Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Big Brother

Willie & Loretta, taken at Idora Park

This is one of the very few pictures I have of my older brother, Willie & myself together.  I love his goofy grin!

It was taken in a photo booth, at Idora Park in Youngstown, OH.  I remember we got to go there once a year, when my Dad's job sponsored a free attendance day. There isn't any date on it but I'm guessing I was around 8 years old.

He used to tease my younger siblings & I, unmercifully.  I remember one time that he was left in charge to babysit us, while my parents were shopping...he made all of the younger kids sit on the sofa & he sat across from us with a cork pop-gun in his hand.  He would shoot us in the knee if we tried to get up & leave.  I laugh now at the memory but it wasn't funny at the time!  Sadly, he & I often fought in our teenage years...we didn't agree on much back then.

Willie bonks Dad with Kolachi, 1977

This photo of him was taken at my house, on Easter, around 1970.  He is playfully bonking my Dad on the head with a foil wrapped kielbasa, that I was sending home with him.  I never really liked him with that beard...he was so much nicer looking without it.

He was a very popular fellow with lots of friends.  It used to bug me when I was in high school & someone would say to me "Oh, you're Bill's sister!"  I'd answer back, "No, Bill is my brother!" They didn't get it.  Now I'm so proud to be known as his sister!

 He was a remarkable guy with a wide variety of interests.  He got to see the world while he was in the Air Force.  I still have the postcard he sent to me from Japan.
He wore real wooden clogs all the time.  I thought he was so cool.

He planted a huge garden every year.  He was into collecting beautiful knives at one time.  He was very handsome...tall, robust & healthy.
In high school, he was a football player...I remember when he chipped his front tooth, playing football.  My Mother was furious...she hadn't wanted him to play in the first place!  

 He joined the Air Force when the Vietnam War started & had been a member of the elite Air Force Pararescuemen group, also known as "PJ's" or Maroon Berets from 1967 through 1971. 

From Wikipedia: "Pararescuemen (also known as PJs) are United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Air Combat Command (ACC) operatives tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. These special operations units are also used to support NASA missions and have been used to recover astronauts after water landings. They are attached to other SOF teams from all branches to conduct other operations as appropriate. Of the 22 enlisted Air Force Cross recipients, 12 are Pararescuemen. They wear the maroon beret as a symbol of their elite status, and to symbolize the blood shed by past PJs, as well as the blood current PJs are willing to shed to save lives. Part of the little-known Air Force Special Operations community[2] and long an enlisted preserve, the Pararescue service began commissioning Combat Rescue Officers early in the 21st century. "

He & his fellow officers went into the jungles of Vietnam, via helicopter, to rescue the wounded.  He was also one of a team of divers who helped recover a manned lunar capsule from the ocean.   John Glenn or Armstrong perhaps?  I wish I could find that photo!  Maybe one of my siblings have it.

He died 21 years ago today, (on my birthday), when he was just 47 years old.  He had developed some sort of abdominal discomfort while out hunting in November of 1992.  He didn't want to interrupt the holidays for his family, so he waited until after Christmas & went into the hospital on Jan. 1, 1993 to have some tests done.

When it was discovered that he had cancer, he was given very aggressive chemotherapy, which, unfortunately shut down his kidneys.  He was in my former ICU unit, where I had worked full time, for over 10 years.  My friends & colleagues took as good of care of him as they could but he lost his battle against the disease & sadly, passed away eighteen days later.
He left behind a wife, (who was an RN, like me) and two handsome sons, neither of which had even finished high school at the time.  They went on to graduate from college & have since grown into wonderful young men that I know he would have been proud of.  They've both married & have 2 girls by the oldest son & 3 boy by the younger son.  It is sad that those 5 little tykes never got a chance to know their grandfather.  It makes me try especially hard to make good memories of the times my grandchildren & I are together.    

Part of the reason I blog, is to leave a record of events & recollections for my daughter & grandchildren.
I want them to know about the important things in my life, besides food & dishes! 

Thanks for visiting is always kind of a melancholy day for me.  
Oh & if you have a minute,
pop over to Sarah's blog,
to wish HER a "Happy Birthday"...
we share the same day!


  1. It's a shame that your birthday has been bittersweet all these years. I'm so sorry! Try to have a fun day anyway! I will be thinking about you!

  2. What a wonderful post in loving memory of your dear brother, Rett, who left the world far too young. I'm sure he's very proud of his sons and is a special angel to his granchildren.
    Happy Birthday to you, on this bittersweet day for you, as you celebrate and yet remember your brother. Hugs are sent to you.

  3. Rett, that was the nicest tribute to your brother, sounds like he was a wonderful big brother. Happy, happy birthday and many more!

  4. Happy Birthday, Rett! How sad about your brother, the older we get the more we miss them. Prayed for you at Mass yesterday. I am going to try and get an appt with an ENT tomorrow. 3 weeks of this is not a good thing!

  5. Rett, He sounds like such a wonderful man and his family is certainly testimony to that. I admire you keeping his flame alive and thank you for sharing him with us all. These sorts of anniversaries are tough. I know. Big hugs, dear friend. My mom passed away the day before my birthday, on Valentine's day, so I totally understand the bittersweet tang of what should be a happy family celebration. Bless you and his memory.

  6. Happy Birthday, Rett. It is a bittersweet remembrance for you. Hugs to you.

  7. Happy Belated Birthday Rett! I love the sweet photo of you and your brother. What a wonderful tribute to your brother on your birthday. Thinking of you ♥

  8. What a wonderful tribute to your big brother Rett! I can only imagine the bittersweet birthday celebrations since his passing. You're written such a sweet post and it's a good reminder to enjoy those that we love while we still have them with us. Thank you for that.

  9. Happy Birthday, dear Rett! This was a beautiful post in memory of your big brother. I am sure that his children and grandchildren will treasure it along with your daughter and grands. I am sorry that Willie transitioned on your birthday.

  10. Your lovely post really touched me, Rett. I'm so sorry to read about your brother. He sounds like a very special person indeed. I love the story about the pop-gun he used to maintain order. I think all teenage siblings like to bicker with each other. You do have some very special memories.

  11. Oh Rett, such a touching post about your brother. Life doesn't seem fair sometimes. I am so sorry for his loss. You did your brother a great honor writing about him. Happy Birthday wishes to you too. xo

  12. Rett, I hope you received my birthday wishes email. Just now getting over here to wish you a very happy birthday, even though I'm a tad late here. Thanks for the shout out for my birthday. '-)
    This is a sweet post about your brother. My older brother also served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. We lost him in a freak accident in the spring of 1976. More parallels in our lives. I'm glad you shared this. It was a sweet tribute to your brother.
    Happy, Happy!

  13. What a sweet tribute to your brother, Rett, and a very important piece of family history for your family, thus ensuring that your blog serves a greater purpose. I'm so glad I stopped by for a visit! And happy belated birthday to you; I'm sure it's always a bittersweet day for you. ~Zuni

  14. Rett, I don't check your blog too often, I am happy I caught you today at least. Happy Birthday, and thank you for sharing the tribute to your brother. We should not lose brothers on any day of the year....much less on those days we like to celebrate rather then weep. I'm glad you could write and remember the good memories of your youth with him. That is important and remember, he lives on in his sons and his grandchildren....and is beaming down on you now.

  15. Such a beautiful tribute to your brother.
    I, too, use my blog as a journal for my son, daughter, grands and great=grands.


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