Saturday, July 22, 2006

Russell James York Esq. RIP 1922-2006


Bad day. Here in Calif it's 110 and hotter than the hubs of hell. My dad has died from complications of a bladder infection/prostate problem in a Skowhegan, Maine hospital. He was 84. He went to WWII as a medic in the 4th army engineer combat battalion landing at Utah Beach on D Day. He marched from there into the Hurtgen Forest where he was awarded the Silver Star for actions retrieving wounded on a bridge and served with Ernest Hemingway. They both got concussions in the ordeal.

General Harold W. Blakely presented the medal in a ceremony in Prum, Germany. From there he marched to Buchenwald and was among the first to enter the Nazi death camp accompanied by CBS News'legendary Edward R. Murrow. After the war he went back to Waterville, Me and worked at a woolen mill, florist shop and ultimately as a donut maker in a commercial bakery, one of the worst sweatshops I've ever seen. I worked there too.

"How can you stand this?" I once asked him while I watched him work. He just shrugged his shoulders. "What choice do I have," he said.

This is the way it is for impoverished people everywhere. No choice. The old man was extremely outspoken with a sharp tongue and this was offputting in closed mouth New England. Apparently I've inherited this knack. He was quick-witted and well read. He enjoyed opera and anything European which turned off nearly everyone in Maine. In reality he lived his life as a closeted gay man. In the war it was open. I finally outed him and that allowed him to live free in his last 20 years of life. No pain no gain.

Luckily, I visted him often and just had him taped for the WWII veterans oral history project. This record will live forever in the public trust.

Rest in piece dad. You did what all great men did: their best.

2 Comments:

Blogger Raoul Underhill said...

We've sparred in the past, but your dad deserves respect and thanks for his life and his service, and you have my condolences.

10:40 PM  
Blogger The Late Mitchell Warren said...

My respects.

11:43 AM  

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