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Honoring Our WWII Veteran

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Dick and Jane

Dick and Jane

As a WWII vet, I've found the VWF group mostly Vietnam era people with many concerns for those in the group experiencing problems...even though their own needs may be  great.
  My given name is Richard Clare, but until high school graduation in 1943 my grandmother was the only one who called me "Richard". 
I was raised in Elkhart, Indiana, but moved to Florida in late 1972.  In 1943 I traveled extensively in the midwest playing sax and clarinet. Tiring of one-nighters, I returned to Indiana to a job assembling saxophones in the C.G. Conn factory, and proceeded to form my own band and did a lot of gigs in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan through a booking agent in Detroit.  Labor Day week-end was another draft physical...and I was immediately inducted.  This was the culmination of several  previous attempts to get in the
war.  I tried the merchant marine at age 17....but 117 lbs. was hardly their standard. I then attempted to enlist in the Navy, but my right eye didn't meet  THEIR standards!  The  policy then changed and everyone had to go through the draft route to service. My next physical in Indianapolis was in January 1944 when they found spots on my lungs.  Of course they were there as I had pneumonia in BOTH lungs while in the 4th grade!  I was instructed to come back in six months to see if there was any change.
By this time I was making serious money and was not as anxious to serve as before, but I LED a group in early Sept. 1944....and was immediately shipped to Camp Atterbury for processing and within a week found myself at Fort knox, KY. for basic training and radio code operations.  I've always been very proud of the fact that I never had to drop out of any training, but became tough as nails in a short time.  I was to be a radio operator in a half track, assigned as RECON to a tank company.  The Armored School  gave me a certificate of graduation at the top of my class...and offered me OCS (Officer Candidate) training at Fort Benning, Ga. BUT.....I declined.  I wanted to get in the war, as I had an older brother....and a 13-year old younger brother.  The older brother, E.J. was in the Army Air Corps studying radio....I found out later he was becoming a radar expert and later was put in the 548th Night Fighter Squadron, which had the newest fearsome plane in our flying arsenal....the "Black Widow" P-61.   So....after a brief visit home, I reported to Fort Meade, Md. for overseas shipment....which would have put me right in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge clean up.....but Someone was watching over me as I stepped on a "training" mine, left over from another unit's activities...   I was to be  in that station hospital over 6 months from concussion fractures in my right foot and ankle....
Meanwhile, my older brother was KIA on Iwo Jima...the only combat casualty of that squadron in their Pacific operations....From Hawaii to Saipan...Iwo Jima....and then on to Ie Shima, near Okinawa. 
I didn't make contact with the 548th until attending a reunion in 1994....and discovered it was a friendly fire incident at the ending of the Iwo campaign.  I have become an Honorary Member of the Night Fighter Association (Now disbanded, due to age)....and of course of the 548th.
While home, on crutches, for E.J.'s memorial services, my younger brother, Don, was killed while working with the boy Scouts to get a General Eisenhower Scout medal for scrap paper collection.  The day before E.J.'s service, Don was thrown under the rear wheels of the truck....but was still alive and very critical....so, we went ahead with E.J.'s funeral.....and Don died that night.  We had another funeral the next Wednesday....and while everyone was celebrating VE Day, our family was making funeral arrangements.
 My parents were separated... I was the only child left.   I GREW UP FAST!!!!!
My mother was  a mess....and remained on some type of drug the remaineder of her long life.  (She passed away in 1996)   Governor  of Indiana, Ralph Gates, U.S. Senators Homer Capehart and Raymond Willis PLUS Representative of the 3rd District, Bob Grant and our city's of elkhart Mayor, Hallett Meale, ALL wrote letters and attempted to have me discharged ASAP due to my mother's condition....but they were unsuccessful.  I didn't have enough "points".....but they would NOT ship me into a hazardous job......so-----after 6 months and 4 days I found myself enroute to Camp Crowder,MO.....in SW  Missouri. I was to be cadre for the incoming basic trainees in the signal corps learning morse code, etc. 
BUT.....about half an hour after getting on the "Spirit of St. Louis" Pennsylvania RR train, President Truman announced the Japs had accepted Unconditional Surrender and the WAR WAS OVER!.......      At Camp Crowder I was given several physical exams.....as the politicians were requesting my release from the Army.  To this day   ....I have not seen a medical record of any kind......and the copies of the correspondence are gone as they were stored at my mother's Fort Myers Beach home in 1960 and were swept away by Hurricane Donna.
In early October 1944, I was suddenly put on orders and went (by troop train this time) back east.....to  Camp Lee, Va....home of the Quartermaster Corps.  I was to be in an army band upon completing an 8 week musical instrument repair school.  As it happened, they spied the MOS  number in my records......prewar employment in the world's largest band instrument factory.....classified as musical instrument repairman.  SO........no band for me.  I was shifted to become the replacement of a Buck Sgt. who was being discharged.......but as it turned out....I applied for...and was granted....a "dependency" discharge due to my mother's health!    As the Pacific war was over, they were anxious to let a lot of us go.......
My high school sweetheart, Jane, and I had broken up after our Junion Year....and while I was in service she was "pinned" by a classmate who was at Purdue.  After I returned home from service I discovered they were no longer a twosome....and it wasn't long before we began dating.....She got the ring in June...just a few minutes before she was to play a solo with our Municipal Band in the city's park.  (She said she was a  nervous wreck)  We were married October 26, 2946..........................................60 years ago!!   It is still difficult to believe.
I have worn many hats in my life....Some have fit better than others....   I talk too much.....and I write too much.....but, I've had opportunities to mix and "rub elbows" with some of the most famous people of my era....    
From  clerking in a music store, I went back to work in a factory making oboes.....then had the opportunity to get a job at the local radio station which had just begun FM broadcasting....As it turned out, I wrote radio commercials for two years there....I used up my GI education benefits studying Radio and TV Engineering...........I had the opportunity to try for...and began a job with the newspaper-owned company running the control board AND doing the announcing as well.  Although they had several FCC licensed engineers on staff, I was they one they turned to  have 5 of them working for me when we got a permit to build WSJV, a station that began on the air in March 1954.  No one of staff had a musical background...except your truly, so I had the honor of going out to interview visitors such as Howard Barlow (Voice of Firestone" Radio orchestra conductor....and there was Harry James....Louis Armstrong....Eddy Howard (One of our favorite people)....and also the politicians.  I put the mike up for Truman when he passed thru town in 1948.....I was about 10 feet below him as he spoke......and Tom Dewey came along too....but didn't get elected.
Adlai Stevenson ran against IKE...but lost....and in our town, an egg was thrown at him standing at the back of the train as he spoke.  The egg missed him.....but dripped down on me.
Norman Vincent Peale was another favorite I had the good fortune to meet....and in 1965 had breakfast with him in Dayton, Ohio where I was studying computer programming.....and he had just been in our town for another trip a few days before.
It was nice to have  many people KNOW you on the street....I did many newscasts....and
and also was the MC and commentator for the Elkhart Municipal Band for over 24 years....where I met Jack Teagarden...Don Goldie (later trumpet man in Miami Beach for Jackie Gleason)...and many other greats.  Mere Evans, Ringland Circus bandmaster for 50 years became a VERY close friend....and we were in his Florida home several times.....
I better not leave out one of the highlights of our honeymoon.....in New York City.   Jane worked for the Selmer Band Instrument Company and knew the "Professional  Rep" in New York.  We stopped up to the offices there to meet Hank Bennett and he told us he was tied up that night, but "Benny" was in town.  On his instructions, we went to the "400 Club"....and during a break we introduced ourselves to Benny Goodman.  He later came over to our table and we had an unforgettable conversation.....The date was October 30, 1946.
When we put TV on the air, I was named the Night Engineer and Video Switcher.....but also kept doing the main Radio newscasts everyday as well.  Once in awhile there would be special events I was lucky enough to be on....and we met many wonderful and famous people.   Jane likes to brag about the time in 1958 when she played Meredith Wilson's
(The Music Man's composer) piccolo.  Wilson was in town for our Centennial celebration.    I was up above Main street with a live cameraman describing the marching bands and pageantry flowing beneath us....back in 1958.    By 1956 I decided I either had to begin traveling the country looking for a better market job in broadcasting...or get into another field....SO...I began Indiana University night classes in South Bend on MY nickle. Freshman English, composition,etc.....and all of the core courses for CPA exams.   It was in 1964 when I left WSJV and the Radio Station WTRC to go to work for the local city Government as the Accountant for both water and sewer offices, but firstly to computerize Billing and Accounts receivable.  From 1964 to Nov of 1972 I recommended, programmed and installed two systems....   I had studied computers on my own....no formal study at all....but I wrote the specs and the board to whom I answered purchased the equipment and sent me to Dayton to learn the programming.....Later I was able to convince them I had to have someone else babysit the computer as I had my hands full accounting for all of the pipe extensions, water storage, new wellfields, and wastewater treatment plant monies and bonds.
My mother moved to Fort myers beach in 1958....and for 16 years I wanted to live down here on Florida's west coast....but it wasn't meant to be.   In late 1971 I answered an ad for a Finance Director in Pembroke Pines....just west of Hollywopod, FL.......I had been selected from a field of 64 by a Fort Lauderdale CPA firm.   SO.......I flew...at my expense....to Fort Myers and drove my mother's car across Alliger Alley to the East Coast.  My head was very swelled.......but the minute I walked into that tiny City Hall and saw the NCR 500 computer system.....I deflated....THAT WAS WHY  I got the nod.....but after two days looking around and talking, I turned them down.  I would have to be appointed by the City Commissioners...and three were elected one year and four the next!....and the people were already screaming at how high their "water bills" were. (Actually, according to be legal with their bond ordinances they should have been three times what they were then)...I would have been history fast if I'd had to tell the public the truth.
One of our coldest winters in years followed........but it was back to working and I was named the Manager for an Accountant and Managers seminar to be held in the fall of 1972.  These were all from the American Water Works Ass'n....    We had a planning meeting at Purdue....and I told them I thought I could get a speaker from Notre Dame to lecture the group Small Government Economics. 
Back in 1948....when I had just begun on radio, I began night lectures in Elkhart.  These were done by a young professor from the Notre Dame school of Business. He came to me after class and asked if I thought it possible for him to be given 15 minutes of air time on FM once weekly to present Economic News!    At that time we couldn't "give away" time on FM....and here was a personality who would do 15 minutes for FREE!.  He wanted the experience and discipline of doing the job.  Naturally, we took him up on his offer.   That was in 1948.  Fast forward to 1972............and I needed a high profile speaker!.....So I called on my old friend, Thomas Timothy Murphy......who had by now distinguished himself becoming Dean of the School of Business at Notre dame.    We had a long talk, but he said he's be out of the country on the dates I had to have him...but he guaranteed he would see to it we had an extremely qualified replacement.   And that he did.        
Within the next week after that seminar, I had a call from Pembroke Pines, FL........the Mayor asked: "What would it take for you to reconsider?"   I had been their 1st choice in 1971....and now the guy they hired was either going to quit or get fired......There were 14 points against him by the Auditors.   My answer was :"That's why I turned you down a year ago....Our youngest had just begun as a freshman at Indiana Uniiversity in Bloomington.
But the wheels began to spin....and here I had the opportunity to Name My Own Price!!!!!!
So, I asked for dollars...in salary, pension benefits...car allowance....health care....Everything I could come up with....     And the mayor's reply was "How soon  can you get here?"      I said three weeks.....He said "NO!"............and we settled for two weeks .
I reprogrammed the remanufactured NCR 500 computer system and immediately began writing RFP's (requests for Proposals) to meet the specs I'd prepared for a new system...
I hired a real expert who had taken early retirement from NCR to head up the transition (He's been hanging  around the Bahama Islands for three years.....as captain of a crew of 5 on his own 105 foot yacht!)
After a while, I left to start a Business Brokerage business, but soon was back in Government at the request  of the Auditors who had done the Pembroke Pines audits from 1972 through 1977.I was Finance Director at Opa Locka...in Dade County....where there is a Coast Guard airport....and an old dirigible hanger left over from the early 1930's.  That was the summer of 1980.....and the  DELUGE OF CUBANS began......and were being processed in that dirigible hanger..............     There were riots in Dade County that summer also....and several killings nearby....  The National Guard were stationed right outside the building where Jane was working in a 3 person plumbing specialties office.
I discovered grand theft had taken place at the City.  More than $10,000. missing my 4th day in that office.......so I spent most of the summer of 1980 working with two former IRS Special Agents who were putting together a case against the former Finance Director.  As a result, I spent a lot of time at Janet Reno's offices down in Miami....and once we had "nailed" the individual on circumstantial evidence......all of a sudden, I couldn't get any cooperation from the top officials with whom I HAD to work on investments ,etc........
.....and finally, I told them to shove it....and walked out!
I began per diem temp accounting jobs....and finally went to work for one of the most prestigious accounting firms in Florida, Trent Codd and Company CPA's.  My Indiana license was no good in Florida, but  the expertise I had learned got me through.   We did nothing but taxes...all  year long.
Then, in Dec. 1980, I had a little pain in my back....Within a few days my left leg was paralyzed and I was writhing in pain......................The next 5 years were pure Hell.....and we lost our condo, savings, investments.....everything we had..............................BUT,
WE HAD EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The rest......We moved to the West coast soon as I could get Social Security.  But my mom was in a nursing home in Fort Myers a total of 13 years.....We moved into one of her apartments, but a 7-11 have been built across the street....and the 24-hour a day parking lot traffic.....the yelling and trash talk in the middle of the street at 4 am....was too much.  We couldn't rent to anyone anymore....and we couldn't LIVE there anymore either.  It was impossible to hear your own TV or radio while sitting across the living room.   Taxes and Insurance ate us up and eventually we found a buyer and we moved into a nice rental South Fort Myers.
The story doesn't end there, of course.....but we're still here....in our own condo again.....complete with pool (which I've only been in about 3 times in the last 3 years)
Hopefully, I will be able to put together a more interesting.................and SHORTER SYNOPSIS of my life ............but this will have to do for now.  I have to make some kind of plans for tomorrow....and our three kids and family will be coming from Fort Lauderdale and the Ocala area Saturday to celebrate our togetherness of 60 years!
And that's a  -30- from Dick