Sunday, August 9, 2009

In Memorial

When my father was 18, in training for the Army Aircorps, he was told that as a pilot, he wouldn't live to see 21. We always used to laugh together when I said that it was a good thing he had a contingency plan. My father lead a full and amazing life, and most importantly, he lived it on his own terms - always, but that doesn't surprise anyone who knew him.
My Dad was born on a cold day in December in 1923 to Leona and James Beadling. His Grandmother claimed that he was the ugliest baby she had ever seen. My dad used to laugh and say, "You know it had to be bad if even your Grandmother said you were ugly. Grandmother's think all babies are beautiful." During the height of the depression, my father went to live with his Grandparents, his Aunt Stella and his Uncle Roy. He loved them very much and they raised him as their own son. They taught him the qualities that I believe most characterize his life: determination, loyalty and patriotism.
Most of my father's favorite memories about his childhood revolved around his favorite sport - football. My father was the Captain and quarterback of his highschool team. Long before that though, he tells stories about always wanting to play with the older boys, challenging himself to play harder and better. Those boys used to tell him that he couldn't play, he was too small and he would get hurt, to which he would indignantly respond, " I won't get hurt! Let me play!" When he was in the 8th grade, he wanted to go to football training camp with the older highschool players. He asked the coach and was told that he could attend but that he couldn't stay with the other players. He got permission from his Grandparents to camp out - on his own for the week of training. He cooked his own food over a camp fire and stayed by himself in a tent every night for a week just so he could attend that football camp. He was always very proud of that. He earned the respect of everyone there, including a local business owner who came out and cooked him eggs for breakfast on the last day of practice.
On December 7th, 1941, my father was at a friend's house playing cards after Church when President Roosevelt came on the radio and announced the attack on Pearl Habor. The next day, my father went into the city with his friends to join the Marines. Because he was only 17, he needed one of his parents to sign a consent form. His mother refused to sign.
My father asked if he joined the Army Aircorps whether she would give her permission , and realizing that his birthday was just weeks away, my Grandmother reluctantly relented. My father walked into the city to take the required entrance exam for the Aircorps. Of over 100 boys there that day, only 30 passed the physical and went on to take the written test. My father told me that it was a grueling ordeal but he resolved to do his best and answer each and every question. At the end of the day, the recruiter administrating the assessment, called out three names, one of which was my father's. My dad said that he looked at the other two boys there and in his heart he feared he was about to hear some sad story about how they didn't make it, but since he walked all the way there he resolved to stay and hear what the recruiter had to say. Those three boys were the only three to pass the entire evaluation that day, and so my father proudly entered into the Army Aircorps.
He fought in two wars - both World War II and Korea. He served as instructor pilot in P40s and P51s during World War II and then bravely returned to battle during the Korean War as Squadron Commander of over 50 extremely dangerous night missions in F84s and F86s in suppport of the Marines on the ground. After Korea, my father told me that he knew that hell was not full of flames they way most of the stories say, but that the worst levels of hell were cold, like the Chosin Resevoir. My father never forgot the Marines, his comrades in arms, or the lessons that they taught him. One of his favorite phrases was "Proper planning prevents piss poor performance" - a remnant of his time in the military.
My father loved the military and he deeply loved the country that he served, but most of you know that he didn't really have the personality for taking orders - so he went into the Reserves to continue fly fighters and serve his country, while at the same time going to work in the Airline industry.
While in the Guard, my father flew the F102. He loved to fly jets - especially with his friends George and Joe. They spent their time together at Mach one with their hair on fire, which is the way they liked it. The three of them were always together. One night my Dad was late coming home from the Guard. My mother got a call from his friend Joe - long after she had gone to bed - saying that my Dad had an accident, "He ran into me!" Joe quipped, and that's just how the three of them were.
During this time my father also worked for Allegheny Airlines - then US Airways - and did so until the age 60 - mandatory retirement. He enjoyed his time working there and also serving as a Union representative for the Airline Pilots Association. He made many, wonderful, lifelong friends, some of whom are here with us today. After his retirement, my father continued working for US Airways as a trainer in their simulator, assisting other pilots in becoming the best that they could be, encouraging them to constantly improve and hone thier skills in an airplane.

My father was probably the most loyal person that I have ever met. He always used to tell me that "friend" was one of the most overused words in the english language. In his opinion, if someone was your friend - really your friend- then they could call you in the middle of the night and expect to have you help them, in any way that was required. My father was that kind of friend, as many here can attest.

He was a very passionate person- he loved deeply, held grudges, felt things intensely - you just had to get him into a political discussion to know these things about him. He was an idealist who believed that a man's word and his honor were everything. My father was a man of integrity - he did what he said and said what he did. He was a man of deep and abiding faith and he lived that faith every day. He lived his life on his own terms and that is really all any of us can ask. I know I speak for my sisters when I say - he is our father, he will forever be our hero.


Jen said...

That was beautiful Laurie! I see so many of those qualities in you - the patriotism, the loyalty, the faith. They are traits that I have always admired in you. Your father will always live on in your heart. I'm always thinking of you. Love and hugs, Jen

Keri said...

A beautiful tribute to such a wonderful sounding man. The type of person everyone should have to look up to.
May you find peace in this difficult time.

Ann M. said...

Thank you so much for sharing your father with all of us. There is not much I can say but to offer my condolences to you and your family.

Half my Heart said...

Laurie, that was an awesome tribute. Your dad is an amazing man and he raised an amazing daughter. "Fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith." ~2 Tim 4:7