In honor of Veterans Day, and in the spirit of all of your family members and friends who have served in the military, I wanted to publish a portion of the eulogy for my father Manney 'The' Felix (no middle name!). Dad died at age 92 on November 20, 2009.
Clearly the time that most defined your life was your time in the Army Air Corps. It’s totally fitting and right that you are being laid to rest among other veterans who served their country with honor and distinction.
You enlisted in the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor because you were angry about America being attacked. You served in World War II in the Army Air Corps, Technical Air Intelligence, 389th Service Squadron where you were an airplane instrument specialist. Your military geography included Fort Dix, NJ; Jefferson Barracks, MO; Chanute Field, IL; Pendleton, OR; Ephrata, WA; Butte, MT; Alameda CA. You saw duty in Townsville, Australia; Noemfoor, Dutch East Indies; and Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines. While at Clark Field on the island of Luzon you were assigned to Technical Air Intelligence in charge of aircraft instruments. Your assignment was to make ready and test fly all the captured Japanese planes and send out reports on all the flying characteristics of each airplane. As a reward for your excellent work in supervising the instrument crew, you were made the crew chief on one of the captured planes called, “The Jill” which was to be taken back to Washington, DC.
Starting at Alameda Naval Air Base in Oakland, CA, you and pilot Jay Perin (whom my brother Jay is named after) made what was to be a two-day flight to Anacostia Naval Base outside Washington, DC into a two-week adventure that included a stop for Jay to visit with his parents, an air show, a hurricane and an almost parachuting experience when the hydraulic pump and pump to switch to an alternate fuel tank failed to work properly. The stops in “The Jill’ included Long Beach, CA; San Diego, CA’ El Paso, TX; Dallas, TX; Little Rock, AK; Nashville, TN; Cincinnati, OH; and Elkins, WV. Most definitely a memorable excursion.
You were honorably discharged after spending time in various “Pacific Theatre” locations where you survived enemy bombings and other types of attacks. You told us a story that the reason you didn’t like to drink water was that at one of your bases, perhaps in the Philippines, you had learned that the locals used to piss in the water that ran down to your water supply!
We’ve all heard you tell the story of “The Jill”, perhaps enough that we could tell it ourselves. Even recently, when Brian and Kevin and Marissa visited you in the hospital, you asked them, “Did I ever tell you the story of ‘The Jill’?” and then proceeded to tell them an abbreviated version with the same enthusiasm as always. Eleanor told me that you would tell it to anyone who would listen.
Earlier this year you and “The Jill” were reunited one last time in a cold Smithsonian Museum hanger where, even though you were having difficulty walking, you climbed up a tall ladder, twice, to look inside the cockpit, examine everything and after you came down off the ladder you said, “Yes, that’s my Jill.” Eleanor says you couldn’t stop talking about that day for the last 10 months of your life and the story you wrote about your military career and “The Jill” will always be considered a beautiful family heirloom.
So, “Thanks Dad.” Thanks for being there for us in some of our darkest moments; thanks for being who you are to all of us individually and for hanging around this long as the final member of a Felix generation now gone, except for the photographs and the memories.
Thanks for thinking of the future and buying that little 8mm Revere movie camera, with the blinding spotlights when I was born and giving us wonderful, forever lasting documentation of our youth; of learning to swim at Silver Point Beach Club; of you teaching us how to play baseball; of family parties and holidays; of many family members, now long gone, including my mother Lorna, your first wife. Thank you for setting a good example. Thank you in so many ways I can’t even remember right now. I do know that we’ll be toasting your life later with…yes, bananas and sour cream.