My dad Bill and his brother Paul, were 12 and 8 when their parents told them they were putting them on a train to Greeley, Colorado. Their parents were native Coloradoans who had gone to Bellingham, Washington to start a business. In 1932 they lost everything and had to send their boys to live with relatives in Weld County. The brothers rode the train by themselves to a place they had only heard about. By 1934 Paul and Opal (my grandparents) had relocated to Colorado Springs. They lived in an old Victorian home on North Royer Street. I can still remember every smell, brick, and the creepy basement furnace in that house.
On December 7, 1941 their lives changed forever. My dad was a sophomore at Colorado A&M, and Paul was a senior at Palmer High. By January my dad was in pilot training in the Army Air Corp (which became the Air Force after WWII), and Paul enlisted in the Merchant Marine. My dad became a glider pilot and flew one combat mission into Holland. He later flew copilot on a C-47, where he took supplies everyday up to the front line. Paul got to work on ships that supplied the troops fighting in the Pacific theatre. They both were shot at more than once but returned in one piece to Colorado after the war.
In 1947 Pueblo was the “boom town”, whereas Colorado Springs was a sleepy, quaint, tourist retirement town. Their parents, who created a very successful business in The Springs, set them up with a similar business in Pueblo. They became co-owners of CLEAVER CARPET CENTER. From those who knew them well, Uncle Paul (who from here forward I will call by out family name—PO) was the shrewd and talented business man, while my dad Bill, was the super salesman who knew everyone in town. At one time Cleavers had a small fleet of trucks, 15 employees, and was the classic example of a small successful business created by the GREATEST GENERATION.
These two brothers each had four kids, we were raised as one family. Here is where the story takes a difficult turn. I will skip all the details except that, when in my 12-step recovery I had to write out a resentment list, PO was at the top. From my perspective it was a well deserved perch. In the early 90’s I went to a huge gathering of men for two days of inspiration. My dad kept saying PO would be there. I know he hoped that we might find a connection. Long story short, PO’s youngest son, my cousin Johnny, ran into me in the crowd and asked me to sit with him. I love Johnny and so I said sure. By providence or chaos theory I ended up sitting for eight hours next to PO. We made our amends to each other. My dad cried when I told him.
PO turned 95 a couple of weeks ago. I called him and had a great conversation with him. Last week as I was driving into a 12-step meeting in Washington Park, PO called me to make plans to get together at the end of the month. He is as sharp as ever. “One of my goals is to live longer than my mother. She died just short of 95, so I guess I have. I don’t know if I will make 96, I am really ok either way”.
I can’t wait for next week where I have even more questions that PO can answer about my dad Bill, life and Grace.
Onward and Upward,