87-Year-Young Senior Citizen Builds New Personal-Sized Church–Ready For Weddings

Bill Alexander of Seguin, Texas stands at the front of his newly constructed “The Little Church.”

Verse 16:18 of the Book of Matthew found in the King James version of the Bible must have spoken very loudly to Seguin-area resident Bill Alexander, Jr. as he pondered building The Little Church off of U.S. Hwy. 90A near Geronimo Creek a short distance outside the city limits of Seguin.

The verse that may have struck a chord with the 87-year-old “retired” contractor reads:  “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Alexander doesn’t call himself a “preacher” or “reverend.”  He is a devout member of the First United Methodist Church in Seguin where he says “I feel very welcome by all of the good people there.”

But, he does “minister” to the needs of all-comers to his The Little Church.  “I built this church almost single-handedly.  I did need some help up on the roof.”  Alexander says that the church is his “contribution” to anyone who needs a peaceful, country place to pray, ponder and just let the worries of the world fade away.

“I had a couple the other day who wanted to get married in The Little Church.  They loved the church but were worried about their many guests fitting inside.”  said Alexander.

“The Little Church” in Seguin, Texas was bult amost singlehandedly by 87-year-old (Young!) Bill Alexander. Bill says “We’re ready for weddings.”

They have a point.  The church measures 10 ft. by 16 ft.  Just right for a “small” wedding. 

And one visit to the church will affirm that what the church lacks in size, it makes up with spirit.  Alexander noted “The spirit inside the church is very special.”

The inside of the “non-denominational” church is furnished with only the simplest of adornment.  Older Bibles sit on top of a small worship table in front of the centered podium.  Modest wooden benches are available for visitors.  A non-ornate wall-mounted simple cross captures the spiritual essence of the church as one sits quietly within its four walls.

View of inside “The Little Church.”

When asked what made him decide to build “The Little Church,” Alexander said “I’ve been thinking about it for many years.  Sort of drifted into it recently when I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger!”

A sign at the front outside of the church reads:  “The Little Church.  A memorial of the parents of Bill Alexander Jr. and Dora Evans.”

Alexander began construction work on the church on March 1, 2012 and finished on May 15, 2012.

A small collection of Bibles awaits the tired, the weary and the thankful.

Born and raised in Menard, Texas, Alexander served in the U.S. Navy as a radioman during World War II.  He served aboard a Landing Ship, Tank (LST) navy vessel in support of amphibious operations during the Battle of Guadalcanal and during fighting in the Solomon Islands and elsewhere throughout the war period.

Also, during the past “50 or so years,” Alexander has been a continuous adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America.  Only a couple of years ago, Alexander was a volunteer helping out during a week-long scout camp with Seguin’s American Legion H.U. Wood Post 245’s Boy Scout Troop at the Bear Creek Scout Reservation in Ingram, Texas.  And, most recently, he has assisted with the Boy Scout Crew #317 at Cross Church in Seguin.

Simple lessons from the Master viewed from the podium.

Being the consummate Boy Scout may have contributed to Alexander’s drive to begin and finish his The Little Church construction project using, primarily, his own two hands.

While explaining further the urgency to complete the building of the church, Alexander commented “You know that the Boy Scout motto is to ‘Be Prepared’ and the Boy Scout slogan is to ‘Do a good turn daily.’” 

He paused for a moment in reflection, and then said “That’s been a big part of my life.  It’s just a part of me now.”

Then he added, “This is my own way of being a witness for Jesus Christ.  The church is really dedicated to Him.”  His building of The Little Church seems to capture the spirit of both the Boy Scout’s motto and slogan.

To visit The Little Church, Alexander asks that you call him at 830-379-0144 to set up a time.  “I’m really very flexible regarding visits or even small weddings.  The Little Church is there to be of service to others.” Said Alexander.

By:  Survivaltimes Editor Bob Grafe

September 15, 2012

AUTOmatic Times Hits The Streets – 11-year-old Editor-in-Chief

By Bob Grafe, Columnist

For Publication:  December 24, 2009 

© A couple of months ago, I wrote a column in which the question was asked “Where have all the newspaper boys gone?”

  Shortly after the column appeared in newspaper print (and on the Internet), I received word that there was at least one remaining newspaper boy.  This is his story – and a very special Christmas present for this columnist.

  A few days ago I had the privilege of meeting this young newspaper man (the Editor-in-Chief of the AUTOmatic Times) and his colleague/sister.  I had requested an interview with them and was granted one.

  After hearty handshakes all around, I was presented with the following written (typed) “response” to my “newspaper boy” column: 

  “My family and I recently read an article entitled “Where have all the newspaper boys gone?” by Bob Grafe dated September 3, 2009.  I absolutely loved this story.  It was like actually being right there with you, Mr. Grafe, when you were ten years old.  I could imagine being in the empty lot beside Ernie’s Barber Shop helping you find bottles.

  It must have been like being on a great adventure going from house to house and knowing that so many people were looking out for you, keeping you safe while you did your work.

  Although you did a lot of work, I think getting $25 must have been exciting for you.  I also loved reading about the barber shop owner.  You were a very smart business man for such a young age, and working out a trade for haircuts was very smart of you.

  You ask the question about where have all the newspaper boys gone and I would like to answer that question for you this holiday season.

  My name is Dawson and I am 11 years old.  When I was just10 years old, I watched a movie called Kit Kittredge and was, at that time, inspired to create a newspaper entitled AUTOmatic Times.  I share my newspaper with close family and friends online. 

  I use the local newspaper, TV, and Internet to help me with research articles.  My Mom pays me a penny a word for all my articles.  I do not charge anyone for my paper and I love when people want to read my paper.  I learn a lot also by writing my paper.

  The answer to your question is that there are still newspaper boys in the world, I am one.  I also earn enough money with my once-a-month newspaper to hire my sister Shelby (age 9) who is a great reporter for me.

  I wish that our world was safe enough to go on adventures in town like the ones you had … but in today’s world we kids have to be safe.  We still read articles and share stories, but, again, we kids have to be safe.

  Anyway, I wanted you to know that your story was so detailed that it was like watching a movie.  You did a great job.

  And, this holiday, I really wanted you to know that there are still newspaper boys and girls in this world!

  Merry Christmas from Dawson and Shelby (Smith)

P.S.  I just made $4.50 for this article and I am enclosing it for you.  I want you to buy some donut holes this Christmas for yourself and know that it came from a newspaper boy.”

  My reaction to receiving this very thoughtful Christmas present was mixed.  I really wanted to profusely thank both Dawson and Shelby on the spot for their sincere kindness. 

  But, I was about to conduct an unbiased and in-depth interview with them.  I must remain professional and at least a bit aloof, I thought to myself.  After all, I could be interviewing future media moguls.

  My hunch was confirmed when Dawson revealed that he was already Wall Street wise.  “I lost $13 in the stock market.” he said when asked about his “business” interests. 

  Both Dawson and Shelby also mentioned that they were into “making movies.”  When I looked questioningly at their parents sitting at the conference table with them, both nodded in the affirmative – with smiles.

  Movie scripts are written, sets designed, characters developed and actual movie “shoots” completed and edited by this talented duo.

  And, what about AUTOmatic Times.  What was one of the more important stories covered by Dawson – this modern-day Internet equipped newspaper boy turned Editor-in-Chief.

  “Well, I wrote a lot about trash.” Said Dawson.  “You know.  Littering.”

  You might also find an article in a future edition about Dawson’s favorite car, the 2006 Ford Mustang or his favorite food – supreme-style pizza.

  When asked how they come up with ideas for their newspaper they replied that they “play office” a lot to get the feel for what really goes on. 

  And raw politics isn’t off limits for AUTOmatic Times’ Editor-in-Chief who firmly mentioned that “Kids need the right to vote for president.”  Staff writer Shelby demonstrated her editorial capabilities when she recommended that the world could be changed for the better if “toys were free.”

  Dawson mentioned that education was important and commented that Benjamin Franklin might have had a college degree in “scientific imagining.”

  When asked who they felt was the most important person in the world, they both paused and then said that they “didn’t know.”

  But when asked who they might ask over for a special dinner party, their responses were without hesitation.  “Miss Linda, Mr. Jet and Jasmine.”  When asked why, they said they were “close friends and very caring.”  And, “Mr. Jet lets us decorate his gate on holidays,” they said.

  After our interview was completed, Dawson and Shelby were given a tour of a “really big” newspaper building and even had a chance to have their pictures taken standing next to a “huge” printing press.

  As they departed the building through the front door, my editor and I just looked at each other with an unspoken reminder that as the seasons come and go through life it becomes ever so obvious that we need to hold onto “the good” when we experience it – and we just had.

  May you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Every Minute In Life Counts!!

By:  Bob Grafe, Columnist

© Did you know that you only have 10,512,000 minutes left to live?  That is correct if you are now a senior citizen age 65 and you expect to live to be age 85 – allowing for 20 more years of living.

  Put another way, you have 7,300 more wake-up calls and a little more than 1,000 weeks to get all those things still remaining to do in your life … done!

  Look at it this way:  You have the same time available and remaining to complete an entirely new career – the same as does a man or woman just beginning a 20-year career in the military.  And, you have the side benefit of no one actually shooting at you.

  There’s still plenty of time to get done what you want to get done – but, you have to go about the task with a well thought-out plan in place.

  So, where do you begin?

  Perhaps the first order of business is to inventory all of your personal time and financial expense commitments that now encumber your personal 24-hour day and your bank account.

  The financial expense commitments portion of the inventory will probably be the easiest to complete.  The personal time commitment portion is much more difficult because it is much more personal involving your emotional investment with many friends and relatives in your life. 

  As you review your personal time commitments be sure to ask yourself, for example, if you are committed to spending one weekend each month away from home with grandchildren, or a special civic organization’s project, or teaching special classes at your church, or with helping out with duties at your senior citizen center, or maybe committed to visiting dear friends and relatives in rest homes, or maybe working at a part-time job that you really enjoy, or maybe just spending a quality weekend at home with your spouse … or any number of other good things to do “one” weekend each month. 

  Well, something has to give because you run out of month before you run out of that special “one” weekend each month – it looks more like “every” weekend is taken up and then some.

  A high level of personal time commitments for on-going activities that are not considered by you to be “very” important may interfere with your desire to complete your list of things that you want to get done – while there is still time to do so. 

  Once that current inventory of personal time commitments is completed, take a deep breath and prioritize the inventory list into three areas:  Very Important; Less Important; and Not Important.  Keep the list private for a few days while you ponder what you have written down.  Then, review the list and make appropriate changes that you have thought about.

  Now, with a blank piece of paper, using the same inventory list categories of Very Important; Less Important; and Not Important, write down those things in life that you really want to accomplish during this “next” 20-year career of yours that is just waiting to begin.  Prioritize your list and then let those private ideas incubate for a couple of days before you make changes to your “final” prioritized list of things you want to accomplish.

  Like it or not, the “other” list of financial commitments that you will have to complete during this life’s inventory process will help to bring into focus those important items that you want to get accomplished – and that you can actually afford.

  For best results with your future list of accomplishments, be totally honest with yourself when you complete your financial commitments analysis.  Don’t be tempted to over-state or under-state either projected expenses or income.  

  These simple steps will help to un-clutter your life allowing you a better picture of what you want to accomplish with your remaining years – what is truly important to you.

  It will help the process along if you begin by placing all of the televisions in your house in the garage sale that you should have.  Garage sales help to un-clutter your life.  Or just drop all your “junk” off at a Goodwill Industries collection site.  Remember, one person’s “junk” is another person’s “bargain.” 

  Be sure to get a receipt for your donation since you also have another 20 or so annual IRS tax return forms to complete between age 65 and 85.  Maybe you’ll find some hidden tax right-offs among your treasures donated to Goodwill or other charitable organizations.

  To help with the “financial” un-cluttering process, you might consider canceling those subscriptions to unread magazines, special “discount” membership offers for “seniors,”  those “special” credit cards now infrequently used, and other commitments that may not provide you with the benefits once promised but seldom delivered – but still cost you that monthly or annual fee.

  Likewise, it is probably a good time to continue with your personal time commitment inventory tweaking by evaluating your membership in various worthwhile organizations.  Some community organizations may still offer you an opportunity to be of service within a specific area and some national organizations may continue to offer you an opportunity to contribute time or funds for good causes.

  But, some have outlived your ability to contribute either financially or with your time and they may need to be dropped from your list of commitments.

  Once your life is a little less cluttered, your personal time commitments and financial commitments inventory tasks are completed and well thought-out, your next 20-year career will be ready to tackle with gusto – perhaps just in time for the new year!

 Submitted by Bob Grafe for publication on Thursday, December 10, 2009.

A 1950s Thanksgiving Lesson In Miss Rumbleheart’s Class

Bob Grafe, Columnist

© Thanksgiving Day is a good day to reflect back on all of the many blessings each one of us has received in this life — especially for those of us old enough to recall both the good and the bad times and are wise enough to recognize the difference.

  I can recall back over half a century ago when the early-morning chill seemed to envelope the concrete basement classroom at my aging Lincoln Elementary School.  It was there that my also aging school teacher, Miss Rumbleheart, ran her third-grade class with the disciplined style of a very disgruntled Army drill sergeant.

  And even though Thanksgiving was the very next day, Miss Rumbleheart made it perfectly clear that she was there that school day for the sole purpose of teaching us the FOUR “R’s” … read’n, right’n, rithmatic’n and ruler’n.

  If you didn’t perform to her standard with the first three R’s, her 18-inch wooden ruler “Whack” would quickly move you back on task.

  Those were the days before school lawyer’n became popular and when long-reaching rulers helped make “no child left behind” a much easier goal to achieve.

  I still remember that late fall school day when for the first time I got the inkling that Miss Rumbleheart might actually HAVE a heart.

  It was mid-morning and the radiator next to the window across the room from my ink-well style desk had finally stopped crackling for awhile.  I noticed that Miss Rumbleheart seemed a little more odd than usual that day.

  Surprisingly, Whack the ruler hadn’t moved from her desk all morning — making all of us students very thankful as we prepared for a Thanksgiving school holiday.

  “Let’s make a list on the blackboard.” She announced.  “Tell me what you’re thankful for.  It’s going to be Thanksgiving tomorrow, and you’d better be thankful for something!”

  As she went around our third-grade classroom asking for input from each child, the blackboard quickly filled with such things as my mom and dad; new shoes; a new bike; cherry Coke; a new dress; my puppy “Buster;” a big radio; The Lone Ranger; grandma and grandpa; and the like.

  When the blackboard was filled to capacity, Susan, the girl at the desk next to me raised her hand to ask a question.  With a bit of annoyance in her voice, our teacher said to Susan, “Yes, what is it?”

  Susan shyly asked “Miss Rumbleheart, what are you thankful for?”

  With a silence in the classroom similar only to those times when Miss Rumbleheart was going to send someone to the principal’s office for doing something really bad, she sat down at her desk and seemed to be thinking without saying a word for the longest time.

  Then she began.

  She told us about how she almost married many years ago, but “things” just didn’t work out.

  However, she quickly added that she had also wanted children of her own — but  was very thankful to have had so many wonderful school children to teach and to keep safe each day for so many years.

  The Korean War had been going on for a couple of years, and Miss Rumbleheart told us how thankful she was for living in a country where she had freedoms that many other peoples of the world did not.

  She said that she was thankful for all those who were serving in the military and who fought for our freedoms and to keep us all safe.  “My nephew is in the Army, and he is fighting in Korea.” She noted.  “They say the war will be over soon, and I’m thankful for that.  We all, everyone in our family, really miss him.”

  “It always makes me proud to see the American flag flying high,” she said, adding that we were lucky to live in America and that we should always be thankful for “our special country.”

    She said that she was thankful that she felt safe to walk in her neighborhood and while shopping.  “People in our town are very polite to each other and we care about each other.  I feel safe here and I’m sure thankful for that.”

  Television was new then, and she said that she was thankful for being able to see and hear such wonderful things on television.  “What a blessing the television is.” She said.  “We’ll all be able to learn so many new things with it that radio just can’t duplicate.”

  With a smile, she recalled that it made her and the school’s principal very thankful to not have to hear “any foul language” from the students at our school.  Again, she told us how proud she was of us for our good manners.

  She said that she was thankful for all the families who raised such wonderful children for her to teach in school.  And, she added that she was very thankful to have had the opportunity to have “such a special job as a school teacher.”

  “I have been truly blessed.” She said.

  As she was about to finish talking, I remember seeing some tears in her eyes that she unsuccessfully attempted to hide as she told us how thankful she was for her family, her friends and her God.

  The rest of that day remains a bit of a blur.  However, the memory of those good feelings and precious teachings about the blessings of living, especially living in America that Miss Rumbleheart instilled in me and many others that day, lingers on even now.

  When we returned from our Thanksgiving holiday, Miss Rumbleheart was there to greet us at the door – “Whack” the ruler in hand.  Back to the four R’s we went — but, with a new appreciation for our master senior citizen school teacher.

  As for me, I’m very thankful for having been blessed with many wonderful teachers throughout the years while living in our great country — but, I’m especially thankful for Miss Rumbleheart and how she forever taught me about being thankful.

Holiday Madness Is Almost Here



© Published October 8, 2009

By:  Bob Grafe

In case you haven’t bothered to do the math, there are only 79 more days until Christmas and only 50 more days until Thanksgiving.

Sure, there are the usual planning panics about who is going to visit who — did the kids come here or did we go there last year? And, there is always the worry about this aunt or that grandfather or that allergy-prone 6-year-old who you recall have “special” dietary needs.

If only you could remember what they were!

For Thanksgiving there may be questions about who sits next to each other during the annual family feast around the extended table or tables. Certain relatives really should not be allowed in the same house together let alone in close proximity to each other where bodily harm is relatively easy to accomplish.

And, on Christmas there is always the question of do we or do we not exchange gifts. Should we just do a big “family” exchange where everyone only spends a limited amount of money for a gift … and everyone knows that certain “someone” who is either the family cheapskate or the family spendthrift who always either forgets or knowingly ignores the agreed upon gift-exchange “rules.”

Then there are those traditional family games to be planned. Maybe a flag football or softball game is scheduled. Some families are big into “board” games. For others, maybe a terrific football game on television is “game enough” after the nine-course turkey dinner is finished.

But, during all the upcoming holiday events, one item is often overlooked by very well-meaning holiday get-together hosts.

What to do with our elderly senior citizens to make the holiday experience pleasurable for them is often forgotten or puzzling during the planning process.

Here are some suggestions that will help your aging guests to not only feel more a part of the family’s holiday fun, but will also help them with limited exercise and assist them with keeping their minds working well — well into their advanced senior years.

Many seniors are not that familiar with the newer digital cameras. But, every family has someone (usually the “younger” generation) who knows the ins and outs of modern photography. That younger family member could let the senior “fiddle” with a digital camera to gain some familiarity. You may want to have previously taken some photos of the senior’s favorite items/places/persons and possibly show them as a slide show on a computer screen to let them see what can now be done in photography with little effort. Be sure to let the senior member of the family take some of the family’s holiday photos.

While you have the senior present, it is always a good time to make some notes or recordings of the senior for family history purposes.

You might ask them who was their best friend and why? What games did they like to play in their youth and older? What was the best birthday present they ever got? Did they ever have a nickname? This could be a very engaging and a priceless memory for the entire family.

Some of our seniors had companion pets for many years and now miss them. It might be possible to “borrow” a gentle puppy or kitten for the day and allow the senior to enjoy the company of a pet while also enjoying a holiday visit.

For more active seniors a favorite game is bingo. To make the game fun for the entire family, a visit to the local “dollar” store can provide a wide variety of inexpensive yet practical (or just fun) prizes.

Another fun activity for seniors and others is to have every guest provide a baby picture of themselves. Mix up the photos on a table (face up) and have everyone write down on a separate piece of paper who they think the baby is. Read the answers aloud and enjoy the frequently funny responses to the wrong guesses.

Often, these photos will remind the seniors of old times and they may enjoy telling a story of where they were living, and with whom, when the baby pictures were taken. They might be asked to then tell about what was going on in the world (historically) when they were born and during their childhood years.

Even singing old-time songs — like In the Good Ol’ Summertime — will help seniors to be involved and to recall pleasant experiences.

Early barbershop quartet songs and campfire songs also tend to keep the senior engaged and tend to help with memory functions as they participate and enjoy the singing together with other family members.

The important thing to remember as we close in on the traditional holiday season and begin our “get-together” planning, is that our elderly seniors really do want to be part of the festivities — even if their participation is relatively limited.

USA: The joys of being a senior citizen

My own sons don’t even challenge me to foot races any longer. Waitresses frequently ask if I’ve noticed the “senior section” on the menu. Even over the telephone reservation clerks will comment something along the line of “You sound like you might be eligible for an AARP discount.”

If that’s not bad enough, I wake up each morning now taking a quick inventory of each anatomical part that is still technically functioning … and debate whether or not I should put stress on the questionable parts fearing that repairs and/or replacements will not be readily available.

The other day I was thinking about just staying in bed for the entire day. Then, I did the math.

According to recently released longevity studies (since I don’t sky-dive, smoke or commercially fish in the Bering Sea during winter storms), my life expectancy now is to about age 78 … or about 5,475 more wake-ups!

I thought … “That’s all I’ve got left?” And, “I guess I’m too old now to do anything of much importance.”

Then I gave some serious thought about several “senior citizens” who have inspired me during my life by their examples of service to others and by their enduring to the end.

Senior citizens Mother Teresa, Otto M. Locke, Jr., Abraham (the son of Terah and the grandson of Nahor), Harland David Sanders and Billy Graham are personal reminders that good works can and should be continued in life as long as physically possible … certainly well into our senior citizen “golden” days.

Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu) was an Aromanian Roman Catholic nun with Indian citizenship who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India in 1950. During my childhood years, she was mentioned often as a living saint who gave her life ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s work throughout India and in many other countries. Even with declining health during the last 14 years of her “senior citizenship,” she worked tirelessly for the benefit of others. She died in 1997, at age 87.

Locke, of New Braunfels, was the owner and operator of the oldest nursery in Texas until his death in 1994. In 1856 his grandfather (Otto Locke) started Locke Nurseries in New Braunfels. For many years, I would take my young children to visit the nursery on Saturdays. Locke would always have time to teach my children something special about the wonders of nature. For many years the nursery also displayed monkeys, iguanas, snakes, birds, an old snapping turtle and a collection of prairie dogs which were always of special interest to my children. Locke continued to serve at the nursery almost until the day he died at near-age 90.

Abraham is a prophet of the Old Testament featured in the Book of Genesis as well as in parts of the Qur’an. While reflecting back to our early heritage, I can’t help but be inspired by his dedication to following all of God’s commandments and to accepting new responsibilities well into his senior citizen years. Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions regard him as the founding patriarch of the Israelites, Ishmaelites and Edomite peoples. According to the Bible, Abraham (at about age 100) and his wife Sarah (at about age 90) were promised a child by God in their “old” age. Even versus in the Bible refer to “laughter” at the thought of these two senior citizens having another child at that time in their life. Then, son Isaac arrives to the “delight” of his aging parents. And, to complicate matters, sometime later God commands Abraham to sacrifice his new son. Then, just before fulfilling God’s command, an Angel substitutes a ram to take the place of Abraham’s son Isaac.

And I thought I was having a bad day!

Restaurateur Harland David (Colonel) Sanders was age 65 when IH-75 was constructed re-routing traffic away from his Kentucky Fried Chicken business and forcing its closure. Using $105 from his first senior citizen Social Security check to fund visits to potential restaurant franchisees, The Colonel continued to develop franchise restaurants for many years thereafter creating one of the most successful restaurant chains in the country. This 7th grade drop-out sold the business while in his mid-70s but continued to be the company’s spokesman working and contributing until his death at age 90.

Evangelist Billy Graham will turn age 90 on Nov. 7. Graham suffers from Parkinson’s disease now as well as other serious ailments. Even so, this inspiring senior citizen mustered up enough strength after “officially” retiring to help conduct his “Festival of Hope” with his son Franklin Graham in New Orleans in March 2006, for the benefit of survivors recovering from Hurricane Katrina. It is estimated that throughout Graham’s life that he has preached in person a message to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior” to more people around the world (some estimates suggest nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories) than any Protestant who has ever lived. While turning down multi-million dollar television contracts and other monetary offers throughout his life, Graham and his wife chose to live a modest lifestyle returning most of their earnings over to evangelical and humanitarian efforts. I have no doubt that this ailing senior citizen would be continuing his inspired good works were it not for disabling health.

There are so many other talented and service-dedicated senior citizens who continue to inspire this aging soul. I appreciate them one and all.

Senior citizens, let not your hearts be troubled. We’ve still got a lot of good works to do.

Bob Grafe is a former managing editor of the Seguin Gazette Enterprise and a former chief juvenile probation officer for Guadalupe County.


Memories of the Real Memorial Day – May 30th! World War II War Dead Statistics Mind-Numbing! Countries with very few war dead is revealing!

Bob Grafe
The Gazette-Enterprise

Published May 28, 2009

Most senior citizens recall the Congressional debates back in 1971 when the National Holiday Act changed the traditional Memorial Day observance from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

By so doing, Congress effectively undermined the very meaning of the day to the point where many of our citizens (and most, if not all, non-citizens) think that Memorial Day simply marks either the end of the school year, the beginning of summer fun, or both.

And why shouldn’t they think that? Memorial Day parades and public speeches in remembrance of our country’s war dead are almost a thing of the past. There are still a few parades and public commemoration events remaining throughout the country … but very few.

By contrast, there are Memorial Day “sales” at many nationwide big-box stores. Some communities have “arts and crafts” events, chili cook-offs, barbecues and 5-K runs — all under the banner and publicity “hook” of “Memorial Day.”

It just seems as if many of the general public do not want to concern themselves with a day of remembrance for all those who have died in defense of our country while serving in the United States military.

Fortunately, there are still some local Memorial Day observances by various (sometimes combined) veterans’ organizations. Many such observances are held on the last Monday in May while others are held on the traditional Memorial Day — May 30.

Regrettably, most Memorial Day observances are poorly attended by the general public — even though they are usually encouraged and invited to attend by event sponsors. Even the public schools do not seem to have enough time with their busy test-driven schedules to educate their students about the history and meaning of Memorial Day.

Perhaps it is that we don’t really want to think about the reality of just how many of our friends, neighbors and relatives actually lost their lives so that we might live in peace.

The death-total numbers are actually quite mind-numbing.

For example, just take World War II with approximately 419,000 American war dead or the Vietnam War with approximately 58,000 war dead. Those numbers seem staggering when compared with our war dead resulting from current-day “wars” in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Memorial Day should possibly also be a day that includes a sincere thanksgiving that our loss of precious American lives in all wars hasn’t been even worse. That kind of remembrance and giving of thanksgiving historically seems to apply to World War II the most.

Historians seem to agree that World War II probably exemplifies the deadliest military conflict in history. When we take that war alone (with war dead estimates ranging from 50 million to more than 70 million), we realize that United States casualties of nearly 419,000 (including about 1,700 civilians) war dead was tragic — but it could have been much worse had our military and its civilian commander-in-chief at the close of the war, President Harry S. Truman, not made courageous decisions and acted decisively upon those decisions.

By comparison to American war dead statistics during World War II, Poland experienced 5.6 million war dead or just over 16 percent of its population. The Soviet Union lost 23.1 million of its military and civilian population or about 14 percent of its population. France lost approximately 568,000 military and civilian citizens — or about 1.35 percent of its population. Yugoslavia lost 1 million of its population or 6.67 percent; China lost 20 million of its 518 million-population or 3.86 percent; and, the United Kingdom lost about 450,000 citizens or just less than 1 percent of its population.

Hitler’s Germany lost about 7.2 million people or just more than 10 percent of its total population. With the war-ending atomic bombs being dropped on Japan, that country’s loss was 2.7 million of its population or nearly 4 percent.

While the American lives lost during World War II were terribly high, they represented only 0.32 percent of the population of the United States at the time.

By contrast, Cuba lost only 100 of its 4.2 million people; Ireland lost only 200 of its 14.3 million people; Mexico only lost 100 of its 19.3 million people; Switzerland only lost 100 of its 4.2 million people; and Spain only lost 4,500 of its 25.6 million people.

Several of today’s Middle Eastern “hot spots” such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran were effectively neutral during World War II — in some cases secretly providing oil and other needed supplies and support simultaneously to rival warring countries. Those Middle Eastern countries combined war dead loses are estimated at less than 2,000 total personnel — counting both military and civilian.

Memorial Day these days may not be observed with the reverence and sacredness the way it once was done during the lifetimes of most senior citizens — at least not by many of today’s general public.

But, I’m confident that more than a few of those senior citizens and others reading this column today will be in attendance at H.U. Wood Post 245, The American Legion, 618 E. Kingsbury Street, Seguin, Texas at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 30 for their traditional Memorial Day Service.

Hope to see you there.

© Grafe is a former managing editor of the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise and a former commander of H.U. Wood Post 245, The American Legion.