Today, January 31, would have been my Dad's 91st birthday, and I've been thinking about him all day, even though I didn't get started on this collage I did in his memory until this evening ~ I'm not the most tech-savvy person, so things take me a bit longer to do...but I do usually finally figure things out without having to ask my children! My dad, John Launius, was born in Essex, Missouri, on January 31, 1921. He went to grade school and high school there, excelling in basketball (he would later coach high school basketball in Morehouse, Missouri, after the war). After graduating in the spring of 1942 from the University of Missouri at Columbia with a Bachelor's Degree in Agriculture, Daddy immediately enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He told me that his folks ~ my grandparents ~ were supportive of his joining the Armed Forces ~ the attack on Pearl Harbor had been just months before, and patriotism was running high ~ as long as he "wasn't in an airplane"...he told them that he was sorry to cause them concern, but that was exactly what he planned to do!
Daddy had an eventful stint in the Air Corps; the plane in which he was navigator was shot down in April of 1943, barely making its crash-landing inside the Swiss border. My grandparents received word that he was "missing in action" ~ I can only imagine how they felt... Before too long, though, he was able to get word to them that he was safe ~ he just couldn't leave Switzerland. For the next year he and the rest of his crew lived in a hotel requisitioned by the Swiss government...(they'd all escaped the crash basically unharmed)...Daddy became a librarian for the Red Cross, and was also given the responsibility of making sure that all the "guests" ~ they were actually referred to as Swiss "internees", instead of "prisoners of war" ~ were in their rooms by the designated curfew time! (I don't think he always did...:) Though it was still a troubled time in Europe, the internees did have the luxury of exploring and enjoying the Swiss countryside and the Alps, even though it wasn't in their original plans... Daddy told me they were treated extremely well by the Swiss people.
After his release and the end of the war, Daddy came back home to Essex where he taught English for a year (then coached basketball in Morehouse, just a few miles away) before settling in Bloomfield, Missouri, where he taught agriculture on the G.I. Bill to returning servicemen, and began farming himself.
I was born in 1957 (Daddy's meeting and marrying my Mom played a part in this, though they would later divorce), and would be an only child...however, not long before he passed away, Daddy told me that if he had known how well I would "turn out" ~ he would have "had a dozen more" ~ I took this as a supreme compliment! I don't think Daddy ever quite knew what to do with a girl-child ~ I'm sure it would have been much easier for him had I been a boy ~ but I sure am glad he was my Dad. Happy Birthday, Daddy ~ ♥
1. Lt. John E. Launius; 2. Daddy and my Mom's dog Taffy, whom he taught to "pray", among many other things ~ my Mom later told me that she thought Taffy was the reason he'd married her. 3. A "Taffy-sandwich"...looks like there was a little rivalry going on here! 4. Daddy at 6 months old, June, 1921; 5. Daddy, 1st row, second from right, and the air crew. 6. Daddy, a Stoddard County "Little Rascal"! 7. Daddy and moi (hamming it up!) 8. With a glider in the Swiss Alps...9. Daddy and Mom with me, at about a year old, 1958. 10. Daddy with his little cane...I always thought he looked like "The Beav"! 11. At his Alma Mater, Mizzou...12. College graduation photo, 1942.