Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A tribute to BHW

My brother-in-law, Bruce, is gravely ill in a hospital in SW Virginia. His family is in a 'round-the-clock vigil all trying to make him as comfortable as they can. He and my sister observed their 53rd wedding anniversary last Sunday. Where has the time gone?

I fist met Bruce in the large commons area of John Sutton Hall on the campus of (then) Indiana State Teachers College. JS was the dorm where most of the women lived. I am not sure of the year...1953, 1954...but his entrance was memorable. Bruce was in ROTC and we knew he was "sharp" (Chickie had told us that before,) but before he came into sight we heard his crisp cadence of foot steps coming down the hall. He may have had cleats on his shoes or not, but either way his demeanor gave him away and it stayed with me all those years.

Mom and Dad took Chickie (aka Phyllis) to the Army base where Bruce was in summer camp between his junior and senior year at Indiana. I am not sure which base that was, but I am thinking it was in Virginia. Brother Jim and I did not go along. This was Chickie's trip and she was all atwitter about going...then so excited about the pictures when they got back. The pictures I remember. There was the young couple lounging around the pool at a motel in the south...both looking "svelt" or as I recall Bruce describing Chickie as "hefty" which was a euphemism for "built" or even "sexy." I was glad to hear he approved of my sister.

His dad was a Dodge man and I got my first look at the new Chrysler product with a push-button transmission. Oh yes, he was from Duke Center, PA (near Olean, NY.)

They married in December of 1955...six months before Chickie graduated. It was not the custom then for couples to travel unchaperoned together before they were married. He had written a very proper letter to Mom and Dad explaining the need for them to be married to assure that they got the proper housing when Chickie could join him at Fort Knox after graduation. It all made such good sence. (I used a similar tack when Aleene and I got married before she graduated from Indiana, as well.)

By this time I was 14 and was wise to the world and I began to really enjoy Bruce's company when he/they would visit. We would discuss guy things, Army things, and national issues. Soon (18 months later), Cindy was born and we were off to Ft. Knox for the traditional visit of the grands. I was so proud of my Army brother...1st Lieutenant by then.

The next year Tammi was born and Mother flew to Ft. Lee for the traditional mother of the new mother helping visit. Dad and I follwed by car a few weeks later. Really, I drove all the way, since Dad did not drive much. Bruce was sporting a dark blue 1956 Chevy...really sharp....I think this year he was a captain. I recall the car, because after a quick trip somewhere we sat in the car after returning listening to something on the radio that we wanted to complete and he took out his handkerchief and dusted the steering wheel and the dash. He was squared away...(navy term).

Those are my teenage memories. But more importantly, Bruce was a gentleman. He was a role model for me and while I went Navy...his career service in the Army was never far from my mind. His unaccompanied service in Korea and Viet Nam was done without complaint...they did have good years together in France and Germany, too.

He was a great father, too. They raised three lovely daughters who married well and continue to raise their families. Daw, they call him. Grand parent knicknames being what they are, I could never quite see Bruce as Daw, but that name continues today as we discuss his condition with family. It just doesn't fit the image I painted above, now does it?

He is comfortable today and seemingly waiting for the last "full measure" to complete life's journey. So as I talk to family and try to lend support from afar...it is to BHW that I take my hat off and say: from my vantage point...well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Uncle Tom for the tribute to Dad. Hearing others stories of him is comforting and always a treat.

See you at the airport tomorrow night.



Meg said...

It is fun to hear stories of Daw and what he was like. I think Carrie is planning on addressing the nickname "Daw" at the funeral. It will be a lesson for all.

Have a safe trip out east. It will be great to see you!