Friday, October 01, 2004

Edward J. Paul

Today is my father's birthday. If he was alive, he would be 90 today. He was born just after the outbreak of World War I, a time that seems like ancient history today. According to the VA, there are only 623 living veterans from that war. His parents were of Czech ancestry, his mother having come to the US in 1901 when she was only 13 years old. My father survived the great influenza outbreak of 1918 that killed more people than World War I. He grew up during prohibition. He told me that when he was little his father used to send him to the speakeasy to get a growler of beer ("growler" was a slang term for a pail of beer). He reached adulthood during the Great Depression which must have been a very difficult time.

He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was sent to training school in California. He was never sent overseas, partly because of a medical condition and partly because of his age (at 28 he was an old man when he joined up). The closest he came was during the "Battle of the Bulge" when reinforcements were needed. He spent the war in various bases in the west including Tonapah and Walla Walla, Washington.

After the war, he went home, got a job in sheet metal, and married my mom, Helen. They raised three kids, Edward Jr., Barbara, and me. By the time I came along my father was already in his mid-40's so my memories of him are as an older man. I could relate to how Ray Kinsella describes his father in the movie Field of Dreams, a movie that is very personal to me.

By the time I was old enough to relate to my father as an adult, he started suffering the affects of Alzheimer's Disease. He died of the disease in 1996 but by that time he was long gone. I still miss him and I miss mostly that I never got to know him as an adult and so many of my memories of him are tainted by that horrible disease. Happy Birthday, Dad. I know that you are in a better place.

5 comments:

Map said...

Big hug, Tom...

Debra Hamel said...

A nice post. My mother had Alzheimer's and died almost a year ago herself.

I'm shocked that there are so few veterans of World War I still with us.

Tom P. said...

The figure of 623 living veterans was an estimate for 2004 from a Veteran's Affair document from 2001. I found another document from October, 2003 that says there are less than 200 living World War I veterans. I am old enough that I remember seeing Spanish-American War veterans march in the Memorial Day parades. The last one, Nathan E. Cook, died in 1992 at the age of 106.

Elblog said...

A fitting tribute from a good Son.

Heidi said...

What a wonderful tribute Tom. My grandfather died of Alzheimers so have some idea of your pain. I am sure he is very proud of you, where ever he is.