My father, Claude Dry, died earlier this year, a few months shy of his 89th birthday. He was a good provider and a pillar of his community, and a full-fledged member of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” He served in the Navy during World War II and during the 1950s and ‘60s he provided a small-town Southern version of the now-classic Boomer childhood for my two younger sisters and me.
The last time I saw him was two days before Christmas last year.
His funeral service was held at Wesley Chapel Methodist Church in Misenheimer, North Carolina. His grandparents helped establish that church in 1858. The sanctuary was full.
He was buried in the cemetery across the road from the church and the place where he raised his family, and a hundred yards or so from the house where he was born in 1918. A contingent of local vets rendered military honors, presenting the colors, firing a salute, and playing “Taps.” The military does know how to do a moving sendoff.
Afterwards, people talked about what a wonderful man he was, and how much the community loved him, and that was good to hear. He was a kind and decent man.
I have some good memories of my father, such as family vacation trips, building furniture together, a trip to Atlanta in 1966 to see Sandy Koufax pitch against the Braves, watching countless college basketball games on TV together, including when UNC beat Michigan for the NCAA championship in 1993 when we were living in Florida. But my father didn’t talk much about himself or anything else, and aside from a few superficial things, I don’t know much about his life. That’s given me something to ponder over the years.
A few years ago, we found several boxes of old photos when we were cleaning out my parents’ house after they’d moved into an assisted living home in nearby Albemarle. Some of the photos I’d seen; a lot of them I hadn’t. They fill in a few details of my father’s life.
The photo at the top of this entry is something of a family classic. It shows my father around 1959 or 1960 in front of the grocery store/service station he operated for 25 years in Misenheimer.
Having the photo shot was a big deal for him at the time. The photographer made it into a postcard. I don’t know what kind of sales pitch the photographer used on my dad, or how much he paid for them. But there were still dozens of the cards in unwrapped packs when he finally closed the store in 1978.
He did well at the store until the late 1960s, and then Food Lion opened a large grocery store in Rockwell, a little town about 10 miles from Misenheimer. After that, he didn’t do as well.
One thing my father did talk about some was his time in the service. He made chief petty officer, the Navy’s highest enlisted rank.
This photo shows him sometime after he made chief.
He also apparently enjoyed himself during shore leaves. I’m guessing this photo was made in 1943 or 1944, in Norfolk or perhaps New York City. I have no idea who the women are, but I do know that neither of them is my mother.
He served aboard a tanker during the Allied invasion of North Africa and later aboard a repair ship, the USS Numitor, which sailed from Norfolk on May 12, 1945. The Numitor reached Okinawa on August 10, one day after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The Numitor became part of the U.S. occupation force after Japan surrendered in September. Dad occasionally mentioned that he’d been in Sasebo, and that he’d also seen the destruction in nearby Nagasaki. But he never went into even superficial details about his experiences there.
This photo shows my father after the war with a friend of his. I’m guessing it was made around 1947.
I'm guessing this photo of my parents and me was made in late 1950 or early 1951. And the last picture shows my dad with members of the Misenheimer Lions Club, which he helped establish around 1956. He’s fifth from the left.
I don’t think he missed a single Lions Club meeting until it was disbanded more than 40 years later.