One hundred years, where have they gone? The world had him for almost 81 years and I had him for 51 of those years, but, then, I still have him in my heart and mind these past 19 years. And, I think, if you knew him, you do, too.
He was born on November 27, 1915 in New York, NY, a tiny twin who appeared to be dying at birth. His sister, Edith, named for her mother, got most of the medical attention. Then, little John Michael Jr. (“Jack” to his family) rallied.
And he survived.
Oh, yes, he pulled through all right. He also survived getting hit by a car when only eight. His broken leg healed up just fine. About that time, he was sent, purportedly for the summer, to live with an aunt in Mineola. Fall came and with it the first day of school. His aunt got him ready and sent him off saying nothing about him going home. Gradually, it dawned on him that he was never going home again. He was right about that, but he never understood it. In 1924, children were only informed on a need-to-know basis and the adults in his world were sure he didn’t need to know.
But he survived.
John Michael Carroll, Jr.
Fast forward 15 years, Dad had finished high school and college. His degree from Hofstra University was a BA in Business. He took a job with the Ward Leonard Company in NY. His father died soon after this and he moved to Mount Vernon to live with his mother. In college, he often listened to a radio preacher, William Ward Ayer, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in the city. Dad heard the gospel and believed. In Mount Vernon, he looked for a church and began attending the First Methodist Church, pastored by Dr. Otho Bartholow. There he found a vibrant youth and singles group which included several siblings from the Trout family.
The Trouts were a fixture in the church. The seven siblings included five boys and two girls. Their ages ranged from 26 down to 6. My guess is that four or five of the oldest ones were very active with the “young peoples’” group. It didn’t take Dad long to spot the fourth member of the Trout clan, a gregarious, 22 year old prankster named, Dorothy, or usually, Dot.
He did not survive Dot.
She was everything he could want: happy, confident, fun-loving, popular. Her family was everything he dreamed of: loyal, loving, welcoming, and carefree.
Dot said he followed her around everywhere. She could not shake him until, one day, she decided maybe she didn’t want to shake him. They were married on Valentine’s Day, 1942 at that Methodist Church where they met.
Valentine’s Day 1942
But World War II was in full swing. The USA was in. On Christmas Eve, only 10 months after the wedding, the draft notice came and Dad would report for induction. He entered the Army and was sent to Camp (now Fort) Campbell, KY. His unit was scheduled to deploy to Europe upon completion of basic training. We now know that would have meant his participation in the D Day invasion being planned. But…
Dad served in the 20th Armored Infantry
Raw recruits were being added by the thousands. Deployment of Dad’s unit was delayed as they were assigned to train a new group of inductees. Again, his unit was scheduled to deploy to Europe. Again, his unit was held back to assist in training. This happened several times. Finally, D Day was history. Dad was still at Camp Campbell but allowed to live off base in a boarding house. So Mom was there with him. Oh, apparently I was, too.
So he survived D Day.
Then, in January, 1945, with Mom eight months pregnant with me, Dad was shipped out to France. He got news of my birth in France, three weeks after the delivery.
Dad’s Bronze Star
Meanwhile, the Allies advanced across Europe and into Germany. Dad as a Tech Sergeant was responsible for a small detachment which handled replacement parts for military vehicles. As they pushed into Germany, far behind the front lines, they drove through a small village. Suddenly, a white flag appeared out of a window. Then another. And another. The villagers were surrendering to an almost unarmed unit consisting of a sergeant and a couple of corporals driving a truck and two Jeeps with lots of fan belts and spark plugs. For that he received the bronze star which we still proudly display on our dining room wall.
Soon the war in Europe ended. Dad was sent back to the US to prepare for the final push in Asia. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended it abruptly. Dad was discharged and returned home which was now the picturesque village of Montvale on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in Virginia.
The years ahead had joys and sorrows. Joys included the births of his wonderful daughters, Nancy and Betty, the building of their home on one acre of land on Grandpa Trout’s farm, and a resurgence of Dad and Mom’s faith and service to the Lord largely through the pastoral ministry of Dr. Jack Arnold at Grace Church in Roanoke. Dad was a ruling elder, Sunday school teacher, and a member of the Grace Academy Board.
John and Dot with children, spouses, and 8 of the grandchildren (c. 1991).
He and Mom were blessed to see each of us children married and thanked God for Charlie Brenneman, Mary Lackey, and Russell Knouff as well as the nine grandchildren that came from those marriages. He would have been delighted to meet his (so far) thirteen great-grandchildren.
Sorrows were present, too, like the financial struggles brought on by the loss of his stucco refinishing business and some tense years raising a difficult teenage son.
Dad and Abbey Knouff, his ninth grandchild in April, 1995.
After his retirement as assistant to the president of Shepherds Auto Supply Co, Dad’s health declined. The last years were marked by two major surgeries for aneurisms and by Myelodysplastic Syndrome which caused his death on Sunday, September 15, 1996.
Mom related the last conversation she had with him, a conversation he would have had thousands of times over the fifty-four years of their marriage. But now he was wearing a large collar to support his head after a fall that resulted in a broken neck ten weeks earlier. He had gotten up for a few minutes and was about to get back in bed. He rested on the side of the bed and looked at Dot sitting nearby.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” he said, kindly.
“No, dear. Thanks.”
He then laid down, went to sleep and to glory. Did he survive? Yes, he more than survived for, to borrow from the Apostle Paul, he was more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loved him (Romans 8:37).
Mom and Dad at Monticello. Fall 1986
One hundred years, where have they gone? But I expect to see them again, forever.