In Memoriam: Positive stories of people who are gone

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boatgeek

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In the broader spirit of Memorial Day, I thought it might be cool to tell positive stories of people who have passed on.

I'll start with my Grandpa C. I've talked about him here before--he's the WWII B-24 pilot who flew 50 missions over Southern Europe and didn't lose a single crewman. This story doesn't really relate to that though. It is a slightly modified version of the story I told at his funeral.

Back in the late 80's, when I was in my mid-teens, we were visiting Grandpa and Grandma at their lake house in Michigan. Right around then, Grandpa decided that he was going to build a playhouse for one of my younger cousins. I either volunteered or was voluntold to help. A learning experience, right? After all, Grandpa was good with his hands and I hadn't done much building of anything. So Grandpa sketched up his idea, made up a list of materials, went to the hardware store and bought a bunch of stuff, and got started building the floor. This was when Grandpa taught me how to drive a nail. I wasn't very good at it. "Let the hammer do the work," Grandpa said, using long swings to get the most of of each strike. It took him three hammer strikes to drive each nail, one to set, one to leave 1/4" of the nail out, and one to finish up. Bang, bang, bang, then on to the next. Turned out Grandpa had built his own house from the Sears catalog after the war. I probably got one nail in for every 10 or 20 of his, but he didn't say anything about that. Eventually, I was only ruining a quarter of the nails I tried to drive. I felt pretty good about that.

You know how you're impressed with the wrong things when you're a kid? I was enthralled with Grandpa's skill at driving nails. I completely missed his true genius. You see, the man built an entire playhouse on one trip to the hardware store. I aspire to a one-trip project half that size. I've come close a couple of times. But I've never quite managed it. Some day, I might. And then maybe my grandkids will have a story of Grandpa and his one-trip project.

What stories can you tell?
 
My grandfather lived through The Battle of the Bulge. Survived with a broken back, and wore a steel brace until he passed.
One trip to visit the grandparents in CO really sticks with me, and I still smile every time I think about it.
A fairly hot CO summer day, everyone was sitting out on the two front porch swings just idly chatting away. My sister, probably 13/14 at the time walked out of the house stood in front of grand dad and poured a full glass of water on his lap.
He sat there, the only sound he made was “ h mph!” We all thought grandpa was rather miffed. He never said a word just stood up and went into the house. Everyone was quiet and my sis started to cry, she said it “was just a joke, playing!”
A few minutes later gran dad opened up the front screen door and nailed my sis with the garden hose! He had gone to the back yard, turned on the hose and walked through the house with it!
That started a life time of family water fights. Any time of year, you never knew when or who was going to get it.
As far as his military time, all he ever said about it was “It is something I would rather forget!”
 
This Memorial Day weekend I am remembering my late uncle Vance, one of my mom’s older brothers. Vance was an Air Force pilot who, throughout his career, was stationed in numerous places throughout the world. One of my earliest memories is from a day at my grandparents’ home in southern Indiana in the early 1960’s; we heard a sonic boom and my grandmother said, “Oh, that’s your uncle Vance!” and we rushed outside. Vance, who was stationed in Texas at the time, would sometimes fly north to Indiana and “ say ‘Hello’” to family in this way. Vance would then fly over the house several times before returning to Texas. Seeing the brief glimpse of underbelly of the jet as it passed over the treetops with roar and wind is something I’ve never forgotten.
In 1970 our family enjoyed a brief visit in Arlington, Virginia with Vance and his family when he was stationed at the Pentagon. Vance showed us around D.C. and took us to the Pentagon where he bought lunch for us one day that weekend.
I remember how tired Vance looked in September 1973 when the Air Force flew him from Bangkok, Thailand where he was stationed at the time to Indiana for the funeral of my grandfather.
My last memory of being with Vance was at my grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration, where several of us listened as he shared stories of some of his flights. Star high school basketball player, Air Force pilot, hero to a much younger me. Thank you for your service, Uncle Vance. Rest in peace.
 
I hope it is alright if I pass on a memory of someone not military related. To the best of my knowledge my Grampa was never in the service. He might have been, but I never heard about it. He was the son of a Welsh immigrant coal miner in Pennsylvania. Farmer, steel maker, woodsman.
Anyway, one summer I was visiting and Grampa was in a good mood and oddly, sober. He and I went for a walk around the property. He introduced me to choke cherries, we got within touching distance of a baby bunny, and tried to get his 'pet' black snake to come out of the rafters in his lumber storage shed. (She somehow knew him and would only come out when he was there) I'm sure there were other things that have slipped away in the years.
That was a banner day, one that I will always cherish.
 
I hope it is alright if I pass on a memory of someone not military related. To the best of my knowledge my Grampa was never in the service. He might have been, but I never heard about it. He was the son of a Welsh immigrant coal miner in Pennsylvania. Farmer, steel maker, woodsman.
Anyway, one summer I was visiting and Grampa was in a good mood and oddly, sober. He and I went for a walk around the property. He introduced me to choke cherries, we got within touching distance of a baby bunny, and tried to get his 'pet' black snake to come out of the rafters in his lumber storage shed. (She somehow knew him and would only come out when he was there) I'm sure there were other things that have slipped away in the years.
That was a banner day, one that I will always cherish.
Thank you for sharing. I didn’t intend to limit stories to service members. I have one about my mom saving a wedding to share later on.
 
I'd like to recognizemy maternal grandfather, David McAfee. He served in the Royal Navy in WWII and was captured by the Japanese when they overran Hong Kong. He spend the duration as a prisoner of war. When be was liberated, he was near starvation and had tuberculosis. He was in rehab for 2 years. He brought the family, including my mom to America in 1948. Sadly, we lost him in 1982 to cancer.
 
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