a special WWII veteran in my life… a re-post in honor of Memorial Day

May 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

There are people you meet in life that leave an impression that just never goes away. For me, that person is Chet. Except I never actually met Chet, he was just always there, from day one.

Chet wasn’t a blood relative. He was a close friend of grandmother’s, lived with her for many years, through thick and thin. It could be tough for them at times. He was a true member of my family and I’m not sure he ever realized it.

Chet was my grandfather without actually being a grandfather. He was there for every event in my life. His generosity was evident at birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day. He and my grandmother loaded up the car and took us on summer excursions. Many miles were consumed seeking out motels that met my grandmother’s requirements for “clean” and Chet’s determination that the place needed to have a swimming pool. I loved to swim—he taught me how to dive during one of those trips.

He took us to amusements parks, circuses, museums and baseball games. We even descended beneath the city to visit the dark and creepy yet intriguing world of a working salt mine. I still clearly remember the smell and the cave-like surroundings, with walls composed of sparkly salt, eerie yet beautiful at the same time.

We were the only kids in the neighborhood to have a little roller coaster in our backyard thanks to Chet.

As I reflect back, it was not the monetary generosity that mattered most, although that was always apparent. It was a deeper, richer generosity. Don Rickles once said the key to a happy life is to surround yourself with people who care. Chet cared. Simple as that. My whole family cared.

Chet passed away twenty-some years ago at age 69 from heart issues that troubled him for several years of his life. Heart issues that I am sure medical science could intervene with very easily these days thanks to coronary stents and the plethora of pharmaceuticals that are catapulted at us now, but that wasn’t meant to be for him.

He’d probably be a little embarassed to be written about this way. He never did anything famous, he never owned a home, never married, never had children. He quietly fought in WWII and like all the veterans of that war, didn’t expect much for his efforts there and rarely spoke about it.

I found this old photo of him and written on the back in his own writing were the words, “A little dog I met at the Beach, 9-24-42.” I love this photo. It represents what this man was all about—a quiet,¬†unassuming¬†guy, always there if you needed him. A man who wouldn’t hesitate to pick you up, smile, lend a hand, expecting nothing in return.

I wish he could be here now to see what became of us and I wish I had an opportunity to tell him he mattered.

Thank you for being there, for taking part. I think of you often.

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