June 3, 2013 in Features

Column: WWII veterans have stories worth hearing

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Over the long Memorial Day weekend, we got a fax and voice message from family and friends of Frank “Sully” Sullivan who was in a Spokane hospital recovering from heart surgery.

He’s 90, and his surgery went well. His loved ones wondered if the newspaper would be interested in highlighting Sullivan’s World War II story. The voicemail and fax didn’t reach us until Tuesday when the holiday had passed, and because Sullivan isn’t from the Spokane area, we might not have done the story anyway.

Sullivan was a B-17 radio operator/gunner, and on his 15th bombing mission, the plane was hit by German flak, then crash-landed in Holland as the plane tried to make it back to safety in England. Sullivan then became a prisoner of war for nine months.

Here’s the clincher. Sullivan didn’t talk about his World War II experience until he was 88 – just two years ago.

His son, John Sullivan of Lewiston, took good notes, fact-checked places and dates and wrote out his father’s story on his website.

The Sullivan family experience is a good reminder that these World War II vets are an endangered species. If you have one or two left in your extended family, get the digital recorders out now.

According to a Department of Veterans Affairs report, at the end of World War II, there were 16 million veterans. Today, there are about 1 million. By 2036, it is estimated there will be no living veterans of World War II.

FACEBOOK NOSTALGIA: A popular Facebook photo, among boomer-age friends, shows a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine. It was the wine some of us (not naming names here) drank in high school and college days.

It was red-pink in color, too sweet, kind of disgusting, and it was sure to make you sick if you had too much or drank it on an empty stomach. My high school class is having its 40th reunion this summer, and people will bring wine to our Friday night casual gathering.

I’ll bet we’ve come a long – and much more expensive – way since Boone’s Farm – and its green-wine “girlfriend,” Annie Green Springs.

HOMESTATE FINANCIALS: AARP recently surveyed Washington state residents, ages 45 to 64, about their retirement planning.

• More than half – 56 percent – of those surveyed felt anxious about finances and their future. Women are much more anxious than men.

• More than half gave themselves a “C” or lower grade when asked to grade their retirement preparation.

• A quarter of respondents (24 percent) had less than $25,000 in savings; 81 percent wished they’d saved more.

YO IS THIS AGEIST: A recent Q&A from Ashton Applewhite’s blog “Yo is this Ageist?”

Question: Recently I have noticed in some of my interactions with women who are a lot younger than me, they will call me hon, sweetie, etc. I find this to be very condescending, and I am wondering why they do this. Is this ageist?

Answer: Some warmhearted women who work in diners call everyone “hon.” That’s not ageist. But using sweetly belittling terms like “sweetie” and “dearie” to address olders is indeed condescending, desexualizing, and ageist, and you’re right to be rankled.

Professionals call it “elderspeak” and it actually shortens lives. These young women do it because they’ve never thought about how it makes people feel. Try gently turning the language back on them.

Do you agree or disagree with Applewhite’s advice?

GRANDPARENT PT: Four years ago, my grandson showed me how he could jump over a little pile of books using both feet at the same time. Looked easy. I tried it. Back went out.

A friend was putting his grandchild into car seat and wrenched his knee. Another friend had a shoulder go out while navigating a stroller through park grass.

So here’s an idea. Someone needs to offer a class called “grandparent moves,” because no matter how much you work out, when you hang with little ones, you use muscles that have been out of service.

The running-toddler lunge. The car-seat squeeze. The stroller samba. You get the idea.

THIS WEEK, A SAMPLING:

• “Honoring Life: A Compassionate Discussion on the Realities of the Death Penalty,” Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., St. John’s Cathedral, 127 E. 12th Ave., Spokane, (509) 230-3017.

• “Meet Your Local Dairy Producer,” Deer Park dairy farmer Stephanie Littrel will meet shoppers and answer questions, Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Yokes Fresh Market, 9329 E. Montgomery Ave., Spokane Valley, (425) 672-0687.

For more activities, go to Spokane7.com


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