Monday, March 23, 2009

Greatest Generation

My wife lost her aunt yesterday and found about it today. I knew it would hit her hard as Marsha had been there for her during rough times growing up. Her uncle is a former County Sheriff in a small Nebraska county and lost his wife of nearly 50 years yesterday.

I'd known that his wife, Marsha, had married "Uncle Wilbur" after he lost his wife suddenly in the early 1960's. I also knew that the loss had left him with young kids while he was working as a sheriff. But tonight, googling their names for information, I ran across the story of how my wife's uncle lost his first wife: (Scroll down to "SHERIFF GEWECKE: Murders and Threats")

On January 7, 1960 a local intoxicated man shot into the home of a neighbor of Sheriff Gewecke, thinking it was the Sheriff's home. "The next evening I was out following some leads on the shooting and the man called my wife and informed her that he had killed me, and was coming to our house to kill her and the three kids, "Gewecke said." He returned home to find his wife lying dead of a heart attack in the hallway and the phone torn off the wall.

It was learned later that the man had been trying to shoot the Sheriff's house the night before but got the wrong one. So when his wife answered the phone the next night, alone with three kids, she had to know that these words weren't an empty threat. When she heard that he'd killed her husband, and believed it, it was more than her heart could take.

As we read a little more, we also stumbled across this article about this same uncle and his first wife:

After the war was over, Gewecke was at an airbase in Arizona watching over airplanes that had returned from war. He spotted an airplane with the name Enola Gay and posed for a picture next to it to send home to his first wife, Linola Faye, because of the name similarities. He didn’t find out until after he was discharged that the plane he stood next to was the one that dropped the first atomic bomb

The same article, from last November, describes my wife's Uncle Wilbur's excitement at being selected to fly to Washington DC to view the World War II memorial as part of the Heartland Honor Flight of Omaha:

Wilbur R. Gewecke, 86, and John E. Dier, 87, served in the same war, worked together while county attorney and county sheriff, consider themselves friends, and live just a few blocks away from each other. Now, the two will share one more experience as they fly to Washington, D.C., to view the National World War II Memorial. The World War II veterans will fly to Washington Wednesday as part of the Heartland Honor Flight of Omaha. “I just can’t imagine that I was selected,” Gewecke said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

The story just gets better and reminds me how important it is to simply talk to people if nothing else to hear the amazing stories they might have never been asked about. In fact, each time I hear an NPR story from "Story Corps" I vow to ask "Uncle Wilbur" about the time he survived an airplane crash. I'd heard it "second hand" but never asked him. How amazing that his likely response would be, "Which one?" As the article continues:

"As an in-flight mechanic in charge of making sure that Norden bombsight equipment was working before it went overseas, Gewecke crisscrossed the country working on equipment, transporting aircraft, and training others. He was in five airplane crashes."

When asked about his experience in the Army, my wife's uncle Wilbur avoided the usual cliches and revealed a quick wit, especially for an 86-year old:

“I had a million dollars of experience while I was in the Army, and when they discharged me, I didn’t want a penny more,” Gewecke said.

1 comment:

Ramiro "Remy" Orozco, Esq. said...

My condolences go out to you and your family. I love your uncles quote and believe that it is the most accurate expression of how I feel about my service.

Thanks for sharing,