If you can send a fin or two to help in a good cause, attend to the phone number listed at the bottom of the article. This is on the up and square.
This old soldier didn’t quite make it to Veterans Day. Jim Ayers’ failing heart gave its final beat on 7 August. He was 91. Ayers left the world penniless and with no relatives around to pick up the tab for the cost of his send-off. Of course, those who served can always receive free burial in a national VA cemetery. However, one of Ayers’ last wishes was that he be laid to rest in the neatly groomed graveyard that’s just a short walk from where he worshipped with those he called his family… St John The Baptist Antiochian Orthodox Church in Post Falls. Thanks to an anonymous donor who paid 2,650 USD (123,000 Roubles. 16,200 Renminbi. 163,000 INR. 3,000 CAD. 3,030 AUD. 2,120 Euros. 1,680 UK Pounds) for mortuary and gravesite costs, Ayers’ got his wish. Since then, people raised about half that figure to repay the generous donor. Though important, getting the rest of the bill settled was only part of the reason they invited me to St John’s last week.
Those who knew the retired insurance salesman best believe that we should remember his service to our country and the positive way that he lived his later years. Jenny Dancy, a spokesman for St Johns, said, “Jim was a happy, good-natured guy. He was easy to make friends with and you could tell that he wanted to make the rest of his time on Earth as meaningful as he could”. Dancy met Ayers in 2007, just after she landed a job driving a bus for the independent living home where he lived. She was also working on her University of Idaho undergraduate degree in psychology with a specialty in gerontology. In simple English, Dancy has a real heart for the elderly. It didn’t take long for her to become fast pals with this aged guy addicted to Lifesavers and the raw oysters served at a nearby restaurant. It also didn’t take long for Dancy to become aware of Ayers’ service during World War II.
One giveaway was the large black-and-white photograph that Ayers hung outside his room. It showed that Ayers was a proud member of the 604 Field Artillery Battalion, which fought and bled in support of the élite 10 Mountain Division. It also didn’t take long for Ayers to tell Dancy about the nickname they had for the mules that hauled shells and artillery pieces up and down the steep and primitive terrain that was impassable for motor vehicles. They called them “Jennies”. Laughing heartily, Dancy said, “He loved telling me that one”. Dancy related that Ayers told her, “The conditions were brutal. Brotherhood and camaraderie were necessary just for sheer survival. Italy was a war-torn country and terrain made troop and supplies movement very difficult”. The army drafted Ayers in 1943; he trained in the Rockies where conditions sometimes reached 30 below zero Fahrenheit (-34.5 degrees).
She said that his medals included the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Service Medal, and the Bronze Star. By the way, they buried the medals along with the old soldier. Dancy said of her friend, “You could tell that in his younger days he’d been quite a strong man, but he also had a tender heart and really cared about his fellow man”.
Anyone wishing to help can call Dancy at (208) 640-8596
11 November 2014
The Spokesman-Review (Spokane WA)