Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Kelly’s , JFK and PT 109

I suspect you are saying what’s up with JFK and PT109? I’ll get to that in a minute.

First the bad weather in the South hasn’t touched Pascagoula. It remains beautiful. We did have a few showers Thursday night and yesterday and it has been a little humid –but high 70’s with a nice breeze isn’t anything to complain about.

Second – great news – God is good. I had mentioned last time that Meredith – one of the college kids had had her bags stolen – well they weren’t!! They came back yesterday. She had left them close to the area where the clothing is available for people. A lady had been in looking for clothes and opened the bag – saw towels and thought it was for taking. When she got home and found out it was really someone’s stuff with wallet, phone etc. she drove back 30 miles from Mobile yesterday to return it. (As an aside Linda wanted me to mention that the “kids” had taken to calling us “Momma & Poppa Canada” – and we had great fun with “out and about, eh?)

We painted (what else!) again yesterday and we are getting close – maybe get it done to-day. We knocked off early- shortly after 3. We need to move the BBB to dump holding tanks so while we had it out we took a short spin to get some groceries and relax a little. As much as we love the people here it was nice to have some time “on our own” even if it was only a few hours.

The house we are painting is owned by William (Bill) and Marlene Kelly. This post is about their story. We haven’t met them so this information is based mostly on what we have gleaned through our conversations with their son John who lives in the trailer at the house. We did have a short conversation with Marlene on the phone. One day John came in while we were painting and gave me his cell phone and said “My mother wants to talk to you” She was expressing her gratitude for us helping out and saying how much they wanting to get home. (Currently t they are in California with their daughter)

Bill is 83 and is an invalid – he had been very healthy and active up until a couple of years ago when he contracted shingles and became bed-ridden – then he had a heart attack resulting in some paralysis of his vocal cords. The other day we heard some kids outside and then these 2 boys came in. It turned out they were John’s twin sons who had come by unexpectedly with their mother (Apparently a broken marriage since the mother and boys live in Lucedale and John had not mentioned that he had family). John wasn’t there so we had them come in to look at what we are doing. The boys told us that there grandfather (Bill) had had a “mint condition’ VW beetle. After Katrina it took 2 days to find it and when they did it was crushed almost flat by a tree. It is so heat breaking to think of how much pain something like Katrina would have caused – to lose all the things that had been so important to you. I can’t really imagine how I would respond although I would hope I could come the point of remembering that Jesus said we should lay up treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth where not only moths but floods can destroy them. It certainly is a reminder of this truth.

Marlene is 73. She was in real estate and has a good eye for houses. They had lived in a 2 story house closer to the beach until 2 weeks before Katrina. They moved because Bill couldn’t go up stairs. Katrina “blew out” the first floor walls of their old houses. Bill & Marlene had stayed to “ride out” the storm and Johns’ opinion was that if they had still been in the old house they would have died because Bill couldn’t have made it to the safety of the 2nd floor. . Marlene has had back surgery – 6 ot 7 vertebrae fused and is semi-crippled herself. She told Linda a little of that story on the phone.

According to her grandsons’ mother, Marlene collected antiques. There was one beautiful china cabinet in the house lying on its back covered with plastic. Obviously it had floated and been bounced around during the flood. The legs were broken off and the glass in the doors was broken. The garage is full of clothes and furniture and there are 2 sheds in the back full of furniture that as far as we’ve been able to determine haven’t even been look at since the storm.

Their son John was on his way back from California when Katrina hit and didn’t get here until 2 days after the storm. He had gone out to help his sister move to Pascagoula to take care of her father and they were enroute with a U-Haul. When she got here and saw the devastation she decided she didn’t want to stay so she took her parents back to California with her. She is a nurse and was able to get her job and her house back. John and her would like their parents to just stay in California but they want desperately to come home. When she called Marlene said tome several times – “I want to come home”

These are people with a fierce sense of independence – John told us that they had bought a second hand car in California and wanted to drive it back --- a five day trip in their conditions seems difficult and he was trying to persuade them to sell the car and fly. I wouldn’t lay odds on what will happen!!.

Boy this has turned into an “epistle”. It is now after 7 Saturday a.m. Linda is up and I need to get going. Just a quick word about John. As I mentioned in an earlier post when we first started last week I was not feeling real good about painting away in an empty house. Monday, John came in (He is still hobbling pretty bad from his fall 3 weeks ago – fell off ladder onto concrete floor and cracked his tailbone).

We sat and talked for 20-30 minutes that day have have talked several other times. He has been in the restaurant business “all his life”. He had a building with equipment that he was leasing out. It was flooded and the equipment was destroyed (no flood insurance because it wasn’t in the flood plain – how often I have heard that statement!!) . He was also managing a restaurant for another guy and it was also flooded and is now closed down. Basically he lost all his sources of income. He shared that he had gone through period of alcohol abuse at one point in his life but he had been “OK” for many years. The flood and the turmoil had resulted in a relapse but he said he was getting back into recovery.

Pray for him and his parents—this is an unimaginable loss in their lives. And much of the “stuff” they had will be gone forever. Pray for them and pray that they can see that a focus on things eternal is the only real answer to this pain.

Oh yeah—What about JFK and PT109? John mentioned one day that his grandfather was the guy JFK rescued from PT109 and that he is named John Fitzgerald because of that connection. His mother has (or had) a letter from Rose Kennedy thanking them her for naming their son after her son

This intrigued me so I “googled” JFK PT109Kelly” and found this article. I had "excerpted" and the added boldtext for emphasis. See for the complete article.

A GLORIOUS GIFT [The Sun Herald]
Posted on Sat, Jan. 15, 2005 By QUINCY C. COLLINSTHE SUN HERALD GAUTIER, MISSISSIPPI - It's summer, 1943. The world's at war. A Japanese destroyer slices through a U.S. Navy patrol torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands. Fire erupts in the engine room. MoMM 2nd Class Patrick McMahon is knocked out and badly burned. PT 109's commander, Lt. John F. Kennedy, pulls McMahon from the sinking boat and swims the South Pacific to a nearby island with the sailor on his back. … his rescuer, and future president, visited him there (in hospital) to present him a 48-star American flag like the one that flew above their craft. For 60 years, the flag was in a ditty bag. Today, the flag has been preserved in a shadowbox now on display at Magnolia Framing Gallery in Gautier. It is unclear if the flag flew above PT 109 and was rescued from the fire. But to Bill Kelly, McMahon's stepson, who lives in Pascagoula, …., the flag is part of history and a symbol of the bond between veterans. The flag is 30 inches by 18. It is worn, with a few holes, but is in good condition. …. " I don't know if those are bullet holes or moth holes, maybe a little bit of both," Kelly said. He found the flag wadded up in his stepfather's ditty bag and inherited it after McMahon's death in 1990. Kelly, … gave .. the flag (for display ) on Veterans Day 2004 ….. "He said he'd like to display it," said Kelly, a Navy veteran. "I thought it would be terrific. It's part of history."
For a complete account of the sinking of PT109 and McMahon’s rescue by JFK see nt


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this story. I'm one of the "twins" mentioned. Bill, Merlene, and my father, John, have all since passed away. Thank you for all your help.

Charlie said...

To "anonynmous" - It was a pleasant surprise to receive this comment after so long. While we have good memories of the people we met in Pascagoula; we remain saddened by the trauma that Katrina caused in so many lives.

Thank you for the update on your father and grandparents. We are sorry to hear of their deaths.


Candle (C & L) said...

I want to add that any thanks for our work go to God -- he gave us the health and resources to do this work and we did it because we love Him -
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. (Phil. 4:19)