A patriot’s story

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In the month of Independence Day after writing about past celebrations, I had to follow up with remembrance of a patriot who honored the flag and went into battle for the country he loved. Readers have told me they most enjoy seeing names of folks, places, and events they remember. This column is filled with both.

Woody Reynolds was born in Montgomery County. He was introduced to patriotism at an early age by his father who named his sons, George Washington Reynolds, Andrew Jackson Reynolds, and Woodrow Wilson Reynolds.

He had many addresses before choosing to spend his retirement years at Norristown Junction. In his youth, he went where jobs were available. A short career in professional baseball, working on a banana boat in the Caribbean Islands, picking fruit in Florida, and a factory job in St. Louis kept him employed through the Great Depression. He kept close ties to his family during this time and especially to a young girl on a neighboring farm. During this time, he also learned that the world was larger than Montgomery County, and he did not feel called to be a farmer.

He married my mother’s younger sister, Ruth, and started his career in food services in Jacksonville, Florida. In a short time, he was made manager of a new chain restaurant, The Crystal. If you ever had a small Crystal burger, you remember it well.

Life could not have been better for the young couple. He and his bride loved living in the city and could visit home and family often. Then came the morning of December 7, 1941—the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The fury he felt demanded he defend his country. He headed to the naval base in Jacksonville to enlist. He knew he would be drafted soon, so he chose the Navy. His goal was to use his food service experience to feed troops on ships headed into battle. It didn’t quite work out that way. He was attached to a marine unit assigned to chase the Japanese out of the south Pacific all the way to Japan.

When the marines hit the beach, a mess tent was set up to feed the fighting men. This was mobile, and they followed the “island hopping” to clear out the Japanese. Near the end, he contacted a tropical disease carried by mosquitoes which affected bones and joints. He was sent home via hospital ship and spent the next few years in VA hospitals. He was discharged as a disabled veteran, and the condition remained with him and returned periodically throughout his life.

After discharge, he honored his wife’s wishes to live near her family and settled in Swainsboro. “Jabbo” Chappell (father of Henry) had built Swainsboro’s first drive-in restaurant complete with “car hops” and named “The Southern Pig” specializing in barbecue. After a few years, Woody again felt the call to be part of the military and accepted a civil service position in food services. This carried him to Fort Benning, Donaldson Air Force Base, Hunter Field, and finally back with the marines at Parris Island.

After retirement, he again followed his wife’s desire and settled near her sister, Iris Wilson, near Norristown Junction. When his new home was completed, he erected a tall flagpole in the front yard. He followed flag etiquette he had learned with the marines to raise and lower each day. At appropriate times, he always flew her at half-mast.

His saddest day was when he lowered the cherished flag in memory and respect for his beloved wife, Ruth. A few years later, his son made sure the flag was lowered with proper etiquette for Chief Petty Officer Woodrow W. Reynolds United States Navy WWII.

Write to Twiss at sptwiss@gmail.com.

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