Another member of the Greatest Generation passed away today: Joseph Thadeus Glab, age 94, 6/7/1921 – 11/5/2015. Joe grew up in a primitive log cabin in Hazelhurst, WI. During the Great Depression, he hunted wildlife to provide meat for his parents and three sisters to eat. After graduating Minocqua High School in 1940, he left home to serve in the Navy. During WWII, he was a pilot in the Atlantic Front and later, the Pacific Front. He married Lois Kohl in 1950, had three children, retired as a Navy commander, and eventually became the grandfather of five grandkids. He was an incredibly charming man with his bright blue eyes, warm smile, and generous praise. I’m thankful that my grandfather was able to pass peacefully to a better place after a long, full life. May the lessons of his generation not be forgotten.
My dad’s eulogy for Daddy Joe was more detailed:
On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to thank you for honoring my father with your presence. I am most grateful.
Joseph Glab, my dad, was a modest man of great integrity with a remarkable personal story, lived in extraordinary times.
Dad was the third of four children of ethnically Polish immigrants who came to this country to escape economic deprivation in an obscure corner of the Hapsburg Empire in 1905. My grandfather worked in the mills in Pennsylvania before making his way west to the great Polish enclave in Chicago. From there, my grandparents homesteaded a farm in the north woods of Wisconsin. My dad grew up on that farm. Things were basic. His home was a vertical pole log cabin without electricity or indoor plumbing. If you wanted heat, you chopped wood. During the summers, my dad worked as a fishing guide. The Chicago businessmen who hired him recognized his potential and urged him to get an education. That wasn’t easy. In order to attend high school, Dad had to work for room and board with the owner of the bakery in Minocqua Wisconsin as the family farm was too far for a daily commute.
Dad joined the navy in October of 1940. Upon entering boot camp the Navy gave assessment tests to the recruits. To encourage the recruit’s best efforts, the Navy offered pilot training slots to the top two recruits in each battalion of several hundred. Dad’s hard work and talent payed off, he got the number 2 slot. That was fortunate, as the most common assignment for his battalion was the USS Arizona and many if not most of them died the morning of December 7th. Following a brief assignment to the USS Nevada, Dad went to pilot training and Officer Candidate School. He was assigned to squadrons flying long range missions against U-Boats out of the US and England.
As the war in Europe ended, Dad was assigned to a reconnaissance squadron in the Marianas Islands. After the war, the Navy sent him to college at Marquette University where he met my mother. They married in 1950. Highlights of his assignments over the next twenty years included what is now the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, Photo Reconnaissance Squadron 63 which surveilled much of Southeast Asia in the mid 1950’s, Two tours developing Navy’s P-3 antisubmarine aircraft and as the chief staff officer for antisubmarine warfare in Keflavik, Iceland during the 1961 Berlin Crisis and the months leading up to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. His career was consequential.
After the Navy, Dad worked for the local school district. In retirement Dad volunteered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for two decades as well as a national level figure skating judge.
My mom once told me that you never fully appreciate your parents until you have children of your own. As a child, I appreciated that Dad was one of those guys who could fix anything, He was a good provider and most importantly a faithful husband to my mother for nearly 65 years. Only as a parent did I come to appreciate his parenting skills. Dad would insist that as kids, we would look at disagreements with others from their perspective. Though I did not like that as a kid, he was right. Dad was also a “free range parent” before the term was coined. He never set curfews. Instead, through discussions, he insured that we were schooled in the “real world”, its risks and rewards. We understood the consequences of poor decisions and the rewards of good ones.
In the fullness of time Dad, along with the much of the country, came to appreciate the extraordinary times of Second World War. Millions from this country and many others, without any prospect of fame or fortune and at enormous personal risk joined in the greatest collaborative effort in the history of man. Dad and his generation saved the world from fascism, eastern imperialism, and then prospered after the war.
They and two subsequent generations, contained Soviet communism until it collapsed from its own despotism. Tom Brokaw was right to call them “The Greatest Generation” and we all owe them much.
In closing, please remember my Dad the way I think he would like to be remembered. A patriot, a member of that greatest generation who did his duty when duty called. Thank You.