Charlene Quint Kalebic

                                Introduction to
                               Angels of Ebermannstadt:

Angels of Ebermannstadt by Charlene Quint Kalebic

 

It wasn’t until I hit forty that I realized my life was already half-lived, and more importantly, that my parents, both in their eighties, would not be around forever. All of those things on my to-do list, everything I was going to get around to someday, I needed to get around to sooner rather than later because there might not be any later. And one of those things I felt compelled to do as I got older was to get to know more about my dad in the younger years of his life.

My father, Richard Quint, had been an infantryman in World War II―“The Big One,” as he called it. But like almost everyone from his generation, he never talked about it. He never talked about the war, or what he saw, or how he got his medals. Mother said that even into the 1960s, he would have nightmares about the war and wake up screaming, but he never talked about it to her either. Occasionally I would hear a snippet here or there about a family he’d stayed with, or a person he might have met, or his horse when he was in the horse-drawn field artillery. But generally, that part of his history was a big black hole.

If you know my dad, you know that for him, not talking about something is next to impossible. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like him or call him friend, and I’ve never heard him say an unkind word about anyone (with the possible exception of his first wife). No matter whom he met, whether it was a farmer or a secretary or a businessman, he would find something in common and the conversation would flow like sweet tea on a hot day.

Angels of Ebermannstadt childrenA machinist and tool-and-die maker by trade, with a garage full of “treasures” like lathes and drill presses and every other mechanical tool dreamed up by the mind of man, he spent most of his time puttering about town helping out anyone who needed a hand: “I’ve got to fix the back door for Mrs. French,” or “I’m going out to the Gweynn’s farm to help with their tractor,” or “Gotta head out to the shop to make a tool for Bob’s machine that locked up last week.” At gun club meetings, tractor pulls, Ducks Unlimited gatherings, American Legion get-togethers, or farm auctions, he could talk to someone he knew for hours and a stranger even longer. Somewhere in the conversation, Dad would say something like, “Oh, I have just the thing you are looking for!” And they would exchange phone numbers, set up a time to work on a project, and pretty soon Dad had a new friend. It drove Mother crazy. She did not see the point of wasting time making new friends. With his old manual typewriter and his rotary telephone, he kept in touch with more people around the world than I could possibly find in my Rolodex. So his complete silence on the subject of WWII was absolutely out of character, and I decided I needed to know more about it. After all, those were his formative years―he enlisted at the age of seventeen―and there must have been something lurking there that made him the person he was today.

The sixtieth anniversary of the Allied invasion of June 6, 1944, provided the perfect opportunity to get to know more about those unknown years. In the fall of 2003, almost on a lark, I called and asked if he would want to go to Europe for the sixtieth. I suggested that we could retrace his footsteps from WWII and that he could be our tour guide. It took him all of a nanosecond to say yes. The very next day, he faxed what he considered to be the ideal itinerary, which included no less than eighteen cities in five different countries. I giggled when I received it―Dad’s sense of adventure always outweighed our allotment of time. I cut it down to what we could reasonably expect to accomplish in a two-week vacation and started making plans.

SoldierLeaving behind my son Donny (then seventeen) to finish high school finals in the company of my mother, who was no more interested in all this “unnecessary fall-de-rah,” as she called it, than Donny was, in May of 2004 my husband, Tom, our two youngest children, nine-year-old Christy and five-year-old Marty, Dad, and I embarked upon our historical expedition to retrace the footsteps of a soldier as he had landed on Omaha Beach and marched to Berlin. Although I considered myself educated and fairly well-read (after all, I had a law degree and managed to read a fair amount at least in the areas of law and business), I was completely unprepared for the amazing education the simple people in our party and those we would meet on our trip would teach us. Little did we know this trip would grip our hearts, enlighten our minds, teach us lessons in international relations, and forever change the way we viewed the world and “the Greatest Generation.”

 

 

Click the link below to download an additional excerpt from Angels of Ebermannstadt:

Wednesday Evening, June 2, 2004, a Cute Little House in Schlaifhausen, Germany (PDF)

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