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Monday, 18 August 2008

A Sad Sequel to the Story of My 64-Year-Old Army Photo

By Mort Reichek of Octogenarian

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The original story to which this one refers was published here last week.]

On April 14, 2005, I posted a piece on my blog entitled Reflections on a 64-year old photo.. Ronni has kindly published it in this week's Elder Story Place.

The photograph, taken in 1944, showed me and eight other members of the 903rd Signal Co. lined up at a U.S. Army air base in Panagarh, India. I identified each man, revealing personal details that I still could surprisingly recall about them.

Through Google, a man living in Oregon spotted the reference to Panagarh and emailed a message to me. He had been a pilot stationed there, and we began a stimulating correspondence via the internet.

Gordon Tombleson, one of the GIs in the photo, was an Oregonian with whom I had become a close friend. I was curious to know what had become of him. I asked my new, geriatric "pen pal" living in Oregon whether he could find anyone named Tombleson in local phone directories.

He located nine people. One of them was Gordon's brother. I called him and learned, to my horror, that Gordon, the happy-go-lucky Army buddy who I knew as a 19-year old, did not find much happiness in later years. He became an alcoholic and committed suicide by shooting himself many years ago.

Another GI in the old photo is Nick Palazzo. In an extraordinary coincidence, after not having seen him in many decades, he moved into my New Jersey community about three years ago and became my neighbor.

The community, which is restricted to senior citizens and has more than 3,000 residents, boasts an in-house TV network that produces its own programs. I appear on it occasionally, reading material that I have written on my blog. The TV producers thought that my blog posting, Reflections on a 61-Year-Old Photo, would be an interesting piece to telecast.

When I learned when the program was scheduled to be on the air, I quickly phoned Nick to tell him. A woman, who obviously was not Nick's wife or his daughter, answered. She had a Hispanic accent and was apparently a nursing aide for Mrs. Palazzo, who is an invalid. "I'd like to speak to Nick," I said, eager to inform him about his upcoming appearance on our TV program.

I was stunned by the woman's response. "He passed away two weeks ago," she said casually. Seeking details about his death, I asked to speak to his wife. She was too weak to say very much except that he had died in their Florida condo.

And so it goes in "Octogenarian" territory.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Such sad news and I know how you feel, it seems every week or so I learn of another friend from the past that has either died or has been diagnosed with a fatal disease. That includes a cousin that I had spent every summer with as a child and with who I was reunited three years ago. And all those young men in that picture looked as though they would always be able to take the world by the tail -- and considering the war we were in, they did -- at least for a while.

I'm so sorry that you had to write a sad sequel to your photo story. When we're young we think we will live forever. Some of us have more tomorrows than others.

I am considering getting a new address book because I have had to cross off the names of so many of my contemporaries. It's most depressing to see.

You are masterful at recalling times gone by with your old time friends.

Your blog makes them live again.


I'm sorry. My dad said that the loner he lived, the more funerals he had to go to, and soon there would be no one left to attend his. That wasn't true, as his was well-attended, but the longer I live, the more I see that he was right.

What I hate most about getting older is that I'm losing people. Sigh.

oh dear - thus it goes, I guess

Reading this after just learning this week that the writer, Mort, has left the stage makes it all the more
memorable..as a l941 version, I am starting to read obits in my high school annual, not often, but enough to remind me of where I am in this continuim..my parents died very young, in their 40s, so I am thrilled to be here...so say we all!

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