A New Friend

A Fool In NH Column Heading

You never know what the day will bring.
A corny enough saying, but so very true.
Working at the Weirs Times presents me with great opportunities. One, of course, is having the freedom to express myself on this page each week. I can pretty much go wherever I want.
Another part of my job is to get out on the road on occasion and find people, places and things in New Hampshire that would make for a good feature story.
I have taken a ride on the Gundalow Piscataqua along the river of the same name, I have experienced a zipline adventure in the White Mountains, had a complete spa day and even spent an afternoon with the infamous Wolfman at Clerk’s Trading Post in Lincoln, to name a very few.
Even the stories which would seem rather mundane on the surface proved to be much more interesting than you might imagine once I met the people behind them. Along the way I have also gathered knowledge that I never expected.
Last week, working on the paper you are holding in your hand today, my lone assignment for the week was to drive a couple of miles from the office and take a picture of Bill Carter for the front page.
The story had already been written years ago by Lorrie Baird and we thought Bill’s story should be repeated. His adventures and sacrifice in World War II are the kind of stories that need to be retold so that new generations can fully understand the sacrifice these young people in the 1949s made to save the world.
The story was first written when Bill was eighty. It seemed important to have a picture of Bill today at ninety-seven years old.
It was all arranged and it seemed like it would only take a few minutes. Little did I know I was about to make a new friend.
Bill’s overwhelming energy took me by complete surprise. I guess I had this stereotypical idea of what ninety-seven should be.
Even though Bill does not see that well, his eyes lit up when he met me. We sat down at his kitchen table, along with his caretaker Ruth Hanson of Future In Sight: “The most important person in my life right now” Bill said.
I went over what I wanted to do for the photo.
I had cut out a couple of photographs of the two ships, the USS Relief and the USS Tortuga, that Bill had served on during the war, secured them to carboard and gave them to Bill to hold for the photo.
He was overwhelmed at seeing them and I told him he could keep them. It ended up being a well-received gift that I had not even anticipated.
It didn’t take much coaxing for me to get Bill to give the smile he has in the photo.
After we were done Bill stood up, without his walker, took my hand and proceeded to give me a tour of his home and all of the wonderful pieces of woodwork he had created over the years. Posts and beams, furniture, wagon wheels and especially the dozens of unique canes he had created all with their own story and inspiration.
Bill surprised me in how fast he moved and I had to take a couple of extra steps to keep up.
“I have hundreds more of these in the basement” said Bill about the canes. “You’ll have to come back sometime to see them all.”
We sat back down and talked for a bit longer. Bill wanting to make sure that I didn’t mention any names of his many friends because I might miss one or two and he wouldn’t want someone to be upset at not being mentioned.
We also talked about the importance of telling his story again so that younger generations could fully grasp and what his unselfish service meant to our country’s freedom.
While we talked, it hit me. Bill was the same age my father would be if he were alive. He also served in World War II and received Bronze Star for things we never knew. I never talked to him about it. He died when he was sixty.
At the end of our meeting, Bill insisted that I come back to see his canes, or just to talk. I said I would and he made me promise to do so.
As I pulled out of his driveway I glanced back at the house one last time before entering the roadway. There was Bill at the front door waving to me as I left.
A new and unexpected friend.
You never know what the day will bring.