Volunteers on Friday place flags at the veterans’ graves at Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Va., in preparation for Memorial Day Weekend. Bill Tiernan/AP

Honoring my father, this Memorial Day and always

A reflection . . . 

Tomorrow, on Memorial Day, I will do what I have done so often in the past.

I will sit in my garden and think of my father.

It is in my garden that my father drifts back among the tuberous begonias, the tomatoes, the plants of shade and sun — metaphors for his life.

Dad kept his precious things in an old cigar box. A picture of him playing baseball, a keepsake from Alaska, an old coin.

But most precious to me is a hand-typed, flimsy piece of paper containing a brief diary with tiny, penciled notations of every World War II mission he flew as a gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber.

Locations like Tarawa, the Marianas, the Carolinas, Guadalcanal are noted. But no sense of how he felt, other than “encountered lots of ack-ack.”

But on a November day in 1943, when Dad was on a run, I was born.


My parents were children of the Depression. They didn’t believe the world owed them a living. They worked. And they worked hard. Their generation mostly stayed married. And sometimes they went to church.

And those soldiers, like my Dad, who went to college on the GI Bill after the war, changed the face of America.

I regret all those questions I never asked my Dad, but he remains as precious to me as the flower that towered above him in his garden, the giant sunflower, its face looking up toward the sun.

That’s how I remember my father, a towering sunflower looking up.

The Trump pardon . . . 

President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion, has a Waukegan angle.

Johnson’s third and final wife, Irene Pineau, who was white — was not only from Waukegan, but the couple were married there in 1925.

“They were married by my grandfather, Hervey C. Coulson, who was a Waukegan lawyer and part-time Justice of the Peace,” Chicago attorney Bill Coulson told Sneed.

“The marriage lasted the rest of his life, and it was performed at my grandfather’s office, a very controversial task for him at the time — to marry a ‘white girl’ to an African-American man,” said Coulson.

“My grandfather, a Spanish Civil War veteran who died in 1985, told me long ago he took a lot of heat for that wedding the next day from the guys down at the courthouse. They were very critical of him for doing so. Those were the times he lived in.

But he said they were a nice young couple, had all the paperwork, and just wanted their privacy.”

Johnson was convicted of a racially motivated “crime” in 1913 for transporting a white woman across state lines. The conviction was described as “haunting” him until he died, and celebrities advocated for his pardon.

After Johnson’s death, Pineau stated: “I loved him because of his courage. He faced the world unafraid. There wasn’t anybody or anything that he feared.”

Added Coulson: “Our family is very proud of grandfather Hervey!

Getting trumped . . . 

No Twitter jitters here: At last peek, Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account has 52.2 million followers compared with 45 million in January 2017, and Trump now follows 46 people, up from 41 in January 2017.

Wagon … ho!

A red wagon?

Plans to rename Balbo Drive and, perhaps, change the name of Congress Parkway in honor of a prominent Italian-American from Chicago netted this e-mail from a Sneed reader:

“In the furor over [renaming] Italo Balbo’s street and monument, no one seems to have any Plan B as to which Italian-American to honor in Chicago.

Alderman [Brendan] Reilly’s choices, Mother Cabrini and Enrico Fermi, were both Italian natives and have already been lionized with tributes — Cabrini with her shrine in Lincoln Park, Fermi with Fermilab in Batavia, IL.

“How about the Pasin family, whose West Side company still produces the world-famous ‘Radio Red Flyer’ wagon, which has become a symbol of American childhood? Antonio Pasin introduced the product at Chicago’s World Fair in 1934.

“To say that it became an instant success is an understatement. Indeed, a huge sculpture of the Radio Flyer dominates a park in Spokane, Washington, and has become a tourist magnet there.”

There ya go.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Hank Williams Jr., 69; Lauryn Hill, 43; and Stevie Nicks, 70. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Andre 3000, 43; Terry Collins, 69; and Paul Bettany, 47.

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