28 January 2017

Steady as She Goes

Our world has lost another hero this week. This man was not one you have likely heard of. He wasn't famous. He wasn't flashy. He was just a quiet man who went his quiet way through life. Steady and ordinary. He would have been the first to say he was no one special.

The two things I will always remember about Henry are his sweet corn and his dogs. I loved the one and feared the other. Every summer, he gave our family of seven enough sweet corn to put some in the freezer. It was an all day process, blanching the corn and shaving it off the ears into the freezer containers. I am still searching for sweet corn that tastes like his. It was the best. Henry's wife, Audrey, was my piano teacher, so every week for several years I went to his farm. I liked the lessons well enough, but I sure didn't like the dogs. Henry trained his dogs to guard his house, and they did a good job.

Henry was born on a farm in Illinois in 1923. After he survived the Great Depression and graduated from High School, he joined the United States Navy and was trained as a mechanic. Day in and day out, he and his mates kept their ships in good operating condition.

Photo Credit: US Army, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

On June 6, 1944, Henry was pulled out of the engine room by a superior officer and directed to use a long pole to keep the bodies of his dead comrades out of the path of the landing craft. This was his job for the rest of the day. Seventy-two years later he told me the story. We were visiting with him and Audrey in their room at the Care Center.

He answered some of our questions, and then he sat caught in his thoughts. Several minutes later, he rejoined the conversation as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. All his life he carried that memory with him, yet he was one of the kindest, steadiest men I have known. It is true that he was a hero for his actions on June 6, 1944; but Henry was a hero to me because of the life he lived after that day.

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