Friday, May 6, 2011

My Boyhood Hero William J. Crowe

My boyhood hero, my brother Bill, died yesterday at the age of 84. So many of my memories of him are when we were young. One of my favorites was a trip to Rockaway Beach back in late July or ear1y August of 1945. Billy had just turned 19, I was 11, and this angry woman came up to us and said to him, “Why aren’t you in the service?” People were like that back in WW II. Billy said, “Because my father has pull.” And we left her fuming. In fact, Billy had just gotten out of a military hospital after recovering from the second wound he suffered as a Marine in the Battle of Okinawa.
He met his wife, Lee, who was a WAVE, when he was stationed in Washington, D.C., before mustering out of the service. Whenever he arrived at his favorite bar in D.C., the piano player would sing Harrigan (H-A-double R-I-G-A-N spells Harrigan). He and Lee got married and moved to Youngstown, Ohio, her home town, where he went to Youngstown University on the GI Bill, then worked in the steel industry and had three kids. When Lee died a few years ago, her best friend asked me where she and Billy had met. I told her in Washington after he came back from Okinawa. The friend hadn’t known that Billy was not only a Marine, but an infantryman who had seen some dreadful action.
Billy loved the ocean and came home to New York every summer to go to the beach and to go swimming in the Atlantic. I can still see him hanging out with his friends before the war in front of Marco’s Candy Store on 47th Street in Woodside; and taking me to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on a bitter cold, windy day and asking what do you want to eat: chow mein or Pizza? I would say both. He ran in the Penn Relays for St. Ann’s High School in Manhattan. He loved boxing. Our father had been a boxer in his youth. Billy took me to many a boxing match at places now long gone: the outdoor arena at Queens Plaza in Long Island City and Sunnyside Gardens on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside.
No matter how old a brother is, no matter how fulsome a life he had led, it is heartbreaking to lose him.

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2 comments:

5cd7552e-7de8-11e0-9a92-000bcdcb5194 said...

Our heroes always live on with us. They never leave, appearing when we need them.

This is a very special piece.

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