Alfred Joseph John Webeler (Nov. 2, 1916-Oct. 14, 2009) had humble beginnings but rose to greatness in the eyes of his girls. And by “girls” I mean all 10 of us. Grandma gave birth to 3 daughters who subsequently had 2 daughters of their own. Each. His love of baseball was continued in the lives of his girls; we were certainly enough for a baseball team and he made sure we knew how to play. Each of us received our own ball and glove in due time and one family reunion saw the 9 of us playing in a field behind the house that he and Grandma had built. Grandma was the cheerleader for this game. I was pitching a “soft”ball to my sister, Katie and Grandpa was umpire. Katie’s memory reads like this, “Right away you know that was a bad combination. . . sure enough I hit a waist-high line drive right into Carrie’s gut! Although, in hindsight I suppose it wasn’t a very nice thing to do, but I think Grandpa was just a little bit proud and to her credit, she did catch the ball.” Grandpa himself, played minor league ball with the Cincinnati Reds as catcher and in the Army Air Corps. But we granddaughters knew him as the content and jovial man who, at the end of a good meal, would lean “back in his chair and give you that crocodile grin with a toothpick in his mouth, sometimes a wink. You know, some people leave tissues in their pockets while doing laundry and chapsticks are my personal vice. The other day, Grandma mentioned a time when she had to call the repair-man out to the house to fix the dryer... Apparently, when the filter cover was removed, the filter was lined with toothpicks! (Personal aside: Yes, we are even finding toothpicks in his coats as we go through his clothes!!) Everyone’s a shortstop once in awhile. We all fall short of the glory of God and occasionally hurt the ones we love or disappoint our friends. My Grandpa was no exception. But it is our character that keeps others believing in us despite our shortcomings. Some might think it morose that death brings people together. But in actuality, it is our love for Grandpa that brought us here today and that is a testament to his character. . . I don’t know how many of us will be able to say that at 92, we took our spouse to a Reds game for one last hot date. . . and that they won! I think it’s only fitting that we stand and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ with Grandpa one last time as we watch him slide into home.”

50th Anniversary Reunion-the 6 cousins after the baseball game that drove a ball into my gut. (Katie far right, me, third from right)

If you started discussing WWII with someone and said “European Theatre’, they would immediately think of Normandy, France, Belgium, Germany. If you said “Pacific Area” they would think of Iwo Jima or Okinawa. But if you said “China Burma India Theatre”, you’d get a blank stare. The CBI was important for a lot of reasons but the most important was supplying Chinese troops to fight the Japanese. You didn’t hear much about them-they were half a world away and their mission wasn’t as well known. Working conditions were primitive, the WX was bad and the mission was critical. Al was there when his country needed him and he served with distinction. He received the Presidential Unit Citation, Asia Pac, and American Defense Service medals. –Joe

(For an Air Force Magazine article detailing this part of the war copy this link to your browser:

Grandma and Grandpa's wedding picture July 21, 1944. Both in Army Air Corps uniform.

Auntie Laurie talked about Grandpa’s many hats. “When you come into Mom and Dad’s home by the laundry room, there is a stack of hats. Dad would reach for his cover on the way out of the house and drop his cover in the pile on his way into the house. Taken individually they represent a lot of Dad’s life.” Air Force hats, cowboy hats, Bengals and Reds hats, he was the eternal fan despite when the teams lost. . . “We’ve learned a lot this last while. Just as it takes a village to bring up a child, it takes a village to care for our loved ones as they change hats from being providers and caregivers to being cared for. Our family has learned we aren’t the only ones who have loved our parents. We have been helped in loving by the whole village! Your support has been wonderful and we thank you for helping us keep Dad “in the game”!”

My mom mentioned many of the same things from her own point of view-the baseball, conducting the all female orchestra that is our family, and his love of horses, golf and roses. (At one time he had 75 rose bushes!!)

Grandpa and me with one of his horses on the farm.

But she mainly spent her time thanking those who helped care for Grandpa and Grandma all along the way, “Kathy, Laurie and I did not make our way through the last 2 years, power outages, blizzards, various emergency runs, baseball outings and trips to Frisch’s without the assistance of Guardian Angels. . .You helped us care for Dad with dignity and respect and guided us through our learning gently, and lovingly with humor. . . When we needed medicines from Walgreens a familiar voice, Brecken, was on the other end of the phone. Deanna was great visiting with Mom. The example of service to others was led by Lori and Lou of course. I cannot tell you how many times they were at the house in 5 minutes when needed. If we required extra muscle, Lou, Andy, and Cody were ever able to help. Then we have Tristen who knows how to drive the wheel chair, where to position the walker, could manipulate the controls on the comfortable chair, and was a great asset for an extra pair of hands. . . We have had many caregivers in the past two years.
Tristan was Grandpa's littlest pall-bearer and led the way to the grave-site.

Two are a sister act—even though they have never worked together before. Sue & Martha. While we slept, the sisters were busy. Sometimes cooking, folding laundry, cleaning carpets, making a ramp for the wheel chair…What amazes me is that the women who tended him were itsy bitsy ladies. One night Sue came in after I had attempted to get Dad to bed by myself. He ended up with his head at the foot of the bed and feet at the head. I decided he and I were spent and we should wait 10 minutes for Sue before moving any further. Upon entering the room Sue wondered at how we got in the fix we were in. Dad said, “What took you so long?”

Tanya McKenzie—a member of the “Broad Squad”, my twin sister, constantly went about her chores humming. She must have made an impression, because Dad soon began humming too. He hummed during the day and at night in his sleep. He even joined in singing Christmas Carols with Carrie and Gerard last year.

Singing carols with us last Christmas.

With her great holiday costumes throughout the year and her decorations accompanying them, Dad was always amused and entertained. There are so many escapades these 2 played on one another that I will only choose the best moment. We are flying in “Missing Man” formation today without my father. I do not know if the Air Force or Army has this ritual, but the Marines do. It is called the last salute. Several days ago Dad was able to get up and into his comfortable chair. Tanya always saluted Dad when he had made an especially good maneuver. Ladies and gentlemen, last week as always Tanya McKenzie saluted my father but for the last time, and he, for the first and last time saluted her in return!!”
Tanya assisted in the last hot date effort when the Reds won!

Aunt Kathy shared a poem that she had my dad, Joe, read. It was special to her because it was read at her grandfather’s funeral in 1965.
'I Quit'
When I quit this mortal shore and mosey ‘round this earth no more,
Don’t weep, don’t sigh, or grieve or sob, for I may have struck a better job.
Don’t go and buy a large bouquet for which you’ll find it hard to pay.
Don’t stand around me looking blue. I may be better off than you.
Don’t go ‘round telling folks I was a saint or anything else you know I ain’t.
If you have stuff like that to spread, please pass it out before I’m dead.
But if you have roses, bless your soul! Please pin one on my button hole.
Do it now while I’m at my best, instead of when I’m safe at rest.

Gerard playing Taps

Presentation of the Colors

It was said at the funeral that, "Grandpa knew Jesus very well, especially during a ball game. They were quite good friends." Yes, laughter followed the comment, but Grandpa did know Jesus. Despite dementia, his daughters continued to say bed time prayers with him to keep faith alive in his life. I'm comforted in mourning to say that Grandpa is pain free and is probably playing a rousing game of ball with the Saints. Happy 93rd Birthday Grandpa!

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