Today my father-in-law would have been, what? 98? His birthday is easy to remember because it is also Flag Day. (His wife, Eileen, was born on Bastille Day. No, not the original Bastille Day, despite the rumors I have tried to spread -- but on the anniversary of Bastille Day.)
Harold died shortly before his first great-grand-son Mark was born, which is a shame because he would have gotten a great kick out of Mark.
Harold was a short, re-headed man with a fireplug body that belied his County Cork ancestry. He was a product of the final days of the "No Irish Need Apply" era -- something that galled him all his life. He was a gentle man, warm and funny, but he had a temper. Problem was Harold was not the type of person to know what to do with a temper.
When World War II came about, he and his cousin Eddie joined the Navy. Because each had a condition that might have excluded them from service, they switched identities and papers for part of their physicals and both were okayed for service. Harold ended up in the Pacific and had a lot of funny stories about the war. Like so many others who served, he only told funny stories and avoided talking or thinking about things that were absolutely not funny. When his ship had its middle blasted out by the Japanese, Harold was tasked with going below and restoring the ship's electricity -- while standing in waist-deep water. He won a Bronze Star for that.
After the war, married and with a child, Harold enrolled in Georgia Tech. He supported himself by selling newspapers. (He had an opportunity to make more money by running moonshine, but Eileen put her foot down.) When close to graduation, Georgia Tech found out that Harold had never graduated from high school and tried to expel him, saying that he had lied on his application. He had them bring out his original application, showing them that he left the space for high school graduation blank. (He was always scrupulously honest.) So Harold graduated and began a long career as an engineer, most often in the space program and sometimes working on something so top secret that his family did not know where he was working.
He loved the water and he loved kids. He was a genuine good guy.
He also loved ice cream, often taking the family to Kimball Farms in Westford, Massachusetts, where they make the most killer home-made ice cream, sundaes, and splits -- a single serving could substitute as a meal. (Coincidently, yesterday number of members of my high school class held a min-reunion at Kimball's; fifteen hundred miles away, I'm jealous.) So, every year we celebrate Harold's birthday by having ice cream for dinner.
I can't think of a more appropriate way of honoring him.
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