I spoke to my mother today on my parents’ cell phone. They were driving to Connecticut already and it was hard to hear. The funeral is on Sunday, there’s a memorial of some kind of Saturday as well and the Elks, which group, my grandfather was a member of are holding some kind of service as well. I’m not sure in what sequence all of this is happening.
I won’t be able to attend unfortunately, but this is what I sent to my father via e-mail, to share with the family at the service or services, however it winds up working out.
On May 21, 2001, Mom, Grandpa and I went to dinner at the steak place
right near the water company. While we were eating, Grampie told me some
stories that I’d like to share with everyone … a little bit about his
parents and his childhood, and a lot about his time in the service during WWII.
Here’s what he had to say, reconstructed from the notes I took that day.
The Lowes came from Ireland to New Haven back in the 1800s, a group of
brothers including Harry and John. They were all carpenters and worked in
New Haven. Harry was Grampie’s grandfather, his son Carey was Grampie’s
father. Carey met Blanche Austin at the Pequot Business school. Carey and
Blanche married and had Grampie and his brothers and sisters.
Grampie also told me about Great-Uncle Ernest’s farm in Pringle, South
Dakota. Great-Uncle Ernest had a 160 acre claim, and his wife, Mary Sayer
had one too. They married and combined their claims and that’s the property that
Grampie took everyone to see on visits to South Dakota.
In October of 1942, Grampie traveled 50,000 miles by rail throughout the
US when he mustered into the service. He went to the Philippines first, he
mentioned sailing from San Francisco to New Guinea and traveling through a typhoon.
He acquired his movie camera in Manila. He traded two packs of cigarettes for it. The guys he
got it from took him around to where it was buried in sawdust.
He took many films while he was in the service, most were confiscated.
He was wounded once while in the Philippines, in a “prime mover” accident
with a six-wheeler truck.
He saw action at Lagaspie, where his unit was held on the beach by the
Japanese and a 16 inch cannon for 3 weeks. The beach was so sandy, that
the tanks and jeeps couldn’t move.
There was strafing from the Japanese from 9am to 9pm, the dozers were on
the bottom deck of the LSTs. He was under the trucks taking pictures when
a Liberty ship was kamikazed nearby. It took 2 hours to pump water off the
LSTs — used the anchor and dropped out deep to pull the LSTs back out
while the Japanese were strafing. Then they’d try to come back to land.
They pumped the ballast tanks and pushed into shore.
There was water up to his bulldozer seat it was so deep.
They had to push the dirt to get the dozer off of the LST (Land/Sea
After fighting through the islands, Grampie was on the first ship to land
in Yokohama harbor at the end of the war. He got a Japanese grammar book
in Yokohama from a warehouse on the dock.
He left Japan in December, 1945 on a dispersement ship to Seattle. He got
stuck in another typhoon for 14 days. He was at Camp Devins in Idaho until
he got furlough on the night before Christmas.
He was discharged on January 10th 1946.
Grampie earned 3 bronze stars for his service during World War II.
Much later, he sold his discharge papers to a Vietnam veteran, so the vet
could get more government assistance.
Grampie wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with, or do things
for. But he had a big heart under his sometimes crusty behavior. When I
think of him, I remember the jolly Grampie who got me a pony when I was a little
girl and took me for rides. I remember how much he liked to take us out to
dinner when we came to visit and how he’d greet the waitresses by name,
and shake his friends’ hands in the restaurant. I remember how he
cried at my choral concerts at Smith, moved to tears by the beauty of the
music. Though I will miss him, I’m glad that he is now free of pain, that
his spirit is free. When I sing, I’ll always think of him, and hope that
he can hear me a little from wherever he is and smile at the music that he
loved so well.