John D, Mr. A14
It was 2004. John D, now well into his 80’s, welcomed Angelo B officially into the Old Guard. John’s warm welcome was like an embrace from an old friend that you hadn’t seen in years. If Angelo had any doubts or misgivings about joining the Old Guard they had quickly dissolved. John D had a way of making you feel like you “belonged.” The Old Guard is a place for senior men to gather every week for coffee and conversation and ritual. That ritual includes a Pledge of Allegiance, the reading of minutes, old business, new business, the singing of a song, perhaps a guest speaker, and last but not least, coffee and donuts. Many of the members were war veterans, as was John.
John was a client of mine, right up until the day he died, January 1, 2018. Age 97.He was married for 30 years to his beloved Evelyn, a second marriage for both. I had met John around 1996 when he was President of the Old Guard and I had been invited to speak to the men by a member who I knew from my father’s tax practice. If I had any butterflies about speaking to about 50 men about their finances John quickly put that to rest by giving me a hearty welcome which started with warm applause from the audience.
Years later I had asked John about his WWII experience and he told me he drove a tank in Germany. I wondered if he ever was in any mortal danger and he said, yes, he and his tank buddies were hit by an explosion possibly from a grenade. And then? “I (blank) my pants.”
I would visit John and Evelyn in their home. That’s what they expected and I would just do it. One time I was driving back from a conference in Boston and was going to be a couple of hours late for our appointment. They took my advice on an investment recommendation and I was excited about that. No problem they said as I called from the road, “ just come in through the back and we’ll be waiting for you.” When I walked in they were both sleeping up-right in their armchairs with the TV on. I tapped him on the shoulder: “John, it’s Jerry.” “Evelyn!” he bellowed in his booming voice. “Give Jerry his check!” Every year they would send me a Christmas card with a check for $100 in it. They appreciated me and I loved seeing them. They were just good people.
Now I was sitting in the funeral parlor listening to members of the Old Guard tell stories about John as they stood in front of his casket. As the story goes when Angelo joined the Old Guard he looked at John and said: “I know you.” John did not recognize him at first. Later Angelo said to John: “I was one of the men on your tank in Germany.” That would have been 60 years prior. Not quite sure, John asked: “What was our tank number? “A14” said Angelo. They smiled and hugged.
“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing but then I know it’s going strong…” (from “Sweet Caroline” John D’s favorite song).