Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Today -- Flag Day -- is my father-in-law's birthday.  He loved ice cream, so every year for the past eleven years the family has gone out to have ice cream for dinner in honor of Harold's birthday.

     Harold was an amazing man.  When World War II broke out, he and his cousin Eddie dropped out of high school and joined the Navy.  Each, however, had a physical problem that would have kept them out of the service, so they switched papers during those parts of the physical in order to pass.  Harold ended up in a ship in the Pacific which was bombed by the Japanese, leaving a huge hole in the middle of the ship.  Harold ended up waist-deep in water reconnecting live wires to get electricity back to what was left of the ship, allowing the ship to limp back into port rather than sinking.  His actions helped save the lives of the crew and he and several others received medals for their service.

     He married right out of the service.  They moved to a trailer in Atlanta while he enrolled in Georgia Tech on the GI Bill.  He made a little extra money while in school by selling newspapers.  (He was offered a chance to make some real money running moonshine but his wife nixed that idea immediately.)  Along the way, they had the first two of four children; the second grew up to marry me, something I'll be eternally gr ateful for.  Also along the way, officials at Georgia Tech discovered that Harold had never graduated from high school.  They were about to kick him out for falsifying his appllication when he pointed out that he had never lied about having a high school diploma -- he had left the "YEAR GRADUATED" line on his application blank and was accepted on that basis.  And that's how he got his engineering degree from Georgia Tech.

     He spent most of his career working for contractors for the military and not being able to tell his family exactly what he was doing.  The family moved up and down the East Coast, depending where his contracts were.  My wife remembers one time at Cocoa Beach when he woke all four kids on night and said it was a nice night for a walk on the beach; it happened that along that walk they witness the l;aunch of the first Gemini rocket.  When I first met Kitty, he was working two thousand miles away running underground missile tests, something neither of knew until many years later.

    Days before we were about to be married, he was laid off as the bottom fell out of the engineering market.  Harold bounced back, getting a job in audiology, designing devices for the hearing-impaired.  It took several long years before he was able to get back into his own field.

     He was in his late seventies when he developed pancreatic cancer, while dividing his time between Cape Cod and Fort Lauderdale.  He appeared to defeat the cancer twice, but it kept coming back, finally taking him when he was eighty. 

     Several weeks later my grandson Mark was born.  That's what I regret most.  He would have been delighted by and proud of Mark, his first great-grandson.  Harold loved to laugh and Mark would have made him roar.  But there are many times when I see Harold in Mark.  One life leaves and another comer comes.  The circle is unbroken.

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