Saturday, June 30, 2007

In Loving Memory

Note: My father-in-law, Arnold Reilly, passed away on June 14, 2007. As a tribute, my husband John and his sister Joan wrote this brief history of his life.

Arnold John Reilly was born on December 18, 1921 in Lone Rock, Iowa. He was the last of four sons born to Edward and Elizabeth Reilly. Edward Reilly was born in 1862 during the Civil War and didn’t get married until he was 52. Arnold’s dad was 60 when he was born. Arnold’s great-grandparents left Ireland during the potato famine on a ship bound for New York. Unfortunately, bad weather blew the ship off course and caused supplies to run out. Arnold’s great-grandparents both died on the journey, but their two sons survived as the ship eventually landed in New Orleans. Arnold grew up on the family farm and struggled like the rest of the country during the Great Depression. When Arnold was 7, his mother passed away. When Arnold was 12, a serious accident, involving a wagon, a team of horses and his father placed full responsibility of the farm in the hands of the four sons.

As Arnold approached the age of 20, U.S. involvement in the Second World War came to be. One by one, Uncle Sam took Louie, Phil, and Bernard to little known corners of the world such as Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Telelui. The care of his disabled father and 80 acres of farmland fell solely into the hands of the youngest son. A couple of years later, when his oldest brother, Louie came home on fallen arches, Arnold, realizing the draft board would be calling him soon, signed on with the Merchant Marines and was sent to New York. Shortly after, personnel cutbacks led to a discharge and a ticket back home.

In February 1945, Arnold’s father passed away. The day after his father died Arnold received a personal letter from Harry Truman notifying him that he had been drafted. Arnold was sent to boot camp in Arkansas and then it was on to Fort Lewis in Washington State. One day an announcement was made asking if anyone could type. Nobody volunteered because of rumors among servicemen that you never want to volunteer for anything. A few days later on one miserably cold, wet morning, the now regular announcement asking if anyone could type was made. Arnold thought what could be worse than standing in the miserable Northwest rains. He volunteered. With his typing talents, Arnold got a clerical job in the office at the base. Arnold prepared the daily reports which kept track of every soldier, AWOL or not. Training that helped him prepare for a 9 to 5 job later on in life. A year and a half later, Arnold’s division was called to duty overseas. As fate would have it, a severe case of strep throat left Arnold hospitalized and in the states he remained. Shortly after recovering, Arnold was honorably discharged and headed back home once again.

Arnold and Louie decided to “have a go” at hog farming. Their first two years were successful and they reinvested their profits in more inventory, more pigs. Unfortunately, the price for pork plummeted the following year and devastated them. Louie eventually moved into sales while Arnold decided to make a bigger move. Phil had resettled in Woodland Hills, California and encouraged Arnold to move out of Iowa. Arnold lived with Phil and his family for a short while until he landed a job with Southern California Edison. Arnold moved to Long Beach near the Edison steam power generating plant, where he would begin his career with the company.

Arnold stayed connected to the Catholic Church and got involved with the churches’ singles club where he met a secretary named LaVerne Sangl. Arnold knew he was in love with LaVerne as they danced to the song “Blue Suede Shoes.” On May 4, 1957, Arnold and LaVerne tied the knot. They moved into LaVerne’s small house in Compton with LaVerne’s mother Rose. Within two years, the house was occupied by five people with the addition of a son, John, and daughter, Diana. Arnold and LaVerne began looking for a larger place. Edison offered Dad two locations to relocate to, one in Etiwanda and the other in Ventura. Arnold chose Etiwanda and decided to buy a house on a soon to be built housing track in Upland. In 1963, the house was finished and the family moved in. In 1967, another daughter, Joan, was born and the family was complete.

Arnold worked as a control operator at Southern California Edison’s steam generation plant in Etiwanda. The job required him to work various shifts changing every two weeks – a day shift, a swing shift and a graveyard shift. He did this for most of his 28 year career with Edison.

Arnold was a wonderful father. Every summer, Arnold would take the family on the road to somewhere in the US. Arnold loved sports. Growing up we saw the Dodgers, the Angels, the Kings, the Lakers, the Rams, and the Summer Olympics. He was always there whenever something big was going on in any of our lives, such as swim meets, graduations, beauty pageants, basketball, or softball games. Arnold loved the circus and took us every year it came to town. With unwavering support, he managed to find a way to put all three of his children through college. He bought each one of them a car. And when it was time for each one of them to leave the nest he provided the means to allow each one of them to get their lives started on their own.

In 1983, Arnold’s first daughter Diana married Michael Bissiri. And in 1988, Arnold became a proud grandfather when Diana gave birth to a son, Matthew. In 1992, Diana gave birth to a daughter, Megan. In 1997, Arnold’s son John married Doris Brukner. And in 2002, Arnold would finally see his youngest daughter, Joan, marry Michael Armstrong.

At age 62, Arnold retired from Southern California Edison and over the next 21 years, Arnold and La Verne embarked on 25 various cruises around the world which allowed Arnold to accomplish his life long dream. “To see the world before he died.”

Arnold began having health problems in his late 70’s and early 80’s. By the end of 2005, Arnold realized that taking care of the house was becoming too much for him. After a visit to Valencia Commons, an independent retirement community in Rancho Cucamonga, living at the Commons proved to be ideal, giving Arnold a chance to relax since the facility provided three square meals a day and housecleaning. Arnold put their names on the waiting list and it wasn’t long until he received a call telling him that they could move in. Arnold and LaVerne then began the daunting task of cleaning out a house that had acquired 42 years of stuff. The kids and their spouses pitched in as well, sold off a few items such as an extra car and cleared out the rest in a massive garage sale, in late March of 2006. Arnold frequently described his new home as paradise and was truly happy there.

In January 2007 Arnold came down with a bad case of the flu and was unable to take his medications for a few days. On January 21, 2007 Arnold had a major stroke that paralyzed his left arm and left leg. For a couple of months he was making slow but steady progress until he had another stroke. Arnold had also developed congestive heart failure.

On May 4, 2007, the immediate family celebrated as best they could, Arnold and LaVerne’s 50th wedding anniversary at the hospital. A slide show of selected photos from Arnold’s collection, from 1957 to 1978, was shown. Wow, 50 years -- they made it!

On June 14, 2007, Arnold passed away at age 85. Arnold was a very strong man that gave so much and never asked for anything in return. Arnold will be missed by everyone who knew him.

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