It has been said that the best fathers get promoted to grandfathers. Grandfathers tend to be good listeners, good storytellers, and most importantly, good mentors–especially when a young adult is first leaving home and is often at odds with his own father. Grandfathers, especially the ones from the Greatest Generation, are also often the source of sage advice, a benefit of their many years of experience during America’s hardest times: the Great Depression, World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. One thing is for sure, the love of a grandfather is a unique treasure that is never forgotten by their grandchildren. The times spent with a grandfather turn into precious memories that are conserved in the heart, even long after they have passed.
Nearly 20 years after losing my grandfather, I often wish he could see the man that I have become. On some days, I wish he would grab my own father by the shoulders and remind Dad of his duties as a grandfather…and at times, as a father. Rather than belaboring what could have been, should have been, and would have been, I will honor the memory of the greatest man I have ever known: Grandpa K.
Marion Frank Kilar was born 14 September 1914 in Detroit, Michigan. and died 4 January 4, 1996 in Pensacola, Florida. Grandpa K was inducted into the U.S. Army in the spring of 1942. From 1942 to 1943 he went through Fort Bragg Artillery School for Coastal Artillery Defense. While at Fort Bragg, he frequently visited a five-and-ten store just across the North Carolina-South Carolina border where he met my grandmother. He later transferred to the Army Air Corps 358th Fighter Group where he served at Richmond Air Field (VA), Philadelphia (PA), Fort Meade (MD), Fort Hancock (NJ), and VIII Fighter Command (RAF Honington, England). He traveled throughout Europe, mostly France and Germany, until he was discharged out of La Junta Army Air Field (CO) with the final rank of sergeant. From there, Grandpa K made his way back to South Carolina where years earlier he “found a million dollar baby (in a five and ten cent store)“, and settled down in Chicago with the former Audrey Martin Smith of Mullens/Clio/Dillon, South Carolina to raise a family.
He was a great storyteller. One thing that stuck out from his stories is that he was smart enough to get selected for the special jobs in the Army, but smart enough to avoid the annoying grunt work as well. He was selected for special assignments in the 1940s such as the early radar systems due to his strong math and science aptitude. The most special assignment he was selected for watching over two rambunctious little boys in the early 1980s. For the short time that he raised me and my little brother, he was always firm but fair, and always funny. Both of those boys seemed to have turned out alright.
Postscript: There is a debate in the family as to Grandpa K’s proper name. His first name is recorded as “Marion” or “Maryan” and his middle name is recorded as “Francis” or “Frank”. The official death records show his name as “Marion Frank”, but I have encountered many documents that show him as “Marion Francis”. I grew up knowing his name to be “Marion Francis”, so that is what I report here.
Post-post-scriptum: I have other pictures, but I prefer to share this one picture over and over to remember both Grandma and Grandpa. As a kid, I used to get in trouble (a lot) and have to stand in the corner. Many times my eyes would wander and I would stare at this exact picture out of the corner of my eye. Years later, I came to identify that picture as the defining picture of their marriage.