I play mind games with myself on occasion. One of them involves the man in this picture. He is my father. This weekend would be his 97th birthday. He didn’t live much beyond the date of this picture.
He was 59 years of age when fate intervened. Dad was fooling around with some friends and business associates in British Columbia when their speedboat crashed. Dad died on the spot. That was in September 1980.
The mind game involves asking myself what kind of old man Dad would have become. Pete Kanelis could be a complicated man. He was well-educated and well-spoken; he often was the life of any gathering he attended; he came from a large family with many siblings, to whom he was devoted beyond measure; he was the eldest of seven children born to my grandparents and on occasion had to assume the role of family “leader.”
Dad also had some heartache in his life. He sought to run a business, but it didn’t work out. He and my mother faced financial ruin in the early 1950s.
How would he have aged? I cannot know this, but my sense is that he would have traveled a difficult journey into his so-called “golden years.” Dad didn’t take good care of his body. He was an “old” 59 when he and his pals crashed that boat.
I am left, thus, to merely speculate.
Today, though, I want to call attention briefly to another key aspect of Dad’s life. He was part of the Greatest Generation. I salute his service in the U.S. Navy today — and always. He went to war just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor.
He joined roughly 16 million other Americans to fight the tyrants in Berlin, Rome and Tokyo who sought to conquer the world. Dad would have none of it. He saw the bulk of his combat in the Mediterranean Sea theater of operations. He fought the Germans and the Italians from the deck of a ship, firing his anti-aircraft weapon at fighters and bombers flown by men intent on killing him and his buddies.
We’re going to honor those who didn’t come from various battlefields over the course of our nation’s history. Dad, of course, did return home after World War II. So this Memorial Day holiday doesn’t honor his sacrifice precisely. I choose to honor it here and, yes, I am likely to say something again on Veterans Day.
Fate dealt Dad a mortal blow 38 years ago when left this world without warning. I am proud of and grateful for the role he played in keeping us safe from the monstrous tyrants who sought to enslave an entire planet.
Thank you, Dad, for saving the world. And happy birthday.