Harry Joe Shrum was born in the early part of the 20th century (which is my way of saying I don’t know exactly when he was born). In October of 1941 he married Freda Olive Montgomery and from that moment became an important part of my life. Even though I wouldn’t be born for another 21 years.
Freda, you see, was my mother’s sister. This made Freda my aunt and Harry Joe my uncle, or as I have always referred to them — Aunt Freda and Harry Joe. We didn’t call him uncle that much as I recall…Uncle Harry Joe was just one word too many. And we certainly didn’t call him Uncle Harry.
In 1943 Harry Joe joined the U.S. Army and helped keep the world safe for democracy during the Second World War. He was among the many who stormed the beaches on D-Day. It was something he didn’t talk about much, at least not around me.
Harry Joe was a quiet man. It’s hard to know if that was by choice or because he was married to Aunt Freda. Aunt Freda did enough talking for both of them.
For many years the Montgomery clan would converge on our farm every Fourth of July. Aunt Freda and Harry Joe would always be the first to arrive. I don’t know if that was Harry Joe’s idea but I doubt it. They were often the last to leave and I know that wasn’t Harry Joe’s idea because he’d usually be out in the car with the engine running, waiting for Aunt Freda to finish her goodbyes.
Aunt Freda and Harry Joe had a daughter, Cousin Judy (they didn’t name her cousin, we cousins did). Grandchildren and great-grandchildren followed.
Aunt Freda died in 2009 and one assumes she’s been waiting for him at the gates of Heaven ever since. Seems only fair given how often he waited for her.