In his late teens/early 20s, he was one of the thousands of young men drafted to serve his country in World War II. He was young and somewhat innocent, I suppose. He boarded a boat to the Philippines and served in the Red Arrow division of the US Army. This division served 654 consecutive days of combat, more than any other US army division. He saw many atrocities that most young men hope to never see. At the end of the war, he became a part of the Occupation Forces in Japan. He received 2 bronze stars, but never shared his story as to why he received them. He simply told us, "I was only doing my job."
Upon his return from war, he met my grandmother on a blind date and was instantly smitten with her. At her death last year, they had been married for 62 years.
Throughout my life, Paw Paw B was always there. We spent many Sunday afternoons eating dinner with he and Maw Maw, gathered around the table. His favorite dish was my mother's potato salad. When my grandmother made it, he always made a comment about how it wasn't as good as my mom's.
Growing up, he was always outside working in the garden or fishing. There were many trips to the fishing camp or walks around the pond. I know I put in many hours picking vegetables and strawberries out of the garden with him. The big green 5 gallon bucket would be overflowing with his Celebrity tomatoes in no time. He grew the best I've had.
Every time I see a Dixon lawnmower, I think of him. He taught all of the grandkids to drive it when we were old enough to reach the pedals. There were many good times had by us all riding around the property.
Paw Paw was generous to anyone who needed help. Each birthday and Christmas, unbeknownst to the grandkids, he and Maw Maw put money into an account for each grandchild. When we graduated from high school, he gave us what had accumulated over the years. He bought cars and even invited grands to live with him when they needed a place. Out of 6 grands, I'm the only one who hasn't lived on the Kelly compound.
Since moving away, I didn't see him as often as I should. I'm ridden with guilt from not calling as often as I needed to call. But, I did talk to him one last time and told him I loved him.
My dad called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me it wouldn't be long. I had laid down for a nap since I was going to have to stay up late to do lesson plans. When I hung the phone up and walked in the living room, The Lawerence Welk show was on. It was only fitting that at that moment that would play since Paw Paw watched it every time it was on. I sat down and cried a hard cry while it played.
When we arrived in Louisiana, I walked in Paw Paw's house and life was different. The house was quiet. No one was sitting on the porch swing. Life was not the same.