Greatest Generation: Aiming for the Sky

Greatest Generation

Greatest Generation: Aiming for the Sky

Greatest Generation

From soaring in airplanes to climbing foreign mountaintops, these veterans reached new heights both in and out of the service.

Edward Spencer

Three Oaks Assisted Living & Memory Care
Cary, Illinois

Edward Spencer was born on the South Side of Chicago in October of 1923. After graduating from Kelly High School, he spent two years at the Illinois Institute of Technology. While working for Bell & Thorn, he became a certified tool and die maker. In 1945, he was drafted into the Army and shipped to Fort Lewis, Washington. While at Fort Lewis, he and his army friend would have breakfast at the Service Club. One day as they sat down to have breakfast, Ed looked up and saw a pretty cashier. He said to his friend, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

So as the weeks and months went by Ed and Jean, that pretty cashier, dated. They enjoyed dancing, swimming and canoeing. Ed proposed to Jean, and they were married July 12, 1947, in Chicago. While in the Army, he served as a machine shop instructor, physical education instructor and mechanic in the car pool.

Ed started his tool and die business in Chicago in 1948. On March 31, 1949, their first child, Kandy Kay, a beautiful girl, was born. Later, they had two mischievous boys, Scott and Randy.

Ed’s business was doing very well and moved into a 15,000-square-foot facility. With the business well organized and succeeding, Ed found time to take up flying. He learned to fly in a Piper J-3 Cub and earned his pilot’s license in 1952. He has always loved flying and had several airplanes. He and Jean have flown on many long trips. He has served as nation chief for the YMCA Indian guides and as mayor of Oakwood Hills, Illinois. In 1979, Ed moved his business to Carpentersville, Illinois, where Scott, his oldest son, joined him. They now occupy 75,000 square feet and employ 55 people. Ed and Jean moved into Three Oaks Assisted Living & Memory Care in September 2013.

Ed’s beautiful wife Jean passed away on September 19, 2015, leaving behind her three children and their spouses, 14 wonderful grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren. She is sorely missed.

Ed recently purchased an 1941 Piper J-3 Cub and is flying with a flight instructor who will check and sign his logbook. He and his son Randy, an airline pilot, plan to continue flying the Cub together.

Ed said, “The best thing we ever did as a family was join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has brought us hope in eternal families.”

Greatest GenerationJohn Henrich

Westview at Ellisville Living & Memory Care
Ellisville, Missouri

John Henrich was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 30, 1918. Married and a father of two, John was drafted into the Army in 1943 at age 25. Because many men the couple knew were being drafted at the time, it didn’t come as a surprise to John’s wife when he was drafted. He began his training at Camp Hale in Colorado. “I learned how to ski and maneuver the mountains,” he said. “I got really good at skiing.” From there, he was sent to Italy.

As part of the 10th Mountain Division, John was a “mule driver.” The mules were used to navigate the rugged terrain not accessible to vehicles because there were no roads. The mules carried the artillery used to clear the Germans from the mountains.

“At any given time, we had about 50 mules,” he said. “There was only one horse, but it was for the lieutenant. Everyone else had to walk alongside us. My division cleared the Germans from the mountains from Rome to Germany.” The group was constantly on the move and did not have a permanent base camp. Because of this, John had no contact with his family for the two years he spent in Italy.

John was discharged in 1945 after the surrender. Prior to being drafted, John had put in his request to be a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. About two weeks after returning home to St. Louis, he started work as a mail carrier and did that for 38 years before retiring.

Recently, John embarked on an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., accompanied by his daughter. “I was the only World War II veteran who was on the trip,” he said. “Most everyone was from the Vietnam War or Korean War.” John’s favorite part of the trip was getting to see all the war memorials. “It was very touching and interesting,” he said. “It was well worth it, and I am glad that I was able to go after all these years.”

Greatest GenerationThomas G. Dewerd

Pamilla Senior Living
Albuquerque, New Mexico

When Thomas Dewerd wanted to attend college in the early 1950s, he was first required to join the U.S. Air Force ROTC. There, Tom served four years and graduated as a 2nd lieutenant in 1955. After joining at age 22, he served his country for 21 years. Throughout his military career, Tom was stationed at a variety of bases in Tampa, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; and Big Spring, Texas.

Tom obtained his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating college, he went through a year of pilot training and then continued on to strategic air command. Tom flew B-47 and B-52 aircrafts. The longest time Tom was away from his family during this tenure was when he served in Taiwan for a year and a half. Tom’s crew was the last crew to fly an airplane classified as a T-6.

One of Tom’s greatest achievements and the highest-ranked medal he received was a Distinguished Flying Cross medal for bombing without radar. Tom completed more than 130 missions throughout his military career and received approximately six air medals. Tom retired from the military at age 43 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tom and his wife, Dianna, have two children — a daughter and a son. The couple’s daughter lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their son is a graphic designer in New York.

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