NFM Salute (May 2020):

"Grandpa" Bill Kelly

2020 05-01   |   NFM TV

Hunting and fishing for food through the Great Depression; clearing unexploded ammunition in Guam during World War II.; and now at age 95, quarantined at home for weeks on end battling COVID-19. “Grandpa” Bill Kelly is a survivor. Listen in as our May NFM Salute discussed what it has taken to overcome so many obstacles in one lifetime.

Full Transcript is Below:

- Hi, I'm Greg Sher. 95-year-old "Grandpa" Bill Kelly, he survived the Great Depression, he survived and fought in World War II, and, most recently, he survived Coronavirus. He's also the recipient of our May NFM Salute. We welcome in "Grandpa" Bill Kelly from McMinnville, Oregon and his granddaughter, Rose, who was kind enough to set up this NFM Salute. Grandpa Kelly, thank you so much for your service.

 

- You're certainly welcome, it was an honor.

 

- It's our honor to have you here on NFM TV and to give you this NFM Salute for the month of May. I guess we'll go in sequential order with all of the things that you have withstood. Let's start with the Great Depression. What's your memory of those times?

 

- Some people would say that we were poor, but us kids didn't realize that too much. And I've gotta say that I was never hungry. Mom always provided. We had a house and we had a big lot close by which we owned, we had a garden. And in the winter time, why dad and I would go out rabbit hunting and shoot rabbits for food. Sometimes a squirrel, quail. Do a lot of fishing in the Fox River. We'd catch a lot of little spiny rays, little bluegills, and that sort of thing. And dad would spend half the night cleaning them, scaling them and that sort of thing,

 

- [Greg] Yea and soak them in salt water and fry them the next day. So, we got along real well.

 

- Tell us what if was like then, at the end of the Great Depression, you started to have a yearning to serve your country. Right about the time it ended, Pearl Harbor was going on. Tell us about that moment in time and what it was like to serve.

 

- It was Sunday morning, December 7th, and about eight o'clock in the morning, the battleships were all lined up. About 6 of them side by side right up at the docks. They had church services on the deck in the morning, and the next thing you know, here came a bunch of dive bombers, but over a 100 or some of those sailors were still down below deck. Never had a chance to get out. So, that made us furious. No one sneaks up on us, and pulls stuff like that. It was in December, and January 1st, I would be 17 years old. So, with our parent's permission, we were allowed to join the service, so I asked dad. I said, "Dad, I would like to join the Navy."

 

- You ended up stationed and serving in Guam for 3 years. What's your memory of those times?

 

- There was a lot of mess there. Lots of unexploded shells and this sort of thing. So, our job then was to get in there, try and get the ammunition that was unexploded out, get transportation so the troops could get up to the front, and take care of the wounded, unload ships, just things like that that had to be done. And the Guam people, Chamorros, they were all there, and they were so pleased with Uncle Sam coming back. And they had a little song. I'd like to sing just one verse for you.

 

- Please H e had all the little kids singing there, and they said, "December 7th, 1941, people went crazy nearly here on Guam. ♪ Oh, Uncle Sam, Sam, my dear Uncle Sam, ♪ ♪ oh won't you please come back to Guam? ♪

 

- Bravo, so I want ask you about when you return to civilian life, because you had this experience serving, and you decided to continue a life of serving, as you became a fire chief. What was that experience like?

 

- After I was discharged, I had the opportunity to go to Oregon State and Linn Benton Community College, which I attended, and I got an Associate's Degree in Fire Science, and in '52, I was hired by the Fire Department, and worked my way up to Captain of Suppression and Fire Prevention. Then, I had the opportunity, and accepted a job as Assistant Chief Fire Marshall at the Oak Lodge Fire District, and I retired from there.

 

- Rose, thank you again for setting us up. Let's shift focus to his latest challenge he overcame. That is, Coronavirus. When did you realize that Grandpa Kelly had it, and what was it like?

 

- He was here and on St. Patrick's Day, Tuesday, March 17th, we found out that his test was positive. He in fact was the first positive test in our county. There were a couple of days where he looked extremely ashen, and I could tell he was slipping. He didn't want to eat, so we had to really stay on top of him to eat and to drink. I think that he pulled through because he has a strong mind. I think he really just set his mind. He knew it wasn't time. He wanted to be with the kids more.

 

- What advice do you have for other Americans right now that maybe have Covid, or are just struggling with all of the challenges they are facing right now, financially, employment-wise, and otherwise? _ Just be a good solid American, and there's a saying, "Fighters never quit, and quitters never fight. Carry on." Sounds like Winston Churchill.

 

- Well, that's a great note to end on. Grandpa Kelly, we really appreciate your time, your service. We're so happy that you're doing better now, that you beat Coronavirus. It's your latest obstacle that you've overcome. Continued health and prosperity. And also, your granddaughter, Rose, thank you for helping us arrange this, and for allowing us to feature Grandpa Kelly as May's NFM Salute.

 

- My pleasure, thank you.

 

- My pleasure, too, thank you very much. God Bless.

 

- All right, we'll see you again next time, thank you.

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