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Veteran recalls WWII and other life experiences
Saturday, January 29, 2011
By Jane Elling Staff Writer
CHERRY TREE - Louis Jacobs of Cherry Tree has a history of serving his country, teaching students for many years and volunteering in many ways.
He was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1944 after high school graduation and was sent to Great Lakes, Ill., for basic training. He said he was fortunate because he was assigned to be a company clerk; that meant handing out passes, helping with health records and other duties.
Then it was on to the University of Wisconsin to study Morse code and radio that led to a promotion as radioman third class.
From Wisconsin he was sent to Pearl Harbor and assigned to a sub-chaser along with 17 other men. Sub-chasers were small ships used to "hit and run. They would drop depth charges to destroy an enemy sub. As soon as it was dropped, they ran."
He said the sub-chaser they were on was designated as the communication ship. When plans were being made to invade Japan they were told they would be the first wave to hit Japan. They were also told that the chances of going back home were "nil to none." Fortunately, he added, Harry S. Truman gave the OK to drop the atomic bomb and they were not sent at that time.
He remembers very well a day when during Mass on a ship, word came that the war was over. He was standing on the bridge of the ship and could see all the sailors kneeling in a prayer of thanks. There was no yelling, just thankfulness.
He also said, "I was privileged to be present when the Japanese carried the sword up the gangplank onto the Missouri and placed it on the table, signifying the formal surrender of Japan. I am glad to have had the experiences of being in the Navy and proud to have served my country."
Jacobs related another story about being in the hallway of Allegheny General Hospital when two men were talking and arguing and telling a woman about President Truman "killing all those innocent women and children when the bomb was dropped."
He spoke up and gave the illustration of how he and his fellow sailors were told when they went ashore not to get friendly with the people because "they sharpen bamboo and when they can get close enough they will put this in your gut. I bless the good Lord for Harry Truman." The woman thanked him for speaking up and said her husband was in the same situation and believed Harry Truman did the right thing.
Jacobs has some good memories including showering at a waterfall in Okinawa, but there were also things he didn't like, such as being told everything, even how to dress for the day.
Something else he appreciates about his Navy service is being able to go to college on the G.I. Bill. He said he was in the first class of veterans to go to Indiana State Teachers College, now Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He received a business education degree. After graduation he began teaching at Cherry Tree High School and went on to Duquesne University during the summers and on Saturdays to get a master's degree in administration, also using funding from the G.I. Bill.
When Harmony School District was formed with students from Cherry Tree and Westover boroughs and Burnside and Chest townships, he began teaching in the new school. His teaching career lasted 40 years followed by volunteering at the school for 12 years through the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging Inc. He assisted with reading and other deficiencies.
He is no longer volunteering but does assist with raising funds at the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program dinner to honor all volunteers.
When Jacobs was at ISTC, he met his future wife, Joann, who he calls Joie, from Mount Lebanon. They eloped Dec. 30, 1948. He laughed as he told of his future mother-in-law telling her daughter three rules, she was not to marry someone of foreign descent, a Catholic or a school teacher because they did not make enough money.
They had two children, a son, Kristin, and a daughter, Jacqueline. Joie had left college but after they were married decided to go back and get her degree at ISTC. He helped with the children while she was seeking her education.
After graduation she began teaching in Purchase Line School District, became a head teacher and was told if she got her principal certificate, she could be a principal.
She was the principal at North Elementary School for a number of years, and Jacobs said this was at a time when women were not administrators.
They were married for 47 years. He said it was a beautiful marriage and he was more in love with her at the end of her life and stated, "We got along great."
One of his hobbies was sewing, which he learned at ISTC when his electives were in home economics. He made the curtains, draperies and bedspreads in the house they built in Cherry Tree. He told about making a skirt for his daughter using newspaper to make a pattern.
Jacobs was born in Nanty Glo, one of eight children of Samuel and Elizabeth Jacobs. He is the last left and said this is a lonesome situation.
The family had a store that Elizabeth took care of when her husband was away. He traveled to various countries in Europe as he learned to play the violin and became skilled with the language of each country.
Elizabeth had no formal education but she was able to remember what each person purchased and relate this to Mr. Sam, as the customers called him, and he could list this in the store's book.
Jacobs has his father's violin hanging in his living room. In the home are assorted other family treasures. As he related his memories he said his philosophy is "Life is what you make it."
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