by Jackie K. Cooper
My father-in-law died last week. He was eighty-four years old, but I still had hoped he had several more years left on this earth. His name was Joe Millard, and he was an exemplary individual. He was also a member of what Tom Brokaw has called "The Greatest Generation," those people who were born prior to and during the depression and fought the good fight during World War II.
Joe was a member of the Navy and saw duty during World War II. Although he was born in Scotland and was not a U.S. citizen when he enlisted, he argued with the recruiter that we were all fighting the same enemy. He and his brother Danny were accepted for duty in the Navy, and Joe became a citizen after the war ended. Danny did not make it home from the war.
Joe adored his brother Danny. Just days before Danny was killed, Joe learned that the ship he was on and the ship Danny was on would cross paths in the Pacific. Somehow they arranged to be on deck at the right time so they could wave to each other. This was the last time Joe saw Danny.
When Danny entered the Navy he left behind a girlfriend named Mary Lou Matson. Everyone knew they would be married when the war was over. When Danny didn't return, Joe and Mary Lou consoled each other, and that consolation turned to love. They married and had been wed sixty-one years when he died.
Family was everything to Joe. He wanted his kids to grow up and get married, but he would have been happy if they had all lived next door to him. Out of the four children, three remain in the St. Petersburg, Florida, area. My wife was the only one who moved away.
I remember clearly that after our honeymoon in North Carolina my wife and I went to St. Petersburg to pack up our wedding gifts. When it came time for us to leave I didn't think Joe was going to be able to handle it. Terry, my wife, was the first child to get married; it was killing him that she was moving to Georgia.
When I was trying to get Terry into the car Joe was holding on to one arm while I was pulling on the other. Eventually he let go, but he wasn't happy about it. Later, she told me that when he was walking her down the aisle he whispered in her ear, "You can still call this whole thing off."
Joe's love for his wife and children never wavered. He was a prime example of a devoted husband and father. At his funeral his children spoke glowingly of how great he was to them all. And an abundant number of friends also praised him to the family.
Joe's generation worked hard, loved hard and lived life to the fullest. He was devoted to his God, his country and his family. He will certainly be missed by all who loved him. As his generation dies out we will be left with a void in our American culture.
Jackie K. Cooper was born in South Carolina and now lives in Georgia. He is the married father of two sons and the proud grandparent of a boy and a girl.
He is familiar to people living in the middle Georgia area as the "entertainment man" since his entertainment reviews run in newspapers and are shown on television there. His short stories have also been used as commentary on Georgia Public Radio.
and be sure to visit his excellent web site: jackiekcooper.com.
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