It does not seem possible, but it is true a year has passed since my friend, Col. Robert Abraham (HQHQ) died. I wrote about Bob last year in one of these columns, and I feel the need to write more about him.
Without Bob, I doubt I would have ever gotten the chance to attend a single 508 reunion. At the time I began to become inspired to learn about the life of “Uncle Bill” (Capt. Wm. Nation), my father had contracted an untreatable form of Parkinson’s called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, an untreatable, degenerative disease of the nervous system (the actor Dudley Moore died of this same disease a few years ago).
I remembered hearing from Dad about a visit Bob made to my aunt and uncle’s home in Garland, Texas, (back in the early ’80’s) to meet with my father and his siblings to tell them what he knew about their brother during his time in the 508 PIR (Bob was with Uncle Bill when he was KIA during the Bulge).
When I became inspired to learn about Uncle Bill in 1995, I asked Dad if he knew where the man who knew Uncle Bill lived, and he said, “Oh, he lived near Oklahoma City, but he’s probably not alive any longer—he was older than most of the other 508ers.” Dad told me Bob’s name, and I was able to get in touch with him the next day. We chatted pleasantly; I asked him about my uncle, and after a short conversation, he told me to attend that year’s 508 reunion in St. Louis, Missouri (1996) if I really wanted to learn more about the man for whom I was named.
I attended the reunion with only one goal in mind—to learn about my uncle, but by the end of my four or five days in St. Louis, I had gotten hooked by the spirit of the Red Devils ( better not mention that in church!).
When I returned home, I remember my wife, Maggie, asking me (after hearing my 508 tales) if I was aware I was setting myself up for heartache (becoming attached to men and women much older than me). My response was, “Yes, I guess I do know that is a possible outcome, but if I choose not to get to know these people, I would miss out on getting acquainted with the finest human beings I’ve ever met—and that’s not an option!”
One of those fine men was Bob Abraham, who was in the original cadre that formed the 508 back in October 1942, and over nine years or so, we got to be friends. Good friends.
This gets a bit emotional for me, thinking how I, a man who never got to know Uncle Bill as a person, got to become friends fifty years after my uncle’s death, with one of his best friends in the 508.
Bob Abraham was dedicated beyond measure to the 508 PIR Association. He worked constantly and tirelessly on 508-related matters, right up to the end of his life. Bob drove by himself, with double pneumonia and other health problems, from his home near Oklahoma City to Laughlin, Nevada, to attend the 508 reunion held there a couple of years ago!
About ten days before Bob died, I drove to Oklahoma City to visit him and his daughter, Debbie, and son-in-law, Rob. We knew Bob’s life was nearing its end. Despite feeling very ill, Bob spent about half an hour in his “CP” telling me stories of the 508, insisting I take a picture of 508ers he had that was taken at a reunion of 508ers at Ft. Benning in 1947, so I could share it with folks who were to attend HQ1st’s mini reunion held last spring in San Antonio. His mind and memory were as sharp as ever.
When it got to be time for me to depart, I knew we were saying our final goodbyes, and I thanked Bob for his service and dedication to our country, for all he had done to help me learn about the life of my uncle, for being a good friend to Uncle Bill, and for giving me the opportunity to become part of the 508 family.
Bob Abraham wanted more than anything to attend the final 508 PIR Association reunion last October, but he did not make it. He died at age 89.
C Company and HQ1st Mini Reunion
C Company and HQ1st are planning a joint mini reunion in Atlanta, Georgia, during the Airborne Awards Festival, April 13-17, 2005. All 508ers are invited to this get-together. Remember Zig Boroughs’ slogan for this year: “Stay alive in 2005, and get together somehow!”
“508 Connections” by Ralph Boroughs
Ralph “Zig” Boroughs still has copies of his latest book about the 508 available. If you are interested in purchasing “508 Connections,” contact Zig at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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