Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Beacon Journal | 06/05/2004 | Etched in their minds
It was a long, tiring, and of course sad journey, but it was filled with many silver linings. Thank you to all our wonderful friends who helped in so many ways (helping with things in Baton Rouge, lending us entertainment for our trip, talking to us on the phone, and especially the far away friends we got to see in person). We left BR at 7pm on Thursday night and arrived in Akron, Ohio around 5pm on Friday. That left us enough time to shower and head to the calling hours. The drive was not as bad as I had feared, thanks to the DaVinci Codes on CD and a travel DVD player. We switched driving shifts often, but did need to both sleep for an hour and a half around 5am on Friday.

The calling hours and funeral service were touching, with a mix of laughter and tears as we mourned together as family and friends. I had forgotten that Janet's grandfather, though named John, went by Jack. I had always known him as "Bonka" due to an unfortunate mispronunciation of Grandpa that stuck. Googling Jack Urbank instead of John pulled up the linked article which more directly tells part of his D-Day story. Here is the relevant text:

"Anti-aircraft fire at plane
John ``Jack'' Urbank can still wear his Army jacket and remembers D-Day like it was yesterday.
He remembers jumping into France on an empty stomach.
Sitting on a couch inside his Cuyahoga Falls home, Urbank, 81, remembers why, too: The night before, the colonel warned that the greasy pork chops might make them sick, which would make the aluminum floor of the plane slippery.
Urbank was drafted into the Army in November 1941, a few years after he graduated from Hudson High School.
He was trained as a paratrooper and was in the 501st parachute infantry regiment, attached to the 101st Airborne, late in the evening of June 5, 1944, when he got on a plane with his buddies and flew toward France from England.
Urbank saw the other two planes in his group crash in the early morning before his jump. Only three soldiers on the two planes survived.
``We hit the coast of France, and the anti-aircraft fire started coming up,'' he said.
``It was like you could walk on it. Tracers from machine guns. Red, yellow and green.''
The pilot flew to treetop level to get away from anti-aircraft fire, flew back to the English Channel and then flew back to France.
About 1:30 a.m. on June 6, Urbank stepped out of the plane and landed in a cow pasture seven miles from where he was supposed to land. Germans with machine guns were on three sides of him.
He made it out by crawling through the cow pasture, then slept a few hours in a wheat field, then headed back toward Pouppeville, near Utah Beach.
Later he connected with other troops, had wine with a grateful French family and by that evening, came to a French town hall where he slept using a Nazi flag as a blanket.
Urbank's story is told in a newly published book called D-Day + 60 Years by Jerome J. McLaughlin, published by Author House.
Urbank, who fought in Holland and later in Bastogne and Alsace-Lorraine, was wounded by shrapnel but refused a Purple Heart so that his wife, Edna, who worked for Goodyear Aircraft at the time, would not have to worry about her husband when she heard the news.
Urbank came back to Ohio where he worked as a lens grinder at the family business, Urbank Optical Laboratories.
The Bronze Star winner has never been back to France, but he remembers the Longest Day every day.
``Every day I wake up I consider myself lucky to be alive,'' he said."

Janet's grandmother is going to be moving to a new retirement community that is only a half mile away from Janet's sister and her four children and is only about 1 mile from Janet's parents. The new facility has several other benefits over the old one. So, a new beginning should help in this tough time. Janet's grandmother and whole family is excited about this move.

The trip home allowed us time to stop in on Sean and Jenny's post-elopement party in Columbus and Becca's birthday in Cincinnati. We left Cleveland around 1 in the afternoon on Sunday, stopping at Sean and Jenny's for a few hours, then driving to Cincinnati, where we also saw Mike and Christie. Mike gets a different thanks from the above for the Vya vermouth. We stayed in Cincinnati for the night.

We were on the road by 8:30am Cincinnati time and arrived in Baton rouge at 9:30pm. We polished off all 13 DaVinci Codes CDs (interesting story/ideas, but not that earth shaking, and definitely could have used an editor, perfect for the long trip) and generally had a pleasant drive with good weather, just a few showers here and there.

Thanks again for all your support through this difficult time.

No comments: