By Chuck Wiser I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
Memorial Day, coming up Monday, is a special holiday for most people for several reasons. For some it is the holiday that really kicks off summer and is one where family gatherings, “picnicking and camping” are all more reliably possible weather wise, given the expected warmer weather.
For many others it is a mixed emotion day, much as is a funeral, where grieving, memories, and even laughter in remembrance, help heal the wounds of a passing relative or friend. It is with those blending of emotions that I will dedicate this writing to all of those who were taken from us, as family and friends, either directly in military activities or later, due to complications arriving, suffered while in that duty of honor. Good times and humor often accompany the grieving.
Military service is an honor whether joined voluntarily as in my case or imposed upon us for others through the draft process, of earlier decades. With all respect and admiration for their service and loss, I will honor four individuals, some already previously featured or mentioned, who have been a part of, or touched, my life in many ways. Chronological order makes sense so is what I will follow. As we frequently do in the funeral process through the gatherings at the “viewings” or perhaps at the “wake” that may follow, I will mention moments that made me laugh, or at least smile. In no way does it diminish the solemnity nor respect for their passing.
Robert B. Hunter 8/15/1946-11/17/2002: Bob was born in Cuba, NY the son of William and Betty (Guild) Hunter. Bob was a 1964 graduate of Cuba Central School and continued his education at the Albany College of Pharmacy until he was “called to serve his country” as a medic in Vietnam. Upon his return he completed his pharmaceutical education and began his profession as a well-respected pharmacist first joining the family business in Cuba and then purchasing and running the pharmacy in Belmont, NY.
Bob succumbed in November 2002 from the complications resulting directly from his injuries received during his military service in Vietnam. When seeking historical information on Bob two stories revealed the quality of his character. A former school mate of Bob’s at Cuba Central School revealed that he was taught how to water ski by Bob. Another, Tim Colligan at Embser’s Funeral Home who I reached out to for “obit” information, shared an experience with Bob. One day at the Pharmacy they were dicussing Bob’s ailments, and he mentioned his wound suffered during service. He then proceeded to “drop his drawers” right there and then and show Tim his leg wound. Sorry for the mortuary humor but when I called Tim later with a follow up question he said: “No problem, things are kinda dead around here today.”
My role in Bob’s story came after his death. While performing with the Genesee Valley Chorus at a Hornell, NY ceremony marking the visit of the Moving Wall, a mobile commemorative, honoring fallen military veterans. We had to take shelter during a passing rain shower. Upon the return of the sun and our emergence from the shelter, I noticed that rain drops from the passing shower had lingered on the Wall, like tears, adorning Bob’s name as shown in the picture.
Rolly Miles is the second to be mentioned and touches a little closer to home. Although “Rol” spent most of his youth growing up at his Grandmother’s in Buffalo, he moved to Friendship for much of his high school career. Rol made an instant impact in school and in every walk of his Friendship life. Rol was a sophomore classmate with my future wife. I had already gone in the service before his becoming a closer part of the family and Rol had already joined the Air Force when I got out of the service so our closeness developed later in life. My relationship with Rolly, as a step-brother, developed more as adults with both having families. It further developed as he became involved with the insurance business and became our family agent first as a partner in Schenk and Miles and then as the owner.
Roland Paul Miles passed away May 4th, 2015, at his home, following a lengthy illness directly resulting from his time serving his country. Rolly saw service in Vietnam from 1967 until 1968. Rolly was known, liked, and loved by all who met him. Rolly made his mark not only in Friendship Central School athletics but also served as an assistant baseball coach to brother Dennis Miles for 22 years at Wellsville Central School.
Rolly was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) a few years before his death. PSP is a rare, fewer than 20,000 cases per year, “neurodegenerative condition that causes problems with balance, vision, speech, movement and swallowing.” According to scientific study and included in the Veterans Association list of “presumptive conditions”, Agent Orange is an underlying trigger to PSP.
Many lives and families’ lives have been lifted and supported by Rolly’s smile and warmth and their association with him.
Thomas G Geyer, lovingly known by all who knew him as “Tom”, has been mentioned by me in previous writings. Tom, along with the previously noted Bob Hunter and Rolly Miles, was another of those military veterans who was affected by Agent Orange during their Vietnam Conflict service exposure.
Thomas G. Geyer, Scio, New York was taken from us July 17th, 2018. Tom, born October 6, 1945 in Bath, New York, was preceded in death by his loving wife Deanna (Perkins) Geyer, September 16, 2007. Growing up in Bath, NY, Tom moved to Wellsville following his discharge from the service to resume his career at The Air Preheater Company (APCO), from which he was taken via the military service draft in 1965. Tom had begun employment earlier in 1965 after obtaining his AAS degree in Drafting at Corning Community College. Tom retired from his “Engineering” job at what was then known as ABB Air Preheater Company where he was a Rotor Drive Design Specialist in 2008 after spending 43 years in their employ.
Tom and I, work associates while at APCO, actually bonded having become partners on a bowling team sponsored by APCO. Over the course of several years we were team mates on several athletic teams including “Fast Pitch Softball” both playing for the also APCO sponsored team. Tom was joined by fellow APCO employee Larry Muscato and the three of us pretty much became known as the “Three Amigo’s” and as our families grew and joined in the social activities with our children, and now grandchildren, we formed “The Family of Three”. Sadly, Tom and his wife Deanna have both passed away.
Tom, also exposed to Agent Orange during his Vietnam tour, suffered respiratory and heart failure medical issues directly as a result of that time in the service.
Next, and the most recent of the losses of those individuals that were a part of my life, and larger in life to most who knew them as well, was Allen Mohilewski, known by friends as Al. He was but again one of those who lost their lives prematurely as a direct or indirect result of their military service during the Vietnam era.
Allen M. Mohilewski, Belmont, NY, was born in Buffalo, NY in 1947 and passed away December 1, 2021, following a brief illness.
Al had a storied career in the US Air Force joining in 1970 after a brief stint as a substitute teacher having received his Bachelor of Science Degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia. Al attended Navigator Training School and served as a navigator at Forbes AFB, Topeka, KS, in the Phillipines and Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. Upon formal discharge he served in the Air Force Reserves until retirement at the rank of Major in 1990.
While in his Air Force service to the country he initiated a “Baby Lift” service transporting babies from Viet Nam to the Philippine’s.
Al became known to me initially as the husband of one of my high school classmates at Friendship Central School. We developed a relationship as he became a partner and future owner of the G. Larue Sears Insurance Agency, through which we initially had our home-owners insurance before getting same from the above-mentioned Schenk and Miles agency. We became friends through golf outings and social activities shared with my former classmate. In addition to his military service Al’s spare time included coaching girls’ soccer at Bishop Walsh High School, umpiring High School baseball, and was a member of the Keynote Chorus in Portville New York.
I have been honored to have known each of these individuals on a personal and in some cases professional capacity. Their dedication to their country whether voluntary or not is unquestioned and along with the millions who have given their lives either directly in the line of fire, or indirectly due to exposure to any of the dangers inherent in military service we owe them our respect, our gratitude, and undying thanks “for their service”.
Shown below is an “illustration” including words I have written about each of these individuals. Bob Hunter’s, Top left; Tom Geyer’s, Bottom left; Rolly Miles Top right and Al Mohilewski Bottom right. Lacking same previously, I wrote this poem for Rolly at 2 AM yesterday morning and captured the bridge picture on my way back from Olean later that morning.