REMEMBERING DAD ON HIS 100th BIRTHDAY

I planned to write an epic piece about my Dad who would have been 100 years old today. But my body has staged a mutiny, so I’ll be brief.

Dad must be smiling.

William Benfield Armstrong was the real life Quiet Man. I’m the oldest of three sons who realized that Dad meant what he said — just by the look on his face.

75-edited-GarryMomDad-WW2-300

My Dad was a handsome guy. Tall, lean and with a smile that dazzled women and men. I always thought he could’ve been a movie star, rivaling Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.

Dad rarely showed emotions. He kept it all inside. The day I left for basic training in the Marines, I saw something rare. Dad was crying as he put me on the train.

My Father didn’t talk about his experiences as an Army Staff Sgt. in World War Two. We knew he saw action in Germany but he never offered any details, always giving us an annoyed look if we persisted with questions. I finally got some answers a short time before Dad passed away in 2002. He told me about seeing his best friend killed in a jeep explosion, just a few yards in front of him.

He said it was an image he carried for the rest of his life. Dad talked and I listened. It was the longest conversation we ever had. When he finished, he just looked at me with a sad smile and patted my shoulders.

75-GarryWMom-Dad-1990

After my Father died, my two brothers and I were going through his possessions. We found, buried under clothing, several medals he had been awarded in that war so many years ago. My Dad was a hero! We always knew that but never understood or appreciated him in that larger context.

So here’s to you, Dad. At 100, you’re still a ramrod, tall and proud.



Categories: Anecdote, Family, Garry Armstrong, In Memorium, Patriotism, Relationships

Tags: , , , , , ,

37 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing the stories and the photos, giving us a little peek inside. You’re right, he was movie-star handsome. So many of that generation did not want to talk about their experiences, or thought it was unseemly. “It is what everybody did.” Glad you got to learn more before he left.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great stuff Garry… I appreciate you introducing me to a genuine American hero! Love that Greatest Generation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ray. My Dad was a big boxing fan. He did some amateur boxing during WW 2. I got an artist friend to do a rendering of one of my Dad’s boxing pics — with a photo of Marvelous Marvin Hagler. So it was Bill Armstrong versus Marvin Hagler. Marvin signed it for me. My Dad loved it!

      Like

  3. What great pictures and memories. Thank you for introducing him to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My dad died back in ’04. I still miss his comforting presence. Your dad sounds like him in many ways from the taciturn war veteran standpoint. Truly, I wish he’d have shared a bit more…sometimes imagination is worse than reality. It’s only now I realize it was his prerogative to continue protecting me the best he knew how.

    For my own peace, I wrote hosannas of him every year at the anniversary of his death. Oddly enough, I stopped a couple of years ago. At the time I thought it was because I’d moved forward… now I realize it was because I was going through a significantly tough period of life. Didn’t need to write to feel his presence…he was walking with me when the going got rough.

    Still grateful for having a parent who loved me heart and soul. Not everyone gets that, ya know?

    Thanks, MrA, for making me stop and remember some hella good memories and times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And, thanks, Queen for sharing with me. It helps. You touched on something that resonates with me. I feel closer to my Dad AND my Mom by writing about them. It helps because we were never a “touchy, feely”, share your feelings family. It’s carried over to my 2 brothers and me. We’re working on that. I also work on that with Marilyn because there’s a lot of my Dad in me.

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  5. A beautiful description of your dad…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ben. He was quite a guy. Did you ever meet him? I forget who he met from the old days.

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      • In spite of us being around at the same time, we never hung out. Jeffrey was our connection, and we seemed to live in different sectors of his mind. Bottom line; I never met any of your family until the last 2 decades.., and that was Antoine. I used to tease Jeff by referring to you as “your other best friend” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A wonderful tribute to your Dad, Garry.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful tribute to your father, Garry. You’re right: Your dad was a handsome man. But more than beauty this is happiness that oozes from the photos. The black and white is gorgeous. And you were a cute baby.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I recognize that picture!
    It can be difficult to talk about war experiences, Garry. (not that I was ever in a war). I think it must leave scars on your soul and it must be too painful to look back.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leslie, the picture of me sitting on Dad’s lap is my favorite. It’s one of only two or three we have here. I’m hoping to obtain more from the collection of pictures back at the old family house on Long Island. My Dad’s painful war memories were part of a painful legacy for those veterans from “The Greatest Generation”.
      I saw a little of that during the brief time I covered the Vietnam war up close and personal.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful commentary, Gary, I’m sure that your Dad is smiling. And I recognized little baby you at first glance; great photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What an amazing man. A great family photo Garry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Raewyn. I feel blessed to have had my Mom and Dad even though I gave them plenty of lip across the years. They passed along all the right things about life to their 3 sons.

      Like

  11. Both photos are beautiful- a nice tribute to your father on his birthday-thank you for giving us a glimpse of him

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You have his eyes, I believe.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I love the black and white picture. Is that you on his lap?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Lady Bug. That’s number one son, little Garry. Dad was just back from the war. Late ’45 or early ’46. My hair was soft and curly with streaks of red (The Irish strain?).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. A handsome man – Happy Birthday to your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

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