Uncle Al was sort of a Jean Valjean character. He was undoubtedly the strongest man I have ever known. In the early 1920s he defended the honor of his mother in a bar fight. He hit a man once and there after was ‘recruited’ to play baseball for the State Prison team.
Albert Flanders was a coarse, vulgar, profane, take no crap from anyone, man. I genuinely enjoyed being in his presence. (His standard greeting when he saw me was…’how are you, you little tub of sh#%?’). I miss Uncle Al.
Like your uncle Al, my uncle Buck was also a coarse, vulgar, profane, take no crap from anyone, man. He was married to my mother’s youngest sister (the lone surviving sibling, now at age 98). Unlike the towering uncle Al, Buck was 5’7” and never weighed more than 135 lbs. But he was wiry, with well defined muscles. He was a union bricklayer until he died of cancer at age 54. When he was 20, he won the local Golden Gloves super feather championship in Akron, Ohio. And later, after enlisting in the infantry during WWII, went undefeated in 19 bouts representing the U.S. Army. As a kid, whenever I would visit my aunt Marg and uncle Buck’s house, he would always greet me with a quick, stiff jab to my upper arm. A punch so hard it would hurt for a week. But I loved my uncle Buck, and always looked forward to going to their house to listen to championship boxing matches on the radio, and finally watching on their new Zenith round screen TV. As an early adolescent I voiced my curiosity about what he did in his stint in the army besides box (my father had told me that uncle Buck had killed a number of “japs”). My uncle grabbed my arm (the one that still hurts to this day) and said: “Jimmy… I’ve never talked with anyone about my time overseas, and I never will. Don’t ever ask me again!” I honored his warning, and never raised the subject again. But I’ve always wondered about the weight of the horror stories he carried to his deathbed. Still love you, uncle Buck! But I don’t miss your rock hard jabs to my arm.
Love this story, I had an Uncle Bill who taught me and my brothers to fish, frog, ride a minibike, and take care of a horse. Solid man who was no nonsense but not harsh. What I remember most is he always had a cigarette in his mouth.
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