Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Best Summer of All and a Boy Named Gerard

There are times when a man, or even a woman, must decide between spending time with a blog or writing something that might bring in a little money. That's why 12 days have gone by since my last blog - I opted for money.
I had finished a major project and was starting another when my in-laws, Mike and Annette Taylor of Cape Canaveral, stopped by for a visit. They took us out to lunch at the Sheraton Suites, a fancy hotel with fancy prices. Not wanting to take advantage of them, I ordered an $8.95 sandwich, which is about as cheap as it gets at the hotel a few blocks from home. I washed it down with a glass of Guinness. I even gave Mike my french fries, but this self-sacrificing can last only so long so when the Guinness was gone I ordered a Stella Artois.
In case you don't know, Stella Artois beer has been brewed in Belgium since the year 1365. That's not a typo; people were drinking Stella Artois for more than a hundred years before Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic. Who knows, maybe he had a few cases aboard ship.
Having a Stella Artois in hand brought memories of the summer of 1945, the most glorious of them all because the war in Europe had ended and I was in a nice little town in Belgium. Like many soldiers, I was "adopted" by a Belgian family. Two families, actually, because the matriarch of the one across the street from our billet had a sister in town. Between them the Daubies and Delportes had five kids and another was born late in the summer.
Gerard Daubie, a boy of 10, had an older sister and a younger brother. The Delportes had two girls. Like all Belgian kids, Gerard was a polite, hard-working boy but like his siblings and cousins he was thin and underweight after five years of German occupation. One of Gerard's chores was to walk out of town early every morning and bring back a pitcher of milk from a farm. If there are two things about him that stand out in my mind above all others, though, it was an ever-present smile and his remarkable sensitivity for a boy his age.
This sensitivity was evident when a carnival came to town. American kids might think it pretty tame, but after all those years without one or much of anything else, even a light in a window after dark, it was exciting to the Belgian boys and girls. One evening I took Gerard and his 12-year-old sister, Christiane, down to the town square so we could go on the rides. I was a little shy of my 20th birthday so it was obvious to all that Christiane thought I was kind of exciting too.
There was a ride that had cars with seats for two people. I got in first and Gerard started to follow me, then saw the hurt look on his sister's face. He stepped back, smiling, and held out his hand for her to go ahead and sit beside me. Over the years I have known a lot of 10-year-old boys, but only one I can think of who would have been that thoughtful and caring, Gerard Daubie.
The point of the story is that when we returned to that little town in Belgium 40 years later, Gerard was a salesman for Stella Artois. Christiane? At the age of 29 she died of cancer.

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