By Julie Fraser, Wesley Homes Foundation Annual Giving Manager
He and his peers are the touchstones of their culture – the courageous warriors of their youth and the sage warriors of our here and now.
Award-winning journalist and television anchorman Tom Brokaw described the group of Americans born in the 1920s as The Greatest Generation. These boys, girls, men and women would endure pivotal events in our nation’s history, events that would usher in a new era. This was a time in our collective history that was filled with great achievements – many fueled by sorrow, loss and dogged determination.
This is the tale of one man, his story and the way his life continues to positively influence the community he calls home. It is his cyclical journey. His path path from child to old man is the heart of this tale.
He was born in the spring of 1924. A child of the depression abandoned by his parents and brought-up by his widowed grandmother. This boy realized at a young age the importance of contributing to his household, and one of his many odd jobs included leading the circus animals, which had arrived by train, to the big circus tent where they would later perform.
As this boy entered adolescence, he joined numerous school civic clubs and worked retail after school and on weekends. He participated in sports, met a girl and continued to contribute to his household’s income. He was a stand out student, good friend and valued employee. His grandmother was so proud of the young man he had become.
At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Army. Once boot camp was over, he was assigned to the European Theatre. He boarded a ship in the Port of New York and headed for Utah Beach in Normandy, France. D-Day had commenced, and reinforcements were desperately needed. This was his first time on a ship, open water and the Atlantic Ocean.
If he were telling his story, he would make certain to include that he was so sea-sick that he forced himself to eat oranges so when the dry heaves twisted him in knots there would be something in his belly.
He had never experienced the waves and swells of the ocean, and he thought surely this was the worst thing that would ever happen to him. He would soon find out differently. He was about to join a camaraderie of like-minded souls. He was also about to find out what “I have your back” really means.
In December of 1944, he joined allied forces to push German soldiers back from the forest of the Ardennes in what is now known as the Battle of the Bulge. He witnessed atrocities and experienced bitter hardships beyond anything his mind could possibly comprehend. However, unlike many of his comrades, he lived to tell his stories. He lived to share with others why democracy and freedom are so important.
Once stateside, he married his high school sweetheart and entered law school with the help of the G.I Bill. His first post-graduation position was with the FB,I and his first assignment forced him to leave his grandmother and his young wife and to miss the birth of his first child, a son who would be given his name.
This young man and his wife would go on to have two more children and make their home in a small town centrally located in Washington State. He was invited to join a law practice and eventually to become a partner. He retired as a District Court Judge and was the recipient of many lessons offered him by those in his courtroom. He gave to his community, and it gave back two-fold.
His love for his family, education and small community drew him to collaborate with other civic-minded leaders, and together they created a town with an infrastructure to be envied. School levies were passed, the Chamber of Commerce thrived, local theater was embraced and families went about the business of living a good life.
In life, events exist which create a level playing field. If we are fortunate enough – aging is one of these.
At 93, this young man is now an “old man”. He is still filled with hope and dreams for his community, his family and the business of living. He is frail and tends to forget things from time to time. He is a son, a grandson, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father. This June, he and his wife will celebrate 70 years of marriage.
This man is worthy of every wonderful thing that can possibly come his way. He and his peers are the touchstones of their culture – the courageous warriors of their youth and the sage warriors of our here and now. We are the benefactors of their greatness, and it is our duty to provide, to make certain we demonstrate our intrinsic value for seniors no matter the decade of their birth.
This old man no longer stands as tall as he once did. He is not cuddly like an orphaned puppy. He is not shiny and new. He is, however, rich with stories of giving back. He is at times infirm and invisible. He is stalwart and dignified. He is The Greatest Generation, a generation worthy of our support.
“The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.”
This man is representative of the wonderful residents who call Wesley Homes their home. They are the very people who continue the noble virtue of contributing to make their community strong and support one another through life’s ups and downs.
Wesley Homes Foundation invites you to make a difference in the lives of this great generation by making a contribution － the same way this generation gave back and continues to give back. It was and remains their honor. With your gift, you have the power to say, “Thank you!” Join them in supporting others in need!
To learn how you can support Wesley Homes, click here to contact Julie Fraser, Annual Giving Manager, or call 206.870.1262.