Robert Earl Ley Jr. | Places of Rest & Remembrance #6
There were a lot of photographs I could have used to head this post. Many of which I don’t happen to have in my possession — like my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr.’s Navy portrait, or the album full of photographs of chums from the service he seemed to pore over and spin tales about constantly in his final days.
But World War II really began for my grandfather, I’d guess, in the days immediately following one of the happiest days of his life.
On Oct. 16, 1943, Bob Ley married childhood sweetheart Sue Weible. That was in Oxford, Ohio, where Sue had gone to school at Miami University.
Following the ceremony, according to family legend, Bob and Sue drove southeastward, in a car Bob had bought from my grandpa Don Foutz. Sue accompanied her new husband to the base at Parris Island, S.C., where Bob was stationed with the Navy.
Now, Parris Island is well-known as the site of basic training for the U.S. Marine Corps. But there’s also a Naval hospital there, and since grandpa was a dentist, it’s sensible that he may have been assigned to that post before shipping out to the Pacific.
It’s funny — for all the times I sat at his kitchen table or in his living room, listening as he reeled off one tale or another about his time in the war, or stories of his college days at Ohio Wesleyan, or Ohio State, the details have mostly slipped away. So a lot now is conjecture.
There are some anecdotes that remain:
* how Grandpa brought back a desk and a Japanese commando knife, among other trinkets retrieved from World War II
* how he was spared an untimely and inglorious end on some wayward island stop by a buddy who took out a Jap sniper, who’d trained his sites on grandpa as he stepped outside to do the necessary
* how one trip home on leave in 1944, to see his newborn son, Robert III, for the first time, he stopped over in Olathe, Kansas, eventual home of my wife (some 44 years later), and used a pool table as a bed
But I’d guess the war really began for him in that week, when he had to say goodbye to his longtime love and new wife, teaching her to drive stick shift on the way down so she could return in the car, alone, and they could each face whatever the future had in store for them.
World War II Service – Robert Earl Ley Jr.
Turned out the future held 63 more married years, 7 children, 14 grandchildren, and an ever-increasing brood of great-grandkids.
Nice when it works like that, huh?
Bob never forgot his time in the service, attending reunions, penning articles for trade and fraternal publications. He continued in the tradition of service to country and community in the mold his own father, Robert Earl Ley Sr., who served in World War I, and other Ley ancestors had.
Grandfather Charles had been a city councilman, school board member and treasurer of Tuscarawas County. Great-Grandfather Augustus had served as township treasurer and clerk, founded the first creamery in his county and ran a successful dry goods business on the canal in Port Washington. Second-Great Grandfather Karl Ley, an immigrant from Germany, served on the school board, in addition to supplying saddlery and tack to the Union Army during the Civil War.
Robert Earl Ley Jr. carried on in that vein. In addition to serving on the Dover City Council, he was a member of Dover Kiwanis, Dover American Legion, past president of Dover Lions Club, past exalted ruler of Dover Elks Lodge No. 975, a 32nd degree Mason, member of Dover Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite Valley of Canton, Tadmor Shrine, Royal Order of Jesters, and Chef de Gare of the 40 et 8 Voiture 117. Quite the resume.
And for nearly 50 years he carried on the dental business started by his father in the 1910s, an office first interrupted by service in World War I. Grandpa worked alongside his father for 15 years before going on alone through his 1991 retirement.
But it was his marriage to Sue Weible that brought renewed joy as the years flipped by. After she passed away in January 2007, some days it seemed Bob didn’t quite know what to do with himself. But he seemed to find comfort in those old photographs, many of Sue, many of the extended family, and a whole album of those he called friends and comrades during his time in World War II.