Saturday, September 05, 2009

Chicago Brother-Love -Maureen O'Donnell's Odyssey of Jack Egan: Greek Ice Cream and the Kamikaze

History is about the truth and not what we'd like it to be and try to Krazy-Glu a patch job of what might have happened.

World War II was an epic fight in which good triumphed over evil. The Greatest Generation is term that merely seems to pay a passing nod at the millions of tough, skinny, energetic, independent and compassionate Americans who went to war against Fascism ( Nazi/Imperialist Japanese/Italian fascism) a belief that the State usurps the Rights of Man.

Maureen O'Donnell of the Chicago Sun Times presents a story that is a relic, a time-piece and evidence of what made newspapers great at one time. Her story of Jack Egan, an 86 year old gentleman, who wanted to learn the historical truth of his brother's WWII sacrifice as a sailor in the South Pacific is a thing of beauty.

It relates the historical context of Chicago in the 1940's and the roles played by teenagers in going to war against monsters.

Chicago's Greek community was the force behind the ice cream industry - the first Sundae was created in a Chicago Greek ice cream parlor; the first Soda Foundation was established in a Greek ice cream parlor and Greeks established ice cream manufacturing in 1920's Chicago. Hollis, Melvin - Ethnic Chicago p.280.

An Irish kid afflicted with Polio, Jack Egan could not go to war with his brother, but worked to maintain the American way of life here at home. Maureen O'Donnell presents the sadness of the War Department telegram coming to the helot's house at 7200 S. Seeley in 1945.

Maureen O'Donnell carefully and lovingly presents the treasures that make history come alive through the beauty of its simple truth -unalloyed by agenda:

Egan still has the telegram, sent to the old family home at 7231 S. Seeley, saying Jack was missing. It nearly stopped their mother's heart. She never recovered from her grief, dying six months later, at 52.

Egan has the Gold Star flag families hung in the window to show they'd lost a boy in the war and a chisel his brother made in shop class at Tilden Tech.

And now, 64 years later, the Westmont man has someone he can talk to about his brother, after seeing a Chicago Sun-Times story about Nick Korompilas, 85, a Mannert Abele survivor.

Egan, who turns 86 Sunday, couldn't believe it when he read the story. With one arm withered from polio and classified 4-F, Egan didn't serve in the military. But he always hoped to find someone who was on his brother's ship. Before the Internet, though, searching wasn't easy. And life got in the way. Egan worked at Kraft Cheese, Curtiss Candy and Glidden Paint. He married and raised a family.

But, after seeing the story, he got together with Korompilas at his Park Ridge home.

"I finally found somebody I could finally talk to," Egan said.

Click my post title for Maureeen O'Donnell's beautiful story.

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