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Home >> The 464th in WWII >> The Last Sortie >> John R. Gottschalk

The Last Sortie

[Photo] John R. Gottschalk

John R. "Gooch" Gottschalk, 776th

12 Feb 2003


A Celebration of His Life


by Kirsten Hertz

    As I sat and tried to think of things to say about my Grandfather, so many things come to mind. He filled so many roles for so many people - Husband, father, friend, neighbor, grandfather, great grandfather. Now as we gather to celebrate 82 years, I look out and see so very many faces that have been touched by the man I knew as Pa, my children knew as Grandpa Pop.
   Few people can truly say that they are exactly where they want to be. Itís the consensus of our family that this was definitely true of Grandpa. He so loved this valley and no matter where he traveled, there was always something that made Lovelock and home a much better place to be. His knowledge of this land and its people provided us with history and so very much entertainment at family get-togethers.
   When we gathered as a family to talk about our memories, we laughed and remembered so many wonderful things about this man. As the youngest of his family, he went to work very early in life. He held so many jobs, yet he never really got to keep a paycheck of his own, first he gave to his parents and then to his own family. Whether it was loading box cars, sacking grain, working in a service station, as a projectionist at the theater or farming. In all the years of work and worry, never was there a complaint.
   As a child there were always pranks and mischief. One story that I had not heard before until the other night was the time that he and friends were playing in boxcars and the railroad men locked them in and moved the car down the tracks (just a bit). Grandpa screamed and kicked the toes out of his one good pair of shoes. Once the car stopped, he was sure that they were in Chicago!
   How can you summarize a life that spanned 82 years and a time in history most of us now canít even begin to imagine? My Dad & I were talking about País military career and the fact that he completed 35 combat missions. He was a decorated veteran and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Iíd like to refer you now to the press release from the Nevada State Journal, March, 1945 .
   In all that he lived and saw during that time, most of which we knew nothing about for many, many years. What we as family and others got from him about this time came in bits and pieces. He never saw himself as a hero, he felt heroes were those that did not return.
   As I tried to imagine the life he knew, I am even more amazed at the man he was, for I realize what he gave to his world, his community and most of all to his family. I worry as a parent that my children wonít remember Grandpa Pop, but they are clearly his legacy. Itís surprising looking at old photographs of Grandpa how much Joey looks like Pa, Erin possesses his love of pranks, as she locked Pa in the chicken coop as a little girl and carries on País physical abilities by playing rugby. My daughter Madison and cousin Rachel were blessed with his ability to sing beautifully, my daughter McKenna possesses his extreme love of sweets. So for me, each time I see a bit of Pa in Joey, hear Erin laugh, hear Madison and Rachel singing or give McKenna a candy, I know Grandpa will be watching and chuckling.
   The things I remember are the times when Joey and I got to stay overnight with Gram and Pa and how much we loved wearing País t-shirts to sleep in. We would be incensed if Mom ever considered sending pajamaís with us for our overnight stays. I remember going to the Circus and begging Gram for cotton candy, and her telling me no that I wouldnít like it and then begging Pa and him buying it for me. Of course Gram was right and I didnít like it, but Pa ate it all for me. I remember going with him to McKinnon Ford and picking up the gray Ford and being so very excited to be driving with my Grandpa in a brand new truck. I remember Mom dumping all our Halloween candy in a bowl and Grandpa picking through and eventually eating it all. I remember him making my favorite breakfast of blueberry pancakes. I remember his silly rhymes "You like e lice, come long Flyday". I remember early Saturday mornings when Mom and I loved to sleep in and Grandpa coming in the house and standing at the end of the hall calling and asking if anybody was awake. I remember him being disgusted with me for wanting to go out of state to college, and then him coming to Moscow, Idaho to visit and telling me that that was just where he wanted me to be. I remember during the difficult times in my own life the things he did to help: washing my car and not allowing me to lift a finger, supervising the clean up of my yard, and always assuring me that things have a way of working out.
   Iíve realized even more lately his complete devotion to family and to Gram. Even near the end, his constant thought was of her. He cherished his family and each and every day he spent with us. The last time I talked to Pa, I told him that I loved him and he looked at me and said "I know that you
do."
   Each of us gathered here have our own memories and reasons why the man known as John Robert, Bob, Gooch, Dad, Grandpa and Grandpa Pop touched our lives. It saddens me to think that we will no longer have him with us every day but I am heartened by the legacy I know he has left the world. My uncle said the other night "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly" and I know Grandpaís flying now.

Just a word

    Bob, "Gooch", was a good neighbor and friend, as well as the man who inspired this web site. A couple of years ago he brought me some excellent photos that he had obtained during his time with the 776th and the 464th at Pantanella.
   These photos are included in the photo galleries on this site, most of them had no caption information as he had insisted on remaining anonymous. It pleases me that, thanks to Bob's family, I can now let you know that he was the inspiration for these pages and I have now notated his contributions to this web site.
   When I first told Bob that I wished to share his photos via the internet and more specifically a 464th BG web site, he was very supportive. He was not only the major contributor of photographs but he also provided me with pertinent information and introduced me to others from the Group who have also contributed generously to this site.
   Thank you, Bob. I, for one, am glad that you were there for us. Thank you for giving me the chance to look into a bit of your past. And, I just wanted you to know, in my book...you are a hero. Godspeed, Wendy

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