Monday, August 07, 2017

Another Bit of Greatness Slipped Away

Guest post
by Suzann Darnall

We lost another member of the greatest generation. John Swope, dear friend, good man, staunch Christian, and WWII veteran passed away on 27 July 2017. His funeral took place on 2 August 2017 and he will be buried today, 7 August 2017, in Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.

My husband, Pete, and I met John several years ago when he married another dear friend, Virginia Davis. We had gotten to know Virginia through our church. I visited her as part of our ladies’ Relief Society, as well as Pete and I visiting her as her church Home teachers. This service continued after their marriage and we became good friends. I also took the two of them to various doctors’ appointments and out for lunch. Plus just dropping in, sometimes with other members of our family, to take them a dessert, a meal, or just to visit.

John really impacted my life when he and his stepson, Trey, helped my husband convert our two-car garage into a sewing room that was large enough for me to have my family quilting frame set-up for use. John and Virginia both gave me (literally) truck loads of sewing supplies and fabrics as their health declined and they started minimizing household items. Because of their largesse, I have been blessed to be able to give away numerous quilts to others.

One of my daughters, Amanda, also became a good friend of John and Virginia. Especially, John. They would joke that they were girlfriend and boyfriend. I picked on Amanda for stealing my beau away. But, Amanda often checked on John and gave him rides.

My husband and I would worry each time a siren sounded in the neighborhood or flashing lights went through. Often Pete or Amanda would run over to check and occasionally it was not good news. But, John or Virginia continued to rally and life would go on.

Virginia passed away and we continued the routine with John. Dropping by for visits, giving rides, and being blessed by his friendship. But, the day came he had to move into a nursing home a couple of hours away. Pete and I were able to drop by for a few visits. Thoroughly enjoyed our time with him. But, it did get harder to fit in visits around his health issues and I am sad to say we did not see him as he neared the end.

I know this sounds like a litany of our service to John, but it is really about how little I was able to give back to a man who gave so much to me and to so many others. He nearly gave his life in the service of his country. He enlisted as a young teeneager and was wounded on Guadalcanal. He was married and raised a family. He served in our church in many capacities. He grew a large garden and shared the bounty. He would help with construction or gardening projects even without being asked.

He told all sorts of funny stories. Shared history. Did genealogy and would help other folks with their family history quests. He loved to have people visit, especially if they brought children. Many of my grandchildren got to meet John and some of them were even speaking of him last night when they found out he had died. They mentioned him doing his magic tricks and telling his really bad jokes. The jokes were really bad but we all seemed to laugh anyway, even when we were hearing the same joke for the umpteenth time. You could not help laughing ‘cause John told his tales with such great delight. You were swept up in the joy that surrounded him.

There was another young man, Zachary Smith, who gave even more service to John. He accompanied John on an Honor Flight to Washington, DC, to visit with World War II Memorial. He helped John with computer tech issues and was a really good friend for John and Virginia. Despite the difference in their ages, these two men became good friends and it was a treat to see them interact.

We missed John when he moved away. We will miss him even more now. But, each time I walk into my sewing room I am reminded of his greatness. His greatness in so many ways. He was a hero and a helper. He gave of his time, his talents, and even more. I have dozens of bolts of fabric given to me by John and Virginia. I think of them both each time I use some of it, or even just any looking through bolts to decide what to use.

One of my favorite reminders of John is an enormous “yard stick” that is made of metal. It is actually not three feet long, but six feet long. I don’t know if its original purpose was for working with fabric or in construction, but it works wonderfully in my quilting endeavors. And, like John, it is somehow a bit larger than life, just a little more than one usually gets. A little something extra special. Like him, it is great! Six feet. A measure of a man. John was that man. A man who measured up just a little bit more than average. He will be missed. America lost just another little piece of greatness today. God bless John and those few who remain. They were and are a greatest generation!

No comments: