My granddaugher, Violet, and I left for Washington, D.C., a week ago for a long planned trip. We drove to Providence and hopped aboard the Amtrak. In my opinion the only civilized way to travel — no invasive security checks, long flight delays and, worse, breathing other people’s air, packed in like sardines. We were able to see much of the eastern seaboard, lots of coastline and pulled into all the major cities. We spent some time discussing big buildings and the importance of the different ports historically. She is only eight years old but a reasonable human being anxious to know things.
Washington is a beautiful city. I lived there in the late sixties and was happy to share it with a child. It is remarkably clean. There are plenty of federal workers sweeping and tidying — very tourist friendly. In fact I saw a machine called a gum-buster being used. One person shot steam at a wad of gum and the other one scraped it up. I had to ask them if there was actually that much gum on the streets. He assured me there was. I, of course, got all opinionated about the civilization of people.
Sadly, while traveling, I received the news of the death of my father. He had been ill for some time so it was not a surprise. I am presently in Rew, Pa., with my family.
Rather than placing an obituary in this paper, I thought I would tell you, kind readers, about my dad. Gordon June Irons was born in Wetmore Township, Pennsylvania. He was the second of 12 children born to William Ellis and Katherine Fitzgerald Irons. Born Dec. 12, 1920, he was just short of 90 years. He married my mother, Elizabeth Armstrong (Betsy), in 1943.
He had enlisted in 1942 in the United States Navy a month or so after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He served in both Atlantic and Pacific theatres in the war. I have written previously about his experiences on naval destroyers. He was rightfully proud of his service. His various medals and photographs of ships and friends decorate the wall of his den.
He was a working man and no stranger to responsibility. He helped with his many siblings coming up in the Depression. I remember him sitting at the breakfast table reading the local newspaper while my mother packed his “lunch pail.” He worked for Kendall Oil Refinery for close to 30 years.
After retirement his time was spent working the same hours on his hunting camp. It is a large piece of property on which he built a sizable log cabin. Our family parties were always held there. He had archery shooting ranges, golf putting greens and a huge tank for boiling down maple syrup. He spent his springs tapping the many maple trees on the property.
My dad was a hard man. It was difficult for him to say how he felt. I told the story a couple of Father’s Days ago of the 1952 Ford incident. My uncle Jim and I were playing in the car one afternoon and neglected to close the passenger door properly. We were six and eight years old. I later fell out on my head. Dad was pretty mad about the whole affair as we were not permitted to play in cars. While I was recuperating. Dad jumped off the porch and caught me a bird. I’ll always remember how happy it made me even though he said nothing.
Over the years I learned to read between the lines. When I would be leaving for home after a visit, he would angrily kick the car tires and admonish me to fill them with air. I knew he meant, “I’m worried, honey, you drive safely!”
For the last several years when I called home Mom would put him on the phone. He would say, “I can’t hear a word” and put the phone down. Last week I spoke with him at the Lake-view Senior Care Center. He said in the sweetest voice I ever heard from him, “I can’t hear you — are we going somewhere?” I know he’s at peace now in that place.
While in Washington we visited the World War II Memorial. It was dedicated in 2004. It is strategically placed between the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument. I know my dad would have loved seeing it.
The memorial celebrates a generation of Americans who emerged from the Depression to fight and win the most devastating war in world history. Americans and their allies triumphed over tyranny and unprecedented unity at home saw the nation become the world’s breadbasket and industrial arsenal.
In a spirit of sacrifice, Americans rationed at home and channeled the nation’s might to help restore freedom to millions. The World War II Memorial reminds future generations that we must sometimes sacrifice for causes greater than ourselves.