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Birthday for Bud

December 21, 2014

Uncle Bud was the star attraction today…

uncle bud's birthday

If I could ever remember stories, which I absolutely cannot, I’d share tales of Uncle Bud’s life that are pretty darn story-worthy. He has enjoyed a unique life characterized by seriously high level science and technology, an absolute devotion to family, a solid compass, patience, and a bit of mystery. He has a love of life’s simple and fine things–a room with a view, a perfectly aged wine, an elegant reach across the ocean, a player piano, art and books. I’ve always been in great awe of my uncle and slightly intimidated by what must be going on between his ears. He’s very understated and never seems judgmental, but the way he always chuckles off a comment without further elaboration makes me wonder what in the world does he think of me?

He currently enjoys several rounds of golf a week, even bent over as he is. He’s got his pals and a good cart. Mostly, he’s enjoying the company of my aunt Ellie and as much grandkid time as possible. He seems to be going strong for a 90-year-old guy.

Like I said, I am foggy on story details (which I’ll try to rectify). For now, some snips to give you a sense:

At 17 years of age, because he could fly an airplane and because it was 1941 and he was raring to serve his country, he was told to report to a US base in Burma (I believe) and it was up to him to figure out how to get there. His route was very circuitous and it took him three weeks, but he eventually arrived, ready for duty. When they learned that he was under age, they limited his assignments to non-combat missions. For example, if we were planning to bomb a bridge, Uncle Bud would be sent in in advance to “buzz” the bridge and clear it of civilians. Once cleared, our bombers would fly in to destroy the bridge. As I understand it. 

(This is a kid just six months older than Peter is now. I shudder.)

I’m not sure how long he remained in the service, but he did see combat, jumped out of lots of airplanes, spent weeks or months fleeing enemy territory on foot, maybe with other guys, maybe alone, and all kinds of other World War II stuff I’m uncertain about (which is why we need a better storyteller here).

After that, he went to Cal Tech, ended up with degrees (masters and PhD I think) in chemistry and worked in the oil business, based in Long Beach, for all of his career. May have owned an oil company, or at least a consultancy. He has patents for countless chemicals and chemical processes, though I can’t tell you much about those either. 

I also know he worked on the Spruce Goose and knew Howard Hughes pretty well, though I don’t know how that came to be or what, exactly, he did. I know it was significant.

He loves fine food and wine, travel, sailing, and like I said, still plays golf, but the center of his world are his two boys and now his three grandchildren. And of course my Aunt Ellie.

We were asked to write down a favorite memory of Uncle Bud for a commemorative book my cousin is compiling. I wrote about his dedication to family, the way he cared/cares for his kids–always treating them with respect, answering every question, paying unwavering attention to them. He would often sit with the kids at family gatherings, or hike with us, or just be around, because kids deserve to be treated like people… which isn’t always the way it was in the 50s and 60s.  He also cared dutifully and respectfully for the elders, in this case my grandparents (his parents-in-law).  He was the one going to the convalescent home daily to visit my grandma. Completely without fanfare; just did it because it was right.

I also wrote of his killer pate. Seriously. Killer.

He’s a very kind man who, as far as I ever observed, never spoke negatively about others. I suspect we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I can’t remember ever hearing him speak negatively about that either.

I’m glad he got a big party for his 90th. He seemed genuinely touched.

Here are some shots:

First, an oldie….Uncle Bud and me on his boat, sailing to Catalina, circa 1972-3. He’d be in his mid-to-late-40s, I’m about 16. Looks like he’s steering with a tiller, which I can imagine he’d prefer to a wheel.)

Uncle Bud #b 5

Now, the party… here’s the cake:

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Son #1, Bob:

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Son #2, Eric:

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Aunt Ellie, center, with mom and Betsy Bixby (yes, that Bixby):

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Peter and his second cousin Kate (Eric and Staci’s oldest daughter and Uncle Bud’s oldest grandchild):

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Me and Uncle Bud:

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Out the window, sun setting on Alamitos Bay, the Naples part of Long Beach that has been Uncle Bud and Aunt Ellie’s home for over fifty years:

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And vintage Uncle Bud:

moms birthday trip 030

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