Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
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Sixty-five years ago, on December 16, 1944, one of the greatest battles in American history began: The Battle of the Bulge. Seven hundred thousand troops, mostly American, participated. And when it was over, on January 25, 1945, 19,000 Americans were dead, 47,500 were wounded, and 23,000 missing.
Fast-forward fifteen years: It is a cold, dark morning in 1960. I am nineteen years old and beginning my first full-time job. As I gaze at the tall, intimidating building at 43 East Ohio Street in downtown Chicago, I consider hopping on the next south-bound Greyhound and heading back to Kentucky. What's in store for me? Can I do the job? Will I mess up and be fired the first day? What will my boss be like?
As it turned out, I had two bosses: Cullen B. Sweet and Frank Chambers.
Mr. Sweet was a laughing, gregarious man with white hair. He was very kind, but I was a little uncomfortable around him, reluctant to ask questions, afraid of doing something wrong.
Frank Chambers immediately put me at ease with his open, friendly manner. He took an interest in me as a person, wanted to meet Carroll, hear all about my family in Kentucky. When I needed help, he told me what I needed to know, how to do it. When I was ready to throw up my hands in despair, he appeared and made things right.
"You're doing a great job, Brenda," he often said, "This letter is perfect!"
"I'm glad you changed the wording in this report, Brenda. It reads much better!"
He took Carroll and me under his wing, invited us into his home; he and wife Doris treated us like family. (I will never forget what fun we had one Saturday night playing cards, their two little ones, Margie and Johnny, giggling and playing nearby.) After we relocated with the company to Bloomington, Illinois, we often dined out together, went to their home for cook-outs.
In the mid-seventies, Frank took a position with the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation and he and Doris relocated to Lincoln. A few years later, Carroll and I parted ways and Suzanne and I moved home to Kentucky.
After exchanging Christmas cards and letters every now and then, we lost touch. But I'm happy to say Frank and I recently reconnected and are corresponding frequently, catching up on each other's lives, reminiscing about days gone by. He is 86 years old now and still going strong. He has changed little in the thirty years since I last saw him.
I knew Frank had served in the Army in World War II, but I had no idea he had participated in The Battle of the Bulge. He kept a journal during the war and his younger brother saved all of the letters Frank had written him while he was overseas. He recorded his experiences on DVD and sent me a copy; he also sent me this story, which made the front page of the Lincoln Journal Star on December 16th.
Thank you, Frank, for your service to our country. And thank you for being such a good friend to me.