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 "Danny Boy": A Remembrance.

He is a fleeting memory, soft focused. Mostly, a tousled haired, handsome blond with blue eyes at a Boy Scout camporee  with my older brothers (his cousins), long before I even began school. At four, one year is a long time.
There were six children in the family of Minnie Lutz and Frank Anthony Klotz.  Frank Peter was the oldest, followed by Ray, Herman, Marie, George and John (your writer). Billy Hundshamer was the son of my mother's oldest sister, Pauline. Just as my brother Frank was my personal hero, Aunt Pauline had been my mother's.

Like my brothers, Frank and Ray, cousin Billy went to war after Pearl Harbor. Herman tried to enlist three times but was rejected each time for bad eyesight. In 1945, after the end of hostilities, he received a draft notice. That time, he was accepted.

Frank became a pilot, the start of a distinguished thirty year career in the Air Force.

During World War II, Frank was frustrated by lack of a combat assignment. At one point, he wrote my mother and asked to her stop praying that he not go in harms way.  After the war,  he flew C-54 cargo planes supplying the Aleutian chain of American bases in the North Pacific. He was the first of his wing to fly a C-54 into Templehof Airdrome in Berlin, at the beginning of the Berlin Airlift.
Ray had an aptitude for radio. The word electronics hadn't achieved currency yet. Deferred  from the draft, he was attending "radio school" in New York City when he called home with the news that he had chucked his deferment and volunteered.
Ray was present in the Philippines when the Japanese flew in to negotiate final surrender terms with MacArthur.  There had been some concern that Japanese die-hards might try and shoot the negotiating team down. On the left, the Japanese arrive. On the right, they depart for meeting with MacArthur in a C-54
Photo credit: Ray Klotz
Photo credit: Ray Klotz
After the war and a GI Bill engineering degree from Syracuse University, Ray went to work with IBM. His specialty became computers and his first major assignment was working on the 1950 census. It was, a according to scholars, the first major application of computers to social tasks. As a project officer for the Air Defense Command, Frank coined a term for the air borne command craft he was helping to develop. "I thought-up AWACS," he once boasted to his kid brother, "because I needed something sexy to get it through Congress." Ray's contribution to the English language may be longer lasting. As a project engineer developing new business systems, he coined a phrase to describe the radical new capabilities of the processor his team was developing: "multi-tasking."

Aunt Pauline was the premier soprano in central New York. She performed for Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House and counted her as a friend. She had toured the vaudeville circuit and opened at the Palace. Among her fellow performers were George Burns and Gracie Allen. One bill included a young Japanese actor performing a one act play: Sessue Hayakawa, 30 years before the "Bridge Over the River Kwai."

She auditioned for Madam Calve, the prima diva of her time. Calve asked her to become her protégé and move to Paris. Aunt Pauline, with a new baby and a handsome husband in Syracuse, declined.

In the the pre-TV decades of the thirties and forties, she often sang on the radio and performed at the frequent benefits and musicales which were social musts in cities like Syracuse.

Billy was  Aunt Pauline's only child and he was one handsome G.I.  A long lost post card addressed to the little cousins who stayed behind: white goats climbing up a mountainside. "We're not kidding around at Fort Carson." Then, in July 1944, a telegram to Aunt Pauline, "We regret to inform you ... missing in action." A few days later, another message. "We regret ... killed in action."

Shortly after Billy's death, my Uncle Frank died of chronic heart disease aggravated by working double shifts at the local air base.

In the years that followed, the highlight of any family gathering would be the time when Aunt Pauline would sing. Among the songs she sang were the Ave Maria, Just Plain Bill and Danny Boy. As my father noted about Danny Boy , she could "sure sing that song."

Aunt Pauline came out of retirement to sing at the wedding of John Klotz and Rene Shane in Glenview, Illinois in 1963. It was her last public performance. But through the years, the memory of her "Danny Boy" both song and son, has always been there in one way or another. My oldest son was named "Dan" and Rene has remarked that he was named for a song.

In October 1999, Rene and I vacationed in France. We saw Paris, ancient cathedrals of magnificent beauty, the haunting dream of Mont St. Michel. 

We also saw Normandy and visited the American Cemetery perched on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. There we found  Danny Boy. I knelt and said an Ave there for him.

If you plan to plan to visit Normandy, a suggestion.
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