Friday, March 4, 2011

Frank Buckles RIP

Frank Buckles died.  He was 110.   Frank was the last US World War One veteran. Back in 1917, he lied about his age (16) to enlist and, although he never saw action, served as an ambulance driver.  He eventually rose to the rank of corporal when the war ended. 
I have followed Frank Buckles and his last comrades fairly intensely over the last ten or so years...clipping and saving newspaper articles when the "last Canadian" or "last infantryman" died.  I counted down...five, four, three, two...and then, Frank.  The last one.   Out of 4-point-7 million
When I was a kid, it was no big deal knowing a WWI vet.  My wife's aunt was a nurse in that war and lived to be just shy of 100.  While there were no veterans of the Civil War alive during my lifetime, there were people "alive" during that era.  I recall seeing a newspaper article when the last Civil War veteran died (I think it was the early 50's, but I could be wrong).  I was always fascinated with the story of the final member of a group opening a bottle of cognac and drinking a toast to his deceased friends. 
That's not to say I wasn't fascinated with the passing of ages.  I remember collecting my first "old" coin--a 1898 penny--and thinking what an incredibly ancient artifact I had (when in fact it was probably only about 70-years old at the time.)  There's something about a changing century that makes things seem "old." I wonder if my birth year in the latter half of the 1900's will evoke the same sense of "oldness" to my future great-grandchild-to-be.
Recently i met and attempted to interview a neighbor of mine who is 111.  Yep, you read that correct.  Her name is Emily and she was born November 20, 1899.  There's little doubt she will be the last person I know from the 19th Century.  Although she is considered a "supercentenarian," she has attracted very little media attention.  Judging from the lists, she is the oldest person in Ohio, Indiana or Kentucky and she lives less than two miles from my home.  I recorded an interview with her but it's a little rough--her hearing is bad and she refuses to wear those "darned hearing aids."   Bless her heart, she's earned the right to peace and quiet.  I'm sure I'll write about Emily in the future, but for the moment the death of Frank Buckles has reminded me that time is passing quickly and, often-times, without notice.

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