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Our Fathers And Their Children

Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Timber Processing March 2022

My father-in-law, Dr. Woodward D. Lamar, best known as Woodie, died on Thursday morning, February 24, after a brief illness. He was, as the obituary stated, “99 years of ageless.”

It takes a sharp mind to come up with a line like that, but Woodie’s daughter and my wife, May, as anybody knows her knows, is very sharp, and she was the one who wrote her dad’s obituary, which wasn’t a surprise because she, too, is a lifelong journalist and author and has written hundreds of obituaries through the years.

Following Woodie’s death, up until his burial, it was four days of mostly great food, great companionship, great memories and mostly at our house in Montgomery, Ala., the city where Woodie was born and died, and where he practiced dentistry.

Several people commented to me that Woodie’s death was the “passing of an era,” and the main reason they said that was because he served during World War II as a U.S. Navy pilot and Lieutenant. He was the last living of seven siblings, all boys except one, many of them serving during World War II, including a brother, Claude, a First Lieutenant who flew bombers in the U.S. Army Air Forces and was shot down late in the war in the Pacific. His name is on the Walls of the Missing in the Manila American Cemetery.

American journalist Tom Brokaw popularized the term, The Greatest Generation, with his book of the same name, referring to those who experienced the Great Depression and either went into military service during World War II or honorably served the war effort in others ways on the home front.

My dad, Thomas Marshall Donnell, was part of this “greatest generation.” He served as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Service Group, was stationed three years in the Pacific and received two bronze stars.

My dad died at 65 back in 1982, still a young man upon his death compared to Woodie. But they shared similar traits. Both great family men, including wonderful, lifelong spouses. Both great sports fans, having played a lot of ball during their youth. Both with successful careers (my dad was in finances with Ralston Purina). Both rarely talked about their experiences in World War II. Both could get a little political, but put more worth in a good round of golf with their wives followed by a Scotch and water.

My father-in-law was blessed to be able to experience nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. It was several of those great-grandchildren, including my daughter’s two daughters, who naturally commanded much of the attention at our house during the visitation, and who preciously intercepted any of our slips into sadness and turned it into gladness. Woodie had been able to celebrate his 99th birthday last Halloween with many of them, and in some days before his death was able to talk briefly with his grandchildren.

I know that Woodie did, and my dad would have appreciated the depiction as “the greatest generation,” but they also shrugged off such glittering generalities. I also know that they had confidence that the generations that followed them, in particular the members of their families, would live their lives just as completely and also with the best of intentions.

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