Sunday, March 08, 2009

Treasure in the safe deposit box.

My grandfather, Chester Ray Huff, was a bona fide WWI war hero. He was a corpsman, serving in France, when he went out on two separate occasions, under fire and mustard gas attack, to pull wounded American and French soldiers hundreds of yards to get them off the battlefield. This is particularly impressive if you know that the men on that side of the family are small and skinny - surprisingly tough and strong, but hardly look like the type who could perform physical feats of heroism like that. He received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

He died young, apparently as an indirect result of the after-effects of the mustard gas exposure. My father was a boy when his father died. He recalled vividly that the US didn't do anything to honor him, but the French sent a full honor guard and dignitaries to the funeral of an Irish-American longshoreman in Jersey City, NJ. Even as an old man, my father still sounded like a boy when he talked about the sight of the dignified men and beautifully dressed French women (he called them "the beautiful mademoiselles") who turned out to honor his dad. I had found my grandfather's portrait - a young man in uniform - and the citations, and had crossed my fingers that the medals were in the safe deposit box - and they were. Whew. I have several old photographs I really must have professionally preserved, before they fall apart.

I'm also the proud (??!) owner of two cemetery plots in Clinton, MD. Surprise! I'll call the cemetery tomorrow and hope that they know how I can dispose of them. With any luck, I can sell them for a couple thousand bucks and pay for the living room furniture. That would be cool. (I'm an heiress of very low expectations.)


Linda said...

Great memories past down, how awesome is that. Some how I come from a family that keeps that takes those stories to their graves. You are lucky to have them.
Those medals and photos will look great together in one frame don't you think?

Francesca said...

That is *so awesome*. Take that, you anti-French folks. And I love the story of how your dad recounted it.

I second the idea of the medals and the photos together.


P.S. My word verification is "derapre," which isn't French but sounds like it should be.

Francesca said...

Also -- I am somehow highly and warpedly amused by the thought of selling cemetery plots to pay for furniture. :-)

Catherine said...

So am I, that's why it occurred to me. :-)

Bess said...

What a wonderful wonderful story about your father and grandfather. I'm so glad you found the medals.

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