Charleston, South Carolina – June 20, 2007
“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim, earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”
Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)
“I think Jake brought me this letter from Johnny to convince me that living with Rose wasn’t Jake’s idea,” Macie explained as J.P. placed Johnny’s letter in his pocket.
“It wouldn’t be a big deal today but living together back then was taboo, right?”
“Scandalous,” she smiled. “And that was one reason for the secrecy.” She hesitated for a moment. “Among others.”
J.P. nodded. He decided to change the subject. “What brings you here to Charleston?”
“I live here now. I moved here after Jake passed,” her eyes got watery again and she dabbed them with a dainty hanky. “Pardon me.” She sniffled and looked up.
“But why here, at the museum?”
“Why, John,” she smiled broadly. “I volunteer here. Didn’t you know I built this ship?”
Somewhere embedded in all the stories, he was told Macie worked in the Newport News Shipyard. “Of course, how could I have forgotten?”
“It’s comforting to know that I’m going to spend my last days in this place. A great ship that I helped build as a young woman. It’s His divine master plan at work…this connection between my life and the life of this ship. It’s hard to explain, but it’s very comforting.”
Two women about Macie’s age walked over to the table and sat down. They wore the simple uniform of the volunteers; white shirts with blue jeans. The blonde woman had her baseball cap pinned lightly to her head so as not to disturb her hairdo. The redhead had her cap pulled tightly down. “And it’s comforting to spend them with great friends. We’re all volunteers here.”
“Ladies,” J.P. nodded.
“This is John Patrick Kilroy, the man Jake raised,” she explained to the two women who smiled and nodded. “Pleased to meet you,” the blond winked.
“And these are my good friends, Nora Lee and Roxie Rawls Edson. Nora built this ship with me. Roxie ferried and tested planes that flew from its decks. Some of them are right there.” She looked down the hangar deck with its many planes on display.
“Of course, ladies. Pleasure to meet you.”
Macie continued. “I was telling John here about how Jake raised him. He didn’t know that until today.”
“So, the boys never cracked?” Nora Lee quipped.
“Nope,” Macie answered.
“Good for them,” Roxie chimed in.
“Does everyone know about this but me?” J.P. half-jokingly asked.“Just a close circle of friends that go way back,” Macie assured him.
J.P. smiled. “I’m happy for you, Macie, and grateful for everything you shared with me. We must stay in touch. If there is anything I can ever do, please call. I’m in your debt.” He handed her his business card.
“That’s so kind of you, John.” Macie thought for a moment. “There is something I may need you’re help with later. But for now I’ll just let you process all this new information.”
J.P. had a flicker of curiosity about what that help might entail but dismissed the thought and reached into his pocket. He slid the case that contained the Medal of Honor awarded to John NMI Kilroy over to Macie. “This doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to you or it belongs over there,” he pointed to the Medal of Honor Museum.”
She reached for the case as he slid it toward her. She slid it back. “Jake wanted you to have this. That’s why he had Harley tell Colonel Chase about you.”
J.P. nodded and slipped the case back into his pocket.
“And I have something else for you.” She took another folded letter from her purse. “Jake wrote this to you. Wait until you get home to read it.”
“More letters?” J.P. quipped. “You must feel like a post office.” He took the sealed envelope and slipped it in his pocket.
Farewell greetings were exchanged and it was time to go. But he had a last question. “One more thing, Macie.”
“Why did those men keep this secret from me for so long? I mean, why were they so determined never to reveal what really happened?”
Macie reflected for a moment. “You met these men. You know what kind of integrity they had. When they gave their word or made a promise, it meant everything to them. They don’t make men like that anymore.”
“I’ve come to learn that.”
“Well, John, I wasn’t there but Jake told me this story many times. Jake, Harley, Sky, Frank and Lincoln met in New York after the War. It was January of forty-six. They attended a parade. Rose was there and so were you.”
“Before you leave today, let me tell you this one last story.”