Remembering Willard on Memorial Day

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, June 13, 2013

We lost another WWII veteran Sunday, May 26 from our little circle around the Oval Table at McDonalds, the second one this year. That means two fewer old guys sitting under the few trees in our local cemetery as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion lead a Memorial Day service. Some of the younger guys will steady the older veterans who have the honor of laying the wreath and symbolic flowers at the base of the flag pole after VFW Post Commander Scott Camp reads the General Order that established this Day of Remembering. May we ALWAYS REMEMBER, not “never forget” these men and women who gave up their tomorrows so that we might enjoy ours in freedom.

As I joined the group at McDonalds this morning, preparations were being made for the events of the day. Max Jolley said to me simply that “We lost Willard yesterday afternoon.” I knew only four of the nine Jolley siblings — six boys and three girls. “Nine bicycles under the porch,” as Hilda mentioned when I met her last week. I have written previously of their extended family being smaller than it should be because Paul is buried in an American GI cemetery in Europe. Willard and Jack made it home OK.

When we used to meet at Hardees I would stop by the tables on the men’s side before joining Aunt Mildred’s group of woman friends on the other side. Upon our return from a long trip, Willard asked me whether I’d like for him to “take care of those widder wimmen” when I was going to be away. Several other hands then went up to volunteer, so I suggested that maybe I should put the “job” out for bid.

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Now that Hardees has closed and Aunt Mildred and her circle of friends have all died, I meet with my fellow geezers at McDonalds. Owner Dave finally took out the little round table and put in a much larger oval table for us. Now we refer to that as the “Oval Office.” I always addressed Willard Jolley as “Mr. Chairman.”

Willard had a long career with the NCDOT after running motor pools for the Army. It was said that he was the only man who could repair a pot hole in a blacktop road in such a way that no one afterward knew there had ever been a hole there. I guess I never saw any of Willard’s patches!

Willard prepared for his retirement by buying up Edsel automobiles. It was said that he had owned a hundred of them. He still had about 50 when I retired, and he would restore one or two a year and sell them. He told me that the last two went to France!

Willard always had yet another story for us, and he really did enjoy laughing with us. I shared with him my few Edsel stories, and he came back with a lot more of them for me. I told him that my Uncle Ethan had met my train at Spartanburg when I came home on leave from the Air Force. Ethan was driving a brand new Edsel and brought me home to Lynn in comfort and style. He then returned the car to the dealer after the “test drive.”

Good news! As I was parking my folding chair under a large tent at the Memorial Day service this year, I commented to Jim and Pat Cowan that it sure was nice of FK McFarland to provide the “artificial trees” for our comfort. Jim had closed the hardware store so they could attend the services, their first time. Speaker Col. Albert Hart told us that this day is not about us, but about them, as he recited the battles that cost us so many patriots. Karen Lawrence sang our National Anthem as always, simply and straightforward, because it is not about her, but about our country. I am thankful for the faithful few who gather in remembrance of those who gave their all to preserve it for us.