Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Remembering A Hero

As most of you know my grandfather Paul died on April 27th.  He lived with his wife, Lee in Michigan.  He was 90 years old and lived an amazing life.  He was very healthy for most of his life and worked longer than most.  In the end he died at home, peacefully, just the way he wanted. 

He was a veteran of three wars - WWII, Korean and Vietnam.  He entered the US Army in 1943 and was honorably discharged in 1945.  He served with the 115 Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division as a combat medic.  He participated in the June 6, 1944 invasion on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. On June 12, 1944, he was captured by the German Army and would become a prisoner of war for over eleven months until he heroically escaped in 1945. Paul was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for D-Day invasion and a second bronze star for his heroism in the battle on June 12, 1944, the day of his capture.  He was also the recipient of the Republic of France Legion of honor for outstanding military service (photo on right).

Paul re-entered the United States Air Force in November of 1951.  A proud member of the 474th Fighter Bomber Group in Korea.  He later served in Vietnam 1965 as a Military advisor to the Republic of South Vietnam.  In December of 1969 Paul retired from the Air Force as a Senior Master Sergeant.

Lee asked me to take photos at the services.  There were beautiful flowers at his wake from friends and family near and far. 

My mother made photo boards with photos from my grandfather's live.  People really enjoyed looking at them.  We have a lot of happy memories with him including a trip to MI for his surprise 80th birthday and a ND/MI football game, a vacation with him and Lee to Ireland, my brother's wedding, my mom's surprise birthday dinner, and many other dinners and get togethers when they would visit.  He loved being a grandfather and great-grandfather even though he never thought he was old!

My grandfather's medals were on display at his wake.  I met many people that day for the first time.  They knew my grandfather in many different ways including friends from his POW group that he had started attending at the VA in recent years.  I heard many times that day that my grandfather was a hero.  While he didn't talk much about his time as a POW with his family he did share many memories with his group

My grandfather was featured in the book PORTRAITS OF SERVICE Looking into the Faces of Veterans by Robert H. Miller and Andrew Wakeford which received the Independent Publisher 2012 Outstanding book of the Year, Freedom Fighter Award.  This book shares diverse stories of 60 veterans from WWII to recent wars, stories of the heroes to the homeless.  It is quite moving.

My grandfather's funeral was at this beautiful church, St. Matthew, in Detroit.  He laid in state at the church prior to the funeral mass.

My three brothers, as well as a few of Lee's relatives, including her great nephew who is active military, were the pallbearers.

Due to my grandfather being buried at the National Cemetery we had to wait until two days later for that (his funeral was on a Saturday and the burial Monday since they don't do them on Sundays).

So after the funeral we all went to one of my grandfather's favorite restaurants to eat, drink and share more memories.  The man on the left is a good friend of my grandfather's.  He lives in RI and worked with my grandfather for many years when my grandfather was working in RI.  He shared some great memories about him and had everyone smiling in agreement. 

The woman on the right is playing an Irish pipe whistle because my grandfather really liked the music they made.

It is somewhat hard to take "people pictures" at wakes and funerals since everyone is crying but we did manage to get a few.  My parents on the left and my brother Allan on the right who told us if it was a true Irish funeral we would all be drinking whiskey.  The restaurant we were at had a "whiskey sampler" so he drank some for all of us! 

My brothers who were not thrilled to be in a photo and will probably kill me for putting this on my blog (but since I don't think they read it they will never know right!?)

Wayne is the man who ran the POW group at the VA that my grandfather was involved in and he shared many stories with us about my grandfather.
My brother Tim and mom.

Lee and I (left) and my mom and I (right).

Afterwards we went back to the hotel to change and then over to the house with Lee to watch the Kentucky Derby.  We ate (again) and just hung out together.  It was an emotionally draining two days with many sad tears but also some happy tears and laughs.  We shared many great memories and truly celebrated his life.

I'll be sharing photos from his burial with full military honors at the National Cemetery tomorrow.  It was my first time to be at a military funeral.


  1. Your grandfather sounds like he was a truly amazing man. And handsome to boot! You guys did a wonderful job sending him off.

  2. I'm sorry for your lose. What an impressive military career and service to our country! We had a a party after my grandmothers wake in a very similar style, it is not an Irish wake without an open bar :)

  3. What an amazing man your grandfather seemed to be. A POW for 11 months and went back for multiple wars, just heroic! Looks like you celebrated his life just like he lived his life!