He was 91 and as spry as a 30 year old.
I noticed him right away, his WWII Vet ball cap wasn’t out of place, but his face was one that I never remembered seeing at a family reunion. His name is Hugh and my grandfather was his uncle. He was a man that looked like had a million stories to tell but today all he wanted to talk about was the picture of the beautiful woman he held in his hand.
Dorothy was her name and she had been his wife for 66 years.
Dorothy was from the wrong side of the tracks as Hugh liked to tell it, but Dorothy was from the right side of the tracks and it was Hugh who was from the north-side. But Dorothy loved Hugh and Hugh loved Dorothy and for 66 years they raised a family. But it almost wasn’t to be.
Hugh knew that he had to marry this girl so he sent her a ring, as he was preparing to ship out for Europe, hoping beyond hope that she would still be there for him when or more correctly if, he returned home.
Hugh joined the Army Air Corp and trained for duties as a waist gunner in a B-17. 8 missions out and back, 8 more to go, it was number 9 that almost made this story one that I would never know.
In those days the Army Air Corp was flying daylight missions over Germany in an effort to bomb the Nazi war machine into oblivion, and that ninth mission found Hugh and the rest of his crew over Germany. Their bombs released all they had to do was make it back to England, an FW-109 pilot had other ideas.
Flame and smoke from their right wing stretched back past the tail and the Pilot called over the intercom to Hugh, “How’s it look?”
“We better get the hell out of here!” was Hugh’s reply.
So one by one, out the hatch they went.
“I did two somersaults and then yanked on that rip cord” Hugh says, “Then I started looking around. One, two, three, four, five, six, and I make seven. Damn…where are the other 3?”
And then a thought came to him: “I wonder if I’ll ever get married?”
The snow was going up, as he was going down, and then on the ground it was over.
Captured and train ride to Nuremburg, and then a road march to Moosberg, not far from Dachau.
15 months in that camp, and at times the Army Air Corp sent them their love by dropping bombs on the camps. But the Luftwaffe took care of them and treated them respectably and at the end of the war he made it home.
Home to PA and of course home to Dorothy.
Dorothy died three weeks ago.
He looks back at the picture, and you can’t deny it, Dorothy is a beautiful woman. Then he whispers, “I really miss her and can’t wait to get to her.”
And I think to myself “Dorothy waited for you once; she’ll gladly wait for you again.”
He looks at me and I think he knows that too.
Then it’s off to make another track around the pavilion pushing the stroller that holds his great-grandson, six months old now, and as cute as his great-grandmother, and perched on the top of the handle is Dorothy’s picture.