My uncle died recently, and while his passing was sad the stories we’ve shared about his life remind me of all the characters we are losing with the demise of the Greatest Generation.
Born into the poverty of the Great Depression and steeled by the perils of war, this was a generation that persevered and was rewarded with a lifetime of grace and abundance like this country had never seen.
My uncle was many things in his life: A state champion miler (“the Galloping Goose from Goessel”), a soldier, a teacher, an author, a ham radio operator, a Fuller Brush salesman, a father, grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather.
One of my two New York aunts wrote to me about Uncle Randy, saying he could always find something good to do whatever the situation. She recalled that when his unit landed on Luzon in the Philippines in anticipation of the invasion of Japan during WWII, a team member found an ice cream freezer for sale in the village, and he bought the freezer.
Randy had a relative in the supply quarters, and he asked him for ice cream powder. He then traded some supplies for an ice-making machine, and the unit lived like kings eating ice cream every day.
But in an instant, their lives changed when the commanding officer found out about the ice cream freezer. The CO said it wasn’t fair for Randy’s unit to have ice cream when no one else did and confiscated the freezer. So much for living like royalty.
Soon thereafter, someone noticed that the officers were making ice cream for themselves with the little freezer, so one night the duty guard snatched it back. The unit made a secret space in a large pile of batteries to store the freezer, and soon they were able to make ice cream again.
The colonel used to join them for a treat, instead of turning Randy in.
We could all learn a lesson about resilience and perseverance from our Greatest Generation — truly resourceful people make their own luck. When life deals us a bad hand, we’ve got to find our own ice cream freezers and make the best of it when we do.