Write a review of your life — or the life of someone close to you — as if it were a movie or a book.

Harlan Roe was born in Akron Ohio in 1924. His parents were a postal worker and a secretary. His mom’s first husband had died from a killer flu epidemic in 1919, just before the birth of his daughter. I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but my step-grandfather and his wife has a long and happy marriage, but had only one child together, Harlan.

By all accounts we was a pretty typical boy, and loved jokes, silliness, and speed. He had a motorcycle in his teens which he pretty much resurrected from the dead, and hadn’t even thought about “further education” when Pearl Harbor ignited his desire to join the Marines. His dad, reluctantly I’m sure, allowed him to sign up when he was 17, and off he went to Camp LeJeune, as many new recruits still do.

PurpleheartAfter basic training, he was sent to California, then off to fight in the Pacific Theater, joining troops fighting in the bloody battles of New Britain, Guadalcanal and Peleliu. He was a fearless BAR rifleman and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry when he rescued a fallen Marine while dodging machine gun fire. Harley received the Purple Heart when he was severely injured during the assault on Bloody Nose Ridge in Peleliu.

When he was advised in the hospital that his right lower arm should be amputated, he begged doctors to do their best to save it, for working with his hands was his gift. He could make anything, and solve any mechanical problem. He went through several operations and a long recuperation, but though compromised, his right hand served him well throughout the rest of his life, as did his creativity and war experiences.

Returning stateside, he married, assumed a normal existence, and had 3 sons. Still using his hands. built his own house, and several others, in the rural area of Spencer (north central Ohio), where worked as a machinist at Goodyear Aerospace as well as maintaining and building up his own shop. His ability to use creativity and problem-solving enabled him to patent several specialized parts for weaponry.

Using GI bill monies, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education from Kent State University. He taught social studies, industrial arts and his favorite, machine trades at various high schools in his area of Ohio, retiring after 31 years. He loved teaching and helping kids get ahead, whether it was with their hands or their creativity, or overcoming personal problems, for he knew something of those.

As with many veterans of war, he did not share his experiences, or the effect they had on him. They did impart a desire to help others, young and old, and increased his compassion. But it was not until he was about 60 that old memories caught up with him and he began to seek out others with whom he could share his unresolved pain from the war, so long before. He became active in the DAV and Marine Corps League of Media, Ohio, and drew great strength from his fellow veterans, as they did from him.

Throughout his retirement, he loved to work in his machine shop, still solving problems even as his health deteriorated, largely from his life-long battle with diabetes. He enjoyed travelling throughout the United States with his second wife, Eleanor, his true soulmate. He genuinely liked helping others: he lived in an area where there was a large Amish population and he respected their ways; they would often barter to get what they needed from my uncle, and he was happy to work with them. Money was never a factor in his life.

He was also a lover of American and world history and often had a different take on what happened an why. He had a wicked wit, hidden by a serene demeanor, and drew out honesty without being harsh. He was certainly part of the greatest generation. He is a person whom I wish I had been able to spend more time with, for each moment with him was valuable.

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