By Julie Fraser, Wesley Homes Foundation Annual Giving Manager
“This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”
~Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Touted Journalist and television anchorman, Tom Brokaw, described the group of Americans born in the 1920’s as The Greatest Generation. These boys and girls, men and women, would endure pivotal events in our nation’s history which would usher in a new era. A time in our collective history filled with great achievements – many fueled by sorrow, loss and dogged determination.
This is the tale of one man. His name is not important; rather, it is his story and the way his life continues to positively influence the community he calls home. It is his cyclical journey – the path from child to old man which is the heart of this tale. The focus is his life and the lives of seniors like him; their worthiness to be cared for with genuine gratitude & compassion.
He was born in the spring of 1924. A child of the depression abandoned by his parents and brought-up by his widowed grandmother. This boy realized at a very young age the importance of contributing to his household and one of his many odd jobs included leading the circus animals, which had arrived by train, to the big circus tent where they would later perform.
As this boy entered adolescence he joined numerous school civic clubs and after school and weekends worked retail. He participated in sports, met a girl and continued to contribute to his household’s income. He was a stand-out student, a good friend and valued employee. His grandmother was so proud of the young man he had become.
At the age of 18 he enlisted in the Army and once Boot Camp was over this young man was assigned to the European Theatre. He boarded a ship in the Port of New York and headed for Utah Beach in Normandy, France. D-Day had commenced and reinforcements were desperately needed – this was his first time on a ship, open water and the Atlantic Ocean.
If he were telling his story he would make certain to include that he was so sea-sick that he forced himself to eat oranges so when the dry heaves twisted him in knots there would be something in his belly.
This young man had never experienced waves and swells such as this and he thought surely this was the worst thing that would ever happen to him. He would soon find out different. He was about to join a comradery of like-minded souls like none he had ever experienced before. He was about to find out what “I have your back” really means.
In December of 1944 he joined allied forces to push German Soldiers back from the forest of the Ardennes in what is now known as the Battle of the Bulge. He witnessed atrocities and experienced bitter hardships beyond anything his mind could possibly comprehend. However, unlike many of his comrades, he lived to tell his stories. He lived to share with others why democracy and freedom are so very important to our lives.
Once stateside, he married his high school sweetheart and with the help of the G.I Bill entered law school. His first post-graduation position was with the FBI and his first assignment forced him to leave his grandmother, his young wife and to miss the birth of his first child a son who would be given his name.
This young man and his wife would go on to have two more children and make their home in a small town centrally located in the state they both loved -Washington. He was invited to join a law practice and eventually to become a partner. He retired as a District Court Judge and was the recipient of many lessons offered him by those in his courtroom. He gave to his community and it gave back two-fold.
His love for his family, education and small community drew him to collaborate with other civic minded leaders and together they created a town with an infrastructure to be proud of. School levies were passed, the Chamber of Commerce thrived, local theater was embraced and families went about the business of living a good life.
In life, events exist which create a level playing field
If we are fortunate enough – aging is one of these
This young man is now an old man – he is 93. He is still filled with hope and dreams for his community, his family and the business of living. He is frail and tends to forget things from time to time. He is a son, a grandson, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father. This June, he and his wife will celebrate 70 years of marriage.
This man is worthy of every wonderful thing that can possibly come his way. He and his peers are the touchstones of their culture – the courageous warriors of their youth and the sage warriors of our here and now. We are the benefactors of their greatness and it is our duty to provide. To make certain we demonstrate our intrinsic value for seniors no matter the generation they evolve from.
This old man no longer stands as tall as he once did. He is not cuddly like an orphaned puppy. He is not shiny and new. He is, however, rich with stories of giving back. He is at times infirm and invisible. He is stalwart and dignified. He is The Greatest Generation. A generation worthy of our support.
“The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.”
This man is representative of the wonderful residents who call Wesley Homes their home. They are the very people who continue the noble virtue of contributing to make their community strong and support one another through life’s ups and downs.
Wesley Homes Foundation invites you to make a difference in the lives of this great generation by making a contribution; the same way this generation gave and continues to give. It was and remains their honor and with your gift you have the power to say – thank you and join them in supporting others in need!