I’ll be sharing some of my memories, as well as those of my family members for a little while. Some parts will be memories shared by my Mom, told to me and written down from emails she sent to one of my sibs. Wish I could expand on that one, but my siblings all prefer that I don’t use their names, so some photos will be posted as well as their memories.
The photo above is my Uncle Leo, an unsung hero of WWII. And the first that I want to talk about. My Aunt recently told me a very new story about her brothers, and this is one that she shared. Leo fought his way from North Africa up to Europe, being the only survivor three times that I’ve heard of. My Uncle Vird was in Paris when he and Leo first met up during the war. Vird had checked a jeep out of the motor pool, reasons I don’t know, and was driving along one of the streets in Paris when he spotted Leo on a street corner, tired, disheveled and seemingly alone in the world. He stopped and yelled, “Hey, soldier, want a ride?” Leo jumped at that offer, got in the jeep and thanked his big brother without ever looking up to see who was driving. It only took a couple of minutes before Vird let him know just who his chauffeur happened to be. They then spent the rest of their time together, just happy to be family together again.
This photo is of Leo and Vird, possibly during that first meeting, but possibly not. I know from later years that Leo never spoke to his kids about his experiences during the war, and I find it so typical of him. Who would ever want to relive the horror of the things he saw and experienced. He was a machine gunner, and my personal memories of him — when I was old enough to begin having memories, are of a curly haired young man with a remarkable sense of humor. He built his family home behind ours, out there on Highway 81, and we were always right there for the bulk of his fun.
One of his favorite descriptions of my older brother was “a big long slim slick sycamore sapling”. Try saying that really fast a few times. He was a great cook, as were most of my Aunts, Uncles, grandparents (well, Grandmother, anyway!) and my Mom. Back in the day we had a family reunion every summer and after Leo built his home he added a barbecue pit, so that was the place to go on that day. My uncles had perfected their own sauce recipe, one that I still use today when I barbecue anything, even if I do it in the crock pot. And he was also the one who brought home the recipe for burgoo, that local pot of heavenly taste that goes so well with barbecue. Not a soup, not a stew, but something in between, filled with meat and veggies, all ground up and cooked over outdoor fires for at least 12 hours. Mom managed to cut the 60 gallon recipe down to one for 5 gallons, give or take, and one of my sibs managed to cut it down to one gallon. Hoo-RAh for them, because I don’t have a prayer of cutting recipes down. I seem to always make more than the original.
One last photo for today, Leo standing somewhere in a field, probably in France, but I’m not sure. My photo just had his name and “somewhere during WWII” written on the back. I have a hard time remembering when those photos I would always remember were taken in my own time, so I doubt if anyone will remember when this one was taken. We just feel privileged to have them and so thankful that our Uncles all came home. Now if we could only go back for a few hours, I would know the questions to ask them. A.