Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day. And Dad's 92nd Birthday.

Today my Dad would have been 92 years old. He was born in Cleveland on May 26, 1922, to Cora Esther Bowers Coughlin and Cornelius (Connie) Francis Coughlin. Both my grandparents were first generation Americans. In 1922 they lived around East 87th Street, between St. Clair and Superior. My Dad was the third child, after Fran and Jack. Bill was born about a year and a half later. And Bernice followed Bill. My grandparents' marriage seemed a little odd--Connie was a rough and ready Irishman and a great semi-pro baseball player. My grandmother was the daughter of a bridge engineer, Frank Bowers (changed from Bauer) and Mary Voelker. My impression is that they were upper middle class. So Cora married a guy who was in a lower social class. But Connie had charm and smarts. He was funny, affable, a great athlete, with lots of friends.Their marriage lasted about 43 years, until my Grampa's death in 1960.

During World War II, their 4 boys were all in the service, all over seas. My Dad was a signalman in the Navy, and spent most of his 4 years in the South Pacific, on very small ships (including wooden Subchasers!). We honor him today, his birthday, and Memorial Day.

Today I also think about my cousin Tommy Fitzpatrick, who was just 6 months older than me. Tommy was killed in Vietnam in 1969, just 21 years old. His death is an unending ache to his family and friends.

I also think about my Notre Dame/Innsbruck friend, Steve Shields. I studied with Steve in Salzburg and Innsbruck, Austria in 1967-68, and we graduated from Notre Dame together in 1970. Just a couple years later, around age 23 or 24, Steve's helicopter was shot down in Vietnam and he was killed. Rest in Peace, Tommy and Steve.

I also think about some of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights and Peace Movement on Memorial Day. There is no official holiday for them, but they are also heroes for our country and our world. Names that come quickly to mind are Ernest and Marion Bromley, Maurice McCrackin, and Chuck Matthei. But there are many more, many whose names are totally lost to history.

So to all the heroes, both of wars and of the struggle for peace and justice, we say Thank You!

Tommy Fitzpatrick in Vietnam (center)

Dad and Mom, August 1947, Willoughby

Steve Shields (left)--Salzburg, Austria
[Also, Charlie Bradley, Brian Wilson, me, Mike Gerrity]

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