A Photo for Memorial Day

A few years ago one of my cousins sent me a collection of photographs he’d found among his late mother’s possessions and scanned into digital files.  Many of them I’d seen before, but this picture of my young parents was a delightful surprise.  If my mother even knew it existed, she didn’t have a copy.  I don’t know when it was taken, if my dad was home on leave or home for good, but it was clearly a homecoming.

Home from WWII

My parents were married in September 1941, only a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but they had been friends since they met at the age of eleven.  According to an undated newspaper clipping my cousin sent, my dad left his job in the advertising department of Schuster’s Department Store in Milwaukee the following October for the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Columbia University in New York City.  He graduated first in his class of 1,270 men (wow!–I didn’t know that until I saw the clipping).

Dad never talked much about his military service.  He certainly had the personality and organizational skills to be a fine officer, but I suspect he wasn’t as fond of the structured environment.  I know he taught communications skills at the Navy school at Columbia for a few months, long enough for my mother to join him in New York.  I know he spent most of his service as a deck officer on the U.S.S. The Sullivans in the Pacific, dodging Kamikaze pilots and typhoons.  He stayed with the ship for a few months after the war at the Mare Island Shipyard near San Francisco; my mother had vivid, and mostly happy, memories of life in a Quonset hut.

My dad had vivid memories of those kamikaze attacks, and once threw himself flat on a cement sidewalk in the suburbs of Miami in reaction to a low-flying mosquito spray plane.  He came back into the house that early morning with the newspaper he’d gone out to collect, a badly scraped face, and a sheepish expression.  That became his favorite War Story.

Mom and Dad have been gone for a good many years now.  They left me a few years apart, Dad in 1982 and Mom in 1989.  I’d like to think their happy reunion was captured by some celestial photographer.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeb610
    May 27, 2012 @ 17:54:13

    Enjoyed your Post. Reminded me of my father, also in the Navy in the Pacific during WWII fighting Kamikaze planes. Sweet picture.

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  2. Nikki McIntosh
    May 28, 2012 @ 12:22:46

    Wow – what a great post. And a great pic — and so wonderful you came across it. It really tells a story all on its own!!

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  3. Laurie A. Green
    May 29, 2012 @ 10:03:39

    What a wonderful photo of your parents to have, Kay! Both my Mom and Dad talked about the difficulty of the war years all their lives, and though I have a few photos that have survived that era, certainly none as dramatic and romantic as yours.

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    • Kay Hudson
      May 29, 2012 @ 10:51:18

      I think my Mom mostly enjoyed the war years, Laurie, with the obvious exception of worrying about Dad and all the other young men. But she and her sisters and friends had jobs they liked, lived where they wanted, traveled without worry accross the country–she once took a train from Milwaukee to San Diego to meet Dad and had Thanksgiving en route with people she met along the way. It was really a different world.

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  4. Cheryl Bolen
    May 31, 2012 @ 12:31:15

    Since I love all things WW II, I loved your post and the photo. What a great cover it would make!

    I’m not surprised your dad was tops in his class. You (Mrs. Perfect) must take after him. I’m bettin’ if you weren’t validictorian, you were close.

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    • Kay Hudson
      May 31, 2012 @ 12:38:23

      Nope, never a valedictorian. If I recall correctly, I was number ten in a class of about 1100 in high school. I was, however, the top girl. Those nine over-achieving guys took more advanced science classes than I did (I was taking language and literature). As for college, I don’t have a clue where I ranked. My parents weren’t coming for graduation, so Jack and I went to the coast for seafood instead.

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  5. Cheryl Bolen
    May 31, 2012 @ 19:54:37

    Top girl in a class of 1,100! Why am I not surprised?

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