We held a memorial service in Wooster, Ohio for wife Geneva’s parents, Ted and Martha, McClaran who both passed late last year.
Thety were returned to the Earth on a sunny, warm day at a cemetary east of town, not all that far from the area where they were born and raised.
We were quite pleased with the turnout of friends for the event, knowing that most of their long-time friends had already passed since they were both in their 90’s.
Ted was a charter member of the Shreve, Ohio American Legion Honor Guard and Martha was active in the Legion auxiliary for many years.
The Honor Guard made it known to us that they very much wanted to be a part of the service so we were blessed with the rifle volley, taps and presentation of the American flag to Geneva’s sister, Linda.
At the lunch following the service, a member of the honor guard approached us and asked if Ted talked much about his time in the military.
We knew he served in Europe during World War II in the U.S Army.
Ted had shared with me he told his wife that all he did was drive trucks so she wouldn’t worry about him.
What he didn’t share was the fact he drove fuel trucks to the front lines.
It was a little bit more than a desk job.
He also mentioned he served as a personal driver for an officer for awhile but he never went in to any greater detail.
Ted’s honor guard buddy revealed to us that Geneva’s Father actualy drove for General George S. Patton
The story was old “Blood and Guts” was looking for someone to drive his Jeep.
He also wanted a driver that could keep a Jeep running or to get it running.
General Patton reportedly asked by Father in-law if he was a good driver and he said that was what his buddies told him.
Then he asked him if he was a good mechanic.
Ted said that was what he used to do before the war.
Patton said he was looking for a new driver and he needed one that could that could handle a Jeep and keep it running because that was mighty important where he was going.
He asked Ted if he was interested.
Supposedly Ted asked if he could think about it and the General told him to mull it over.
A few moments later, General Patton returned and asked him if he had made up his mind.
Ted probably figured out it was one of those offers he couldn’t resist.
After all, this was General George S. Patton.
That’s how he got to be General Patton’s driver.
I don’t know how long Ted sat in a Jeep to the left of one of America’s most-famous generals in World Wat II but it was the story he never shared with most or a curious son-in-law over the years.
But that’s typical of so many of those World Way II veterans.
They came home and went to work.
They didn’t talk much about their experiences.
My one regret is that I didn’t find more occasions to get my Father-in-law aside and ask him more.
Maybe he didn’t think it was all that important.
Ted, it was very important and the collective efforts of you and your pals in uniform allow me to enjoy the life I have today.
Thanks to my Mother-in-law Martha but for a different reason.
A servant’s heart.
After the memorial service was over, several family members were gathered outside the Greenleaf Cafe and someone wondered aloud where Linda and Geneva were.
Downstairs in the room where he had our luncheon.
Collecting silverware, scraping and stacking dishes.
Over the years she served countless church funeral dinners and meals at the Legion.
Food has always been a wonderful way to bring folks together and start the healing process.
It was the very process that revealed my Father-in-law’s military story.
Over the years, her daughters have learned that an important meal is never complete until the dishes are done.
Not sure if that action is genetic, but it has made an impression on those two.
I also wonder if deep down inside of all of us was the realization that we may never see most of these people again.
For Geneva, her immediate family on the McClaran side is down to she and her sister.
Maybe by “hanging around” to clean up after lunch, she could latch on to a few more memories or thoughts that she had always expected to be there.
There’s an attractive slab in the cemetery with the names of Ted and Martha McClaran engraved on metal markers.
Beneath is is an urn containing their ashes.
Some might even say that’s where they’ll spend eternity.
I don’t think so.
They’ve taken up a new home in the hearts and minds of those who love them and remember them.
It was a nice memorial service.
But it was a much better life.
I’m glad I got to know them.