Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, September 16, 2014.
SAN DIEGO. – We are nearing the date for something I desired to occur but won’t happen.
On September 28, we would have celebrated Jimmy Jewell’s 100th birthday. I will be honoring my father but will not be with him to celebrate his becoming a centurion.
On that coming Sunday, I will spend quiet time imagining Lebanon on that date in 1914. I am dedicating several columns to his history as I know it, not as a tribute solely to my father but as a tribute to all of his generation. Tom Brokaw called them “The Greatest Generation.” Considering what they experienced and not only survived, but rose above validates they were, in fact, the greatest generation. They are the reason our country is living the wonderful life we have today.
My father did not become a centurion, but for a decade, I hoped he would be the modern day version of “The Deacon’s Masterpiece.” In 1858, Oliver Wendell Holmes published his wonderful narrative poem, “The One Horse Shay.” A shay was a carriage, normally pulled by one or two horses. The deacon constructed his shay with the purpose of eliminating flaws. He used the finest materials and paid close attention to every minute detail in construction of his amazing carriage.
The shay lasted and lasted until the parson who apparently inherited the wonderful carriage took a ride on the 100th anniversary of the shay’s construction. The shay, exactly 100 years old, collapsed underneath the parson in a pile of dust.
Several weeks before my father passed away, a relative attended a wellness workshop to discuss how to live a long and healthy life. The leader opened up the seminar with the pronouncement “the best thing we can hope for is to live in relatively good health into our 90s and then go quick.”
That is exactly what Jimmy Jewell did. He didn’t become a centurion like the shay, but he was a fantastic example of good health until the last seven weeks of his life. My sister, Martha Duff, accompanied him to a doctor’s checkup last spring. When she called to report the assessment, she cracked she wished he had his vital signs. We all did. He was a model for moderation and continuing to work until the end, taking only a daily vitamin and an occasional pill for his vision when he needed it. He left us 42 days shy of 99 years.
Jimmy and Estelle Jewell were a depository for Lebanon history. They were proud of the town where they were born, grew up, and never left. Their travels throughout 49 of the 50 states (In 1984, a trip to Alaska was aborted due an illness my mother suffered) only gave them more reasons to love Lebanon. My mother always wondered why any of her children or grandchildren would choose to live anywhere else.
Both of my parents never stepped into leadership roles in the community. Yet they were always in the background providing counsel and support of Lebanon leaders throughout their careers. They had a unique perspective of how the town operated and often would tell stories about the town’s history and leaders you won’t find in G. Frank Burns’ histories.
My father was born three months to the day after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a Bosnian nationalist. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28. World War I lasted through the first five years of my father’s life.
As noted a number of times, he was in the Western Pacific for two years of World War II. He witnessed the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, the Cold War, both Iraq conflicts, and the War in Afghanistan. His war was different than all of the others. There was no question World War II was all or nothing. World domination by evil empires was a real possibility. Our citizens cinched up their belts and took on the task. The entire country was involved. Political correctness, fairness, and many other facets took a back seat to winning the war. But they won when they had to win.
Not only that, they spawned the culture that would lead to more equality, more diversity, more justice. We certainly haven’t reached perfection on any front, but my father’s generation took care of business and allowed us to move forward.
I hope we never forget. I also hope there are more of Holme’s deacon’s masterpieces to follow.
The accompanying photo is my father’s comrades in arms displaying a Japanese flag they confiscated. His Navy 75th Navy Construction Battalion came ashore on Leyte four days after McArthur’s forces landed in the Philippines in his return to the country, October 20, 1944. Jimmy Jewell with a cigarette in his mouth is in the white tee-shirt to our left of the Japanese flag.