The Greatest Generation

I recently attended a funeral for a friend’s father.  Gene Chrysler was 94 year of age when he passed; wife, children and grand-children by his side.  The hospice doctor and staff were amazed at the outpouring of love and care they saw from the family, never leaving his side until the end.  The hospice doctor commented that there was little need for their presence.

As I listened to the children and grand-children speak at the service, there was a reoccurring theme.


Each person spoke about the happiness and strength they found only in each other.  None believed they could have endured it alone, but truth is, all of them could have, given the strength and temerity they were bred with, but they didn’t have to because all of them were there for each other.

Through tears, they celebrated fond memories, milestones and tragedy past, all the time crediting each other and professing their collective faith in God.  One speaker said it best when he exclaimed how his faith was the only thing allowing him to move forward, and wondered aloud how the faithless face such adversity.

In that little Baptist church in Marathon, NY, family weddings, baptisms and funerals punctuated the normal Sunday services of several generations of a loving, tight-knit family that wanted little more than to raise their kids, work their farm, celebrate each others triumphs and victories while supporting themselves when sorrow and hardship visited.

Gene and Wanda, his loving wife of 70 years set forth a road-map for how to make a family by demonstrating every day how to do it.  Only their faith in God was stronger than their faith in each other.  When you live your life with that kind of clarity of purpose and with that intensity of a focused objective, those around you can’t help but notice.

It was clear by listening to the folks speaking about Gene just what kind of man he was even if you had never met him.  I had the good fortune to know him and his family for over 25-years and even though I knew all of the goodness, the graciousness, the quality of life reality they created, it was comforting to hear that his grand-children and his great-grand children will carry with them whatever was able to be transferred to them by word, deed and genetics.

Author and television news personality Tom Brokaw coined the term, “The Greatest Generation” in his book that told the stories of World-War II veterans.  Gene fought in that war as well as the Korean conflict and he was indeed one of the best of the best from that wonderful group of men that snatched freedom from the brink of fascism.  Rest in eternal peace my friend.  It was my honor to know you.  You set the bar very high, and hopefully within families all over this great country similar values will carry us onward on the backs of children forged into honorable men by warrior forefathers like you.


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