If you were to ask who my hero is I would answer, My Uncle Chet. What can I say about Chet? Where do I start? Chet was my Granny’s cousin. They grew up together in Northwest Portland about 2 blocks from each other.
I remember vague stories of the neighborhood gang playing together in the olden days. Chet always is the mischievous bad influence in those stories.
Chet was always a huge sports fan. Chet played football for Stanford and even played in the Rose Bowl. When I was little I would love when he and Aunt Helen would come over from the beach to go to an Oregon football game or track meet. I have very strong, clear memories of Chet sitting in the stands at Hayward Field with a huge grin on his face, eating potato chips.
Before World War II Chet went to officer’s training school for the Navy and was sent to Wake Island. On Christmas Eve, 1941, Japanese troops took over the island and took Chet as a Prisoner of War. He spent the remainder of the war in various POW camps in Japan. Just think about that… he was a prisoner from December 1981 until September 1945. Chet never really spoke of his experiences in the camps, but after he died we found journals, letters, artwork and other remembrances of his time as a prisoner. I had always looked up to Chet, but reading his journal solidified his place as my hero.
After the war, he met and married my Granny’s sister-in-law, Helen McHugh (Granny married my grandfather, Frank McHugh during the war). They lived together with an unbelievable view of the ocean for the rest of their lives. Helen and Chet were a third set of grandparents to me. I learned so much from them: never to trust a guarantee, to enjoy and celebrate nature, The Lord’s Prayer, how to have a sense of humor, how to fly a kite and so much more.
I loved my Uncle Chet dearly and still think of him often and miss him at track meets, when I see a fishing net and whenever I see the ocean.