kind of a man he was and why I'm still writing about him today.

      I was wondering if you'd agree with me that her performance was lacking on SNL. I thought it was the acoustics or the sound system but if you say she appeared nervous then you probably know better than I do. She received an enthusiastic round of applause though, but still...
      Thank you very much, dear Amber, and have a fine evening up your way!

    2. I felt so bad for her. I think the main problem with the performance was her nerves but whatever the reason it was not good. Its such a shame since that was probably the first time a lot of people heard her sing. Have a great night!

  10. John was an exceptional man. I have come to admire him so much through your blog. He saw value in every person which is a rare and beautiful quality.

    I found his military career interesting and what a blessing he was then to his men and country.

    You said he he raised his brothers and sisters. This is what my maternal grandfather did when his mother died and his father left. Like John he was a good man who, with my grandma, took in pregnant teens in the 1940s.

    Thanks for reminding us again how much good a man can do in this world. John's life is a testament to that.

  11. Belle - My mother used to tell stories about large extended families sharing the same dwelling and neighbor helping neighbor during the Depression years and the 40s. Today volunteers organize to help the community but it's not the same as it was. People used to take personal responsibility for the welfare of their friends and neighbors. They didn't sit back and wait for an agency or charity to put together a program or a fund drive. I can tell that you know John well by now, Belle. He searched for and found the good in every young person, especially those who were neglected and rejected by their own families. Thank you very much for coming to testify today, dear Belle, and have a pleasant evening in Canada!

  12. My dear Tom,

    Your post in tribute to John was just like you, to be thinking of someone who is no longer with us, but meant so much to you in your youth. I really admire the way that you are keeping John and Helen's memory alive through your blog, and, in particular, with these touching tributes when it is their birthday or some other event to be remembered. I hope that they are looking down = how wonderful to be remembered in such a way.

    It's been a lovely bright day again here, although much colder than of late, but I don't mind that. It's the dark dreary days that I don't like.

    Warmest wishes from Thisisme.

    1. Hallo, Thisisme! I'm glad your fair weather is holding up. Correct me if I'm wrong but this has been a kinder, gentler winter for you than last year's was. I get depressed quite easily on dark and dreary days. Fortunately we don't have many here in the Sunshine State.

      Thank you for being here in memory of John. When I started this blog in 2008 there was hardly a mention of John, Helen or their Shady Dell to be found anywhere. I made it my mission to ensure that this wonderful couple and the magical place they operated for decades would be much more than just a footnote in York County history. Thank you again, dear friend, for joining us here today to remember a great man, John Ettline.

  13. Tom, I'm so happy to see you paying tribute to someone who you and so many others clearly admired and loved dearly. It's great to be able to read about John's life (or a small part of it anyway). It's hard to believe he enlisted in the army at what was probably considered at the time to be ancient! What a sacrifice to make! I'm very impressed with what I know about him so far from reading your blog and I hope to learn much more in future.

    Emma x

    PS. thanks for stopping by my tumblr, it's great to know we have other interests in common and I agree amber heard is one of the most beautiful women in the world!

  14. Emma - Thank you very much for staying up late to visit me and pay respects to John. I have two other John Ettline posts in rotation on the blog, his birthday observance and the Father's Day post. Each of those contains a few more tidbits about John but I wish there was much more. John's nieces are in their 70s and relied on distant memories to provide these details about their uncle when I interviewed them nearly four years ago. Thank you, dear Emma, for being a super friend. I hope you get a good night's sleep and have a terrific week ahead!

  15. What a great post and what a wonderful man. The world needs a lot more John's in it, doesn't it? I've written about Doris and John who were my salvation so I can appreciate this post more than some may. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Hi, Barb! It means a lot to me that you took time to come over and express your thoughts about my tribute post. I agree that people like John are scarce these days. He was a man whose actions spoke much louder than his words. He and his wife Helen walked their talk. I'm sorry you're having tech difficulties and I hope that everything gets smoothed out in your life very soon. Thanks again, dear Barb!

  16. Sounds like such a fabulous man and this is a BEAUTIFUL tribute!!

    1. Thank you, Kristina! It's sweet of you to come by and join your fellow Dell rats in remembering our dear John.

  17. Hi Shady, I was able to come back to read again. What a prince! John was kind of like a Robin Hood? Only, he didn't rob from the rich...he just gave to the poor and needy.

    I wonder if he knew how much you admired him, and obviously learned from him. Things do rub off on us, you know. Did he realize how many lives he touched in a good way, and how he left his mark?

    Because of him, you're able to write exciting memoirs of experiences that most haven't had. Your time spent within the Shady Dell weren't just for grew from it. We all have at least one person whom we take with us all through life.

    John, if you're watching, you're surely proud!

    See you Shady!


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