My father, John Felmy Shaffer, was a WWII veteran. He enlisted in the army and left for boot camp on December 26, 1942, then trained for a year before he was sent to England in February 1944, in preparation for D-Day. He served as a half-track driver in the 474th AAA AW Bn (Battery B) and chose that because "it was easier to ride through the war than walk." While in England, he stayed with a woman and her daughter, Betty, at 7A Bath Road, Bridgewater, Somerset. As a young man, my father was very personable and must have made quite an impression -- letters continued to be exchanged between the women and both my mother, who was on the home front with my infant sister, and "Johnnie," who was somewhere in Europe.
This is one of my favorite photos of my father, taken sometime during his stay in Bridgewater. Dad was a compassionate man and always had a soft spot for dogs, especially little black Cocker Spaniels.
Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For heaven's sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.
Of all the thunderous ages, you're the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)'
A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
High in young pride you hold your noble head;
Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
(Must you eat puppy biscuits on the bed?)
Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
YOurs the white rapture of a winged soul,
Yours is a spirit like a May-day song.
(God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)
"Whatever is, is good," your gracious creed.
You wear your joy of living like a crown.
Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
(Drop it, I tell you -- put that kitten down!)
You are God's kindliest gift of all -- a friend.
Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,
You ask but leave to follow to the end.
(Couldn't you wait until I took you out?)
-- Dorothy Parker (Enough Rope, 1926)
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