As I drove down 17th in Idaho Falls today, I noticed a sign advertising an estate sale. Since I knew the guy running the sale, I thought I'd go ahead and check it out, though I rarely find anything at estate sales.
I showed up, parked my car, and made my way to a nice middle-class home on 23rd Street in Idaho Falls. Nothing to distinguish it from the houses around it in any way. But when I walked into the garage, I saw some WWII fighter pilot manuals. Okay, my interest was up now.
This estate sale was one of the saddest kinds. The family was selling everything left in the house when the occupants passed away, right down to the shaving lotion in the bathroom and the the slippers in the closet.
I picked my way from room to room, and could tell early on that the man of the house was a former fighter pilot from WWII. And then, I realized that this man was my brother, my fellow parishioner at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church, and his wife had been the organist and the lady who made the roses bloom like brilliant bursts of red each summer.
I found bits and pieces of the life of a former 8th Air Force fighter pilot. I asked the sales person at the sale where the man and his wife were now. It turns out the lady passed away recently, and the husband is in the Alzheimers Ward at a local nursing home. I suddenly realized I was on hallowed ground in that house.
I found an old photo album showing the pilot's service in the 8th Air Force. I found all his old training manuals, and even his flight wings from cadet school.
This individual had two kills as a P-51 Mustang pilot in the 339th Fighter Group in the US Eighth Air Force in WWII.
I will go visit this elderly vet next week at the nursing home. I will tell him how much his service meant to me, and will try to support him in his final months.
No name necessary in this story, out of respect for this great American and his wife, whose life was put on the auction block today, and I am so glad I stopped and found his records of his WWII service.