The Paper photo by Karen Zach
Elton and Marge Ross have been in the community for 65 years.
The Paper photo by Karen Zach Elton and Marge Ross have been in the community for 65 years.
Bits of this week’s interview reflected one not so long ago as I had the privilege to interview another sharp WWII vet, this one having his adorable wife along! I think they even enjoyed their pizza (and his salad) at what has jokingly become, “my office,” the Pizza Hut (fondly referred to as PH). Needing no prompting whatsoever, he launched right into his WWII days, as an Army tankman. At one point, a German bazooka hit his tank and while rescuing the tank commander, he received severe burns, bad ears, a medal and 45 days in the hospital, not particularly in that order.
Back in his tank again, they followed the Germans across the Rhine River with Armor and Infantry parading with them. Forging through behind the river, they wiped-out 51 German tanks (vs 39 US). Their unit went to stay and rest in large German homes, the majority of the villagers gladly giving their home up for a brief while to their liberators. Most often, the family would go to the basement, relatives or friends.
My man landed in France on the 29th of October 1944. At Barr, a year and a month later, occurred the incident above on November 28, 1944. His hands were burning and he jumped out of the tank, but unselfishly returned to get his commander. Afterwards, the wounded were walking toward the field hospital, being barraged from above, and my fellow received a blissful shot of morphine to ease the pain. During recovery, he had at least one highlight as the nurse told him he would receive the Purple Heart for his heroism. He recouped, “just in time for the Battle of the Bulge” in January of 1945. All-in-all, my man wonders if he is a cat, as he thinks he’s already lived through at least eight lives. “Several instances could have gone either way,” was his comment that sent chills through my soul.
The conclusion of the war was announced to them not via a letter, not by way of a phone or radio message, but by a big boy himself. Arriving in an open military jeep, a fine looking gentleman, obviously in charge, with two ivory pistols in holsters, announced: “Tomorrow, at 11 o’clock boys, the war will be over. I didn’t want you to hear it from anyone but me.” It was General George S. Patton himself.
Truly, I could have listened to the stories all night, especially about his large “porcelain crock,” where they fried eggs and had hot coffee.” Great hearing about the castles, music, dances and the wonderful people. Sadly, I had about six more pages of notes, I don’t have room to cover.
That wonderful GI bill sent this week’s fellow to Boilermaker country, although he had started his education at the University of Cincinnati. At Purdue, he spent all four years with four very good friends, all completing engineering degrees. A bigger plus, he found his woman, the lovely and sweet Marge. During Freshman orientation, they were both at the Wesley Methodist Foundation volleyball fun time and just clicked.
Marge majored in Bacteriology, both graduating in 1950. She was born and raised in Illinois, with a sister and two brothers. He grew-up in the Columbus, Indiana area, one of four boys, his brother, Bernard, having been killed in the Philippines during WWII.
From Purdue, our couple went back to his old stomping grounds, where he began working at Cummins-Diesel at $2.65 an hour, not a good pay for a college graduate at the time, but he was hoping for great advancements. They weren’t really there so when one of the old college roommates, James G. “Jim” Smith, stopped by from a business trip and after talking awhile, offered him a job at Hoosier Crown Cork & Seal, he grabbed it worked for the next 37 years. I assume by now, that most of you have guessed that my two sweeties this week are Elton and Marge Ross.
They came to Crawfordsville 65 years ago, where they raised four fantastic kids, all Purdue graduates. Marilyn Smith is retired from Wabash College and lives just a few blocks away from them. Brad’s in the Newark, N.J. area and, evaluates the needs of children for a large NJ hospital. Steve was a Catholic Priest for several years and now teaches Spanish at Boston University. Jennifer Taxman works in management at Dartmouth College. She lives in Hanover, with their only two grandchildren, Max age 17 and Isabel, 12.
Marge, who opted to be a stay-at-home mom was “the room mom, Den Mother, Brownie Leader.” You name it. She was also very involved in Art League, Athenians, Carnegie Museum and Current Events Club. They both delivered Meals on Wheels for 20 years, have been active in his Army units’ reunions and their church, the First Methodist. Reading is a passion for them both, especially autobiographies, and he wrote “checks to a lot of organizations to join,” but was really only active in a few, Kiwanis for one, knowing he’s been in over 50 years “But, I’ve not been in as long as Jack Wyatt!” he gave me to know.
Elton was also quite involved with Boy Scouts, “She’d be home all weekend with our kids, while I’d be out with other people’s boys!” He loved it though!
Although he has a many awards, he’s probably the most proud of his Knight Legion of Honor award, which is given by the French government and is not easy to obtain, especially for an American, but he was in France long enough to be considered. One of its points for obtainment is to,” Do more than ordinarily is expected,” and although I don’t know Elton super well, I’ve known of him and talked to him a few times and I do know that he is well-deserving with that point alone.
Now, they lead a quiet life, “Up, eat, nap, eat, nap, eat, sleep!” They know they’ve been very blessed for being 90 years old. “We’ve not been the richest but we’re fortunate to be comfortable. We didn’t buy anything, unless we could afford it.”
I’ll close with two quotes from Marge that I dearly love! “What makes a good marriage is the number of teeth marks one has on the tongue.” The other is: “We just thank God for another day.” Me, too, Marge and I want to thank you both for a great interview and God bless you two!
Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County.