Jerome Campion (1923-2005) is the man I consider my grandfather (my own passed away years before I was born.) “Romie” was my husband’s maternal grandfather and welcomed me into the family fold. He had a 5th grade education, and knew how to fix everything. He wore a green shirt, matching green pants, and a matching green hat every day. Even in Summer. He loved cheap beer and blue crabs. He ate a huge portion of pancakes and fried eggs almost every day. Often I couldn’t understand him because age had stolen his speech. He adored his wife. He would do anything for a friend or neighbor in need of a hand. He passed away while I was pregnant with my daughter. She’s named after him and inherited his stubborn and feisty spirit.
Though he never mentioned “feelings,” I knew he liked me. One visit with him, he gave me a pile of garden catalogues that he’d saved for me. He knew that I have a green thumb. Then, there was the shore. The Campions vacationed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and one Summer I visited with my toddler-aged son. When I arrived after lunch, Romie was waiting for me. He waited impatiently for me to unload the car, then we headed out to the #9 bouy on Harris Creek in his canoe that he fit up with a questionable outboard motor. More than once, I thought I might have to swim home. Either the engine wouldn’t start or the boat was leaking. We hoped for rockfish, but only got croaker. I made him promise never to tell anyone that I caught a toadfish that day. He took the nasty thing off the hook for me and never told. When the entire family visited the Shore, long games of canasta were always on the agenda. He always sat next to me and saved all of his black 3s. He kept them separate from his hand, face down on the table. He’d tap on the top card and say my name. He taunted me with them. I loved spending time with him doing what we both enjoyed. He kept my secrets and teased me endlessly. I miss him.
There are stories about Romie’s WW2 service from before I entered the family. Like the night terrors that left him attacking his beloved wife in a dream-like trance. We would probably characterize it as PTSD, and he handled it alone over time. He had Japanese artifacts from his 3 years of service. But, he never talked about details really. He hated the Army or maybe what he had to do in it. When the U.S. entered the Korean War, Romie was very anxious about being called up again.1)Personal interview, Campion, Doris (Ring), [address privately held], 28 Jan 2016; audio files, by interviewer, Jean Morrissey Sanner, [address privately held], 2017. Doris was Romie’s wife of 59 years.
Recently two fantastic items came my way. This photo was taken when Romie was in PTO, probably in New Guinea. He looked so incredibly handsome, and debonair here; like the movie stars, Errol Flynn or William Holden.
Then there are his military “separation papers.” These are the discharge orders and service summaries of World War II veterans. Romie’s are a treasure. They reveal an incredible amount about his service; more than he ever would have volunteered. An infantryman who was good with a pistol. He never missed a roll call. He serviced heavy artillery and small arms weapons. He fought in the East Indies, New Guinea and the Philippines. A hero.
He embodied so much of what characterizes the Greatest Generation and he was my Grandpop, too.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Personal interview, Campion, Doris (Ring), [address privately held], 28 Jan 2016; audio files, by interviewer, Jean Morrissey Sanner, [address privately held], 2017. Doris was Romie’s wife of 59 years.|