Mr. Ed is a stranger to no one; which is good since he has people wanting to talk to or interview him on a regular basis. Featured in the book Brave Ship Brave Men by Arnold S. Lott and video Veteran Voices – Edward Strine, many come to hear his stories of being on the USS Aaron Ward Destroyer during WWII - specifically when a suicide plane hit.
The story is well rehearsed. Possibly from telling it repeatedly, making sure key details aren’t left out, or maybe the script helps keep an emotional distance. No matter how it’s told, the horror of it and the amazement that he is alive to tell it at all is captivating to anyone who listens. He humbly ends with, ‘I’m well respected; I try to treat people well, encourage them, and take each day as it comes. I feel I’m doing God’s work – I’m very close to God.’
As we sit and I listen to his story, I look around his room filled with American memorabilia, awards, and newspaper clippings. These are recognizable and catch my attention at first, accessories to what I’m being told. Slowly, I start to notice the balance within his belongings.
‘Is this your wife?’
Suddenly, the mood shifts and I am being introduced to his ‘Blue-eyed Irish Angel’. It’s easy – and rightfully so – to become consumed with his grand display of military items Mr. Ed has in him home. Just a bit of a closer look, however, and you start to see an equally important part his life that not as many people ask about.
“She [my wife] was 9 and I was 11 in elementary school. We were out playing softball and I could tell the [inaudible] was going to hit someone off to the side where they were watching us. I walked over to apologize and then when I got there I saw she was in the middle [of the crowd] crying, she was scared. So I went home to tell my mother, she said, ‘Eddie, you did the right thing.’ Next day she came across, this nine-year-old girl, walking across the field and had something in her hand. She said, ‘Mr. Ed, thank you for your handkerchief.’ I said, ‘I don’t think I had a handkerchief (laughs)’. She said, ‘Oh, yes you did. Thank you, sir.’
She’s my blue eyed, Irish girl. She was an angel, in every aspect. She taught me to be a gentleman. I was devastated [when she died]. I really was.”
He tells me small stories of their time together and, unlike his recollection of his time in the Navy, it’s not exactly what he says, but the tender, insistent way he speaks of her. Over and over again he speaks of what an angel she was during their time together and how she is the reason he became the man he is today.
After talking about several photos he has of his love, I ask him which would be one of the most important to him.
“This [photo] is when she was sick, knew she was going to die. They couldn’t do anything more for her and we’re going off the beach one last time. That’s a memory.”