My Grandfather – Charles Leslie Meinsler

chill01My grandfather was born Charles Leslie Meinsler on February 26, 1916. His nick name was Chill. That was his nick name before cool was even cool. 1916 is hard for me to wrap my head around. Automobiles and motorcycles were in their infancy. World war one was in full swing. Woodrow Wilson was president. Prohibition was in force from 1919 to 1933. Radio was just invented and was basically a military secret. Long distance communication was done primarily by messenger and telegraph. That’s when Pop Pop was born. Pop Pop was in his teens during the crash of ’29 and the great depression. I can’t imagine what tuff times they were, but he survived them when many did not. I remember being told that he dug basements with a mule and a pan to make a living.

mompop8He married my grandmother Dorothy Olivia Auch on August 21, 1937. Roosevelt was president. My dad was born in September of 1938. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and Pop Pop enlisted in the Navy and left his lovely bride and young son to go off and defend his country. Our country. My country.

Pop Pop was aboard the Navy destroyer USS Borie DD-704. They attacked and tormented Iwo Jima, Tokyo, Okinawa and the Japanese home islands.

dd704018On August 9, 1945 a kamikaze crashed into Borie’s superstructure between the mast and the 5-inch gun director, causing extensive damage, killing 48 men, and wounding 66. Pop Pop was one of those 66 that were wounded. He was burned from head to toe by the aviation fuel from the explosion of the plane. He paid an awful price for my freedom, for Nanny’s freedom and for your freedom. Medicine was crude back then. I remember him telling me once that they packed his bandages with maggots because maggots only eat dead flesh, not live flesh, and that’s the method that they used back then to clear the dead flesh from the wounds. I can only imagine what he went through, but he survived. Six days later on August 15th, 1945 the Japanese surrendered and the war in Asia ended.

He went on to own and operate a service station in the 50’s, back when service really meant something. When your car needed service he would ride his Harley Davidson servicar to your house and clip it on to the back of your car with a tow bar, and drive your car to his station and fix it. Afterwards he would wash your car, fill it up with fuel and deliver it back to your house, unhook the Harley and ride it back to the station and send you a bill in the mail. He trusted others and he was trustworthy.

I was born in 1961. John Kennedy was president. Nanny and Pop Pop owned and operated a small 5 room motel in Dauphin, PA. Pop Pop also worked full time at the Navy Depot. He was a hard working man who always made it his main focus to provide for his family. He was a kind man and he loved me and my brothers. He bought us all mini-bikes when we were youngsters and taught us how to ride them. He always had time for us. He helped us when we needed it and he taught us when we needed teaching.

Ally Cat was his favorite song. I remember how he used to smile, and the little dance move that he did when that song would play. I remember his quick wit and wide sense of humor. Most of all I remember his impeccable character. He was a man that believed that anything that was of value was built on a foundation of integrity, including himself.

mompop1Pop Pop died April 6, 1986. It was the day I learned about loss. It was the day I learned about grief and it was the day I learned about true emotional pain. It was the worst day of my life by far.

Pop Pop has been gone now for 23 years and I still think about him every day. I wish I would have made him more proud of me when I had the chance but I didn’t, and that is one of my life’s greatest regrets. He was a great man and a true American hero. He was my hero and I miss him deeply.

2 Responses to “My Grandfather – Charles Leslie Meinsler”

  1. Ron, I did not realize until now that you have this website. The one day you were working on my work lap top you had showed me the pictures of your dog. I was just here cleaning up my computer and saw you on the drop down and was trying to figure out what or who this was. Then I figured it out. I loved the story about your grandfather! Awesome! Awesome! Thank God for men and women who have scraficed for all of us! My son is preping for the Marines – August 24th. I am so proud of him and his decision already.

    P.S. Looked at your dog pictures again. Put a big smile on my face! Have a great weekend!

  2. Hello, I came across your website while trying to find more information about the USS Borie. My uncle was killed by the kamikaze pilot. Did your grandfather have any photos of the crew? God bless.
    – Rich

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