On this journey through life, a chance meeting with another person occasionally develops into a unique and treasured friendship. Today I honor World War II veteran and fellow writer Tom Junkins.
I met Tom at the first writing event I attended following my return to writing. About the age of my own father, Tom had devoted his waning years to recording his life experiences. He printed books, bound them, and offered them to his family and friends. He threw himself enthusiastically into the writing life.
Together we traveled to monthly meetings. He provided enthusiastic encouragement for my projects. I helped him produce one of his memoir volumes. In a conversational voice, Tom’s memoirs recorded his stories as if he spoke to his grandchildren. When his health declined, he responded with wit and good humor, in the style I came to know as Tom’s unique voice.
He wrote, “On Friday June the third at five in the evening, my right leg went numb. I called 911. They put me in an ambulance and sent me to Via Christi, St. Francis. They landed on me like a bunch of crows on road kill, ran all kinds of scans and tests, and scheduled surgery with a vascular surgeon for Sunday morning to remove a blood clot.”
Our days of writer’s meetings drew to a close with his move to the Veteran’s Home. Tom still wrote daily, even as he struggled with growing physical limitations. What have I learned from this writer? He displayed grace and courage when facing his health issues. In this way he reminded me of my own father.
But more than that, Tom’s dedication to the written word is testament to the vitality we find in books. By writing stories for his family, Tom created a gift they can enjoy forever. As I sit in my office, I am surrounded by books, by journals of my lost parents, and letters from long-gone relatives and friends. They live through their words. Their essence and personality shine into my life. When I read words written by giants of my past, their voices echo in my mind. And I know they are still with me, in words and in spirit.
One week ago, Tom Junkins passed from this life. His words speak now only from pages he wrote. With his passing, he joined those giants of my past whose journals and letters provide sustenance for my future. I humbly repost this blog in his honor. I will long remember his enthusiasm for writing. Here’s to you, Tom. May your adventures continue into the next life.