By Gus Gocella
CROSSVILLE — Recently, three World War II veteran friends of mine passed away. They being of the "Greatest Generation" of Americans, many local residents didn't know much about them until their passing (obit). I wanted to write something so that many of our mutual friends would remember them and how much they contributed to our society. All were Crossville residents and friends of many. These are their stories.
Harry E. LeGrand Sr.
Harry E. LeGrand Sr., 95, passed away March 21. A native of North Carolina, he graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in geology.
He entered the U.S. Army after graduation and was part of the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He told a story about lying in the snow during the Battle of the Bulge pretending he was dead, since the Germans were kicking all bodies lying around and shooting those that moved or groaned. One cannot imagine what went through his mind during this part of his war.
He came back from the war and was assigned to the First Army and attained the rank of captain. When he was discharged, he met and married Undine Nye in 1946 at Fort Lincoln, MD. Undine and her son's family live in Crossville, and they have another son who lives in North Carolina.
Harry had a wonderful career as a groundwater scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for 30 years. After that career he was employed as a consulting hydrogeologist in the U.S. and overseas. He had over 100 published reports and scientific papers in national and international journals related to groundwater issues.
In his retirement years, he consulted and traveled throughout the U.S. and many foreign countries. He was recognized by the Senate of the United States Dec. 18, 2012, in the Congressional Record (Vol. 158, dtd 12-18-12, No. 163) for contributing and recording the data he gathered of the fractured igneous and metamorphic rock in the Piedmont of North Carolina and discovered a useful system locating high yielding wells based on topography and soil thickness.
Harry didn't stop there as he continued in pursuit of under researched areas of hydrogeology. Harry turned his attention to the Karst Commission of the International Association of Hydrogeology establishing the basis, which had useful generalizations for worldwide applications. He wrote a report that serves as a master groundwater conceptual model for the igneous and metamorphic terrain of North Carolina, which is still in use today. His legacy might be introducing others to the underground waterscape that exists beneath our feet and inspiring future generations to continue to explore the natural world in which we live.
I visited with Harry many days at 6:15 a.m. as he ate breakfast, reading the Crossville Chronicle and sharing some stories with friends at the 19th Hole Restaurant at Lake Tansi. He was a talented storyteller, great poet and shared these gifts with us on many occasions. He was of the "Greatest Generation" of Americans and I salute, miss him and hold him close to my heart.
Harry H. Ellis Jr.
Harry H. Ellis Jr., 90, passed May 24. A native of North Little Rock, AR, Harry served in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1942-'45. He attained the rank of captain and served as a glider pilot and liaison squadron pilot with the 10th and 14th Air Forces in the China-Burma-India Theater of action.
Harry shared a story with me while traveling to Washington, D.C. on HonorAir Knoxville Flight 14 in April about one of his missions. He was transporting an Army Mule to a post in the China-Burma-India Theater in his glider aircraft when he came up on a mountain that he knew he would not clear. He prepared for the crash landing at the top of the mountain and glided the aircraft into the jungle. Both he and the cargo survived the crash. After the landing he got out of his aircraft, removed the mule and rode it to the Army encampment, safely delivering his cargo.
Harry had many stories to share with me during this Honor Flight and thereafter. I would listen for hours to his interesting stories and life challenges coming from a new friend of the "Greatest Generation." He had a life well lived and well loved.
Following the war Harry earned a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Arkansas School of Law and worked for the IRS. He then went into private practice in Kansas City, MO, for 19 years. He returned to service with the U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). He retired from that agency as southeast regional counsel in Atlanta, GA. He met Anne Howard and they married July 2, 1988. They have eight children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Harry lived a full, wonderful life and contributed so much to his wife, family and the United States of America. Even at 90 years young, Harry still had some more years to give to his families and all he touched. Life ended too soon. He was of the "Greatest Generation" of Americans, and I salute, miss him and hold him close to my heart.
Harold F. Mason
Harold F. Mason, 86, passed May 19. A native of Queens New York, he grew up a very active young man and loved to play hockey.
While still in his teens, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Pacific Theater of Action shortly after basic military and specialist training. Crossing the Pacific to an assignment, he accidentally was thrown overboard but hung on to the netting on the side of the ship for most of three days, seeing only the sea and sky. He took part in the Battle for the Philippines and other Islands in the Pacific Theater and had many near death experiences.
On one occasion, while in the Pacific and towards the end of the war, Harry went into a medical tent as his leg was swollen and he had a red streak up and down the leg. The corpsman told him he would probably die within the next 24 hours from the infection. He also advised him that they had a new drug called Penicillin, yet he didn't know if it would help or not. He took the Penicillin, the swelling went down and the infection disappeared.
After the war he attended the Pratt Institute of New York and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. He met his wife, Christine, at a dance and after some dating decided to get married. He was offered a job with Burns and Roe Engineering in California, and they left New York to start their life together in California. They became Californians with thick Brooklyn accents, had three children and seven grandchildren.
Harold was an avid reader. In his retirement he probably read the Bible at least 10 times. In 2008 he started writing religious books and authored three books on the Catholic faith. Two of the books he had written, which I have read, were The Bible and Today (2008) and The Holy Spirit (2012) — both excellent reading.
He was a dedicated bridge player and became very good at the game. He learned from others and read about the strategies of playing. When in a game, he would quickly learn everyone's cards from memory and their "game plan" within/before the second round. It was a real challenge for him and he accepted the challenge with gusto. He was very, very good at bridge.
I visited with Harry after various church services, as he was most interesting to talk with and always had something new to discuss. In addition to our Catholic faith, we would discuss his time spent in the war and where he was sent to accomplish the objectives. He would always ask questions about many subjects, all interesting. He was a humble, very religious, caring husband, father and grandfather. He was of the "Greatest Generation" of Americans, and I salute, miss him and hold him close to my heart.
These WWII veterans have touched many in their travels. Respected by all they came in contact with and dedicated to making lives for others more comfortable. Peace, justice and the American way were tenets they aspired to and practiced. Thanks for the memories dear veteran friends whom I called "Harry."