Athena's Web Weekly Column
Week of March 12th - March 18th, 2010
The Long Grey Line
Dad was born at the breast of World War II. He was fourteen when Hitler marched into Poland. The flamboyant newsreels and national legislation of the day captured his youthful imagination and would frame his thinking for years to come.
He was 15 when the London Blitz began in September of 1940, but had already turned 16 as the raids escalated through the spring of '41. France had fallen, allowing the Nazi military to launch their air raids from across the channel. The US had not yet entered the war. England was on her own and the reports coming in didn't sound good. If Hitler, having already conquered most of Europe, were able to cross the channel, subdue England, and bend the Royal Navy to his will, the entire world's future did not look bright.
Dad was born in Clayton NY and was raised about 5 miles as the crow flies from the Canadian/US border. He took it upon himself to travel to Canada in the spring of 1941 to join the Canadian Air Force with the goal of flying for the RAF. The Officer-in-charge at the time had the sense to contact Dad's father, and Grandpa explained to the officer, in a very carefully worded letter, that Dad was service academy bound, and would probably serve both the war effort and his own future ambitions better if he were to enter the fray as an officer. The Canadian OIC agreed and released Dad from his commitment.
The apple doesn't drop very far from the tree.
The Cerow male line has had a strong Mars for a number of generations. Willful is another word for it. When Grandpa was a boy, he had run off and joined the war effort (WWI) also, but his Dad had managed to pull some strings and got him out.
Grandpa immediately went out and joined the Navy a second time at which point Great-Granddad washed his hands of the affair. While serving in Ireland, the war came to an end before Grandpa could become an officer, something he always regretted, but he did manage to come up with a reasonable solution.
He earmarked his second son for West Point and the long Grey Line.
When Dad took his oath of allegiance as a plebe in the late spring of '44, D-Day and the invasion of Europe was in the news. The latest tactics and developments from the front lines were passed on to those at the service academies for immediate analysis. It was an incredible time to be in the War Colleges. In sports an All-American football player joined the Academy and was only able to make third string, the talent was so good. The nation was pulling together.
While on the cutting edge of this incredible slice of history, he was able to make the Varsity Hockey team at the academy four years running (Dad grew up with the St. Lawrence in his back yard), and graduated 9th overall in his class in Phys Ed. While a cadet he also sang Glee Club in the Cadet Chapel.
Dad passed away in his own bed at home, Tuesday morning, March 9th about 8:30. Davis had spoken to him about 7:00 that morning.
A viewing will be held Sunday afternoon, March 21st from 5 to 7 PM in St. Andrew's Episcopal Church with a following memorial service beginning at 7:00 PM, Three Maple St, Framingham, MA 01702.
The next day, Monday, March 22nd at 1:30 PM, a small service will be held in the old Cadet Chapel at West Point, where he had sung as a cadet. The old cadet chapel is located on the grounds of the cemetery. He will then be buried with full military honors.
As Mars pivoted on his heel this week, Dad saluted smartly one last time and marched off to join both Mom and the Long Grey Line.