December 11th … A Shared Birthday …


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My Mom, Marion Thomas Reilly, and my fiancée Candy Davis’ Dad, Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr., shared the same birthday, December 11th, albeit 8 years apart (Col. Sayes 1917 and Mom 1925).  See Note 1 below.

Yesterday was therefore a somber and reflective day for both of us.

Candy’s Dad, a retired U.S. Army colonel, died more than 30 years ago (May 1, 1982) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he and Candy’s Mom, Margaret “Mimi” Sayes, had moved after his retirement.  They had just returned from a visit with Candy’s family in Houston when Col. Sayes suffered a heart attack.

My Mom, on the other hand, has been gone just a little more than a year, dying November 30th last year in Syracuse, NY, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Candy & I are both fortunate in that we each have a long-lived, surviving parent.  Mimi Sayes will be 88 the day after tomorrow and my Dad, Lawrence John Reilly Sr., will be 90 on June 18, 2014.

Col. Sayes was a combat veteran of World War II …

Thomas Havard Sayes -- WWII Soldier

Thomas Havard Sayes — WWII Soldier

… Korea and Vietnam, who also served peacetime tours of duty in Japan and Germany.  As result, of course, Candy and her siblings (my West Point Classmate Thomas Havard Sayes III, Morgan Sayes & Summer Sayes Purvis) enjoyed the peripatetic lifestyle typical of Army brats.

I met Candy and consequently her father while he was attending the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA, in 1963. 

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr. —– Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA — 1963-64

I was, at the time, a plebe at West Point and colonels were the next best thing to divinity (otherwise known as generals) in my world at the time.  For a young man, the prospect of meeting any new girlfriend’s father is always daunting — for me, the prospect of meeting Candy’s Dad was terrifying!

The actuality proved less intimidating than the expectation, as the colonel accepted my felicitations for his daughter with equanimity.  Truth be told, I ultimately discovered Mimi to be the more daunting of Candy’s parents!

Near the end of our plebe year … and upon completion of his War College studies … Col. Sayes was re-assigned to Fort Sill, OK, and he moved his family there in the Spring of 1964.  I saw him on only one occasion thereafter — during a brief visit to Oklahoma in December 1964 while I was on my Yearling (sophomore) year Christmas leave.  He was somewhat nonplussed to discover that, despite being 19 years old, I did not as yet have my driver’s license and therefore could not drive Candy anywhere while there.

Mimi & Col. Sayes -- December 1971

Mimi & Col. Sayes — December 1971

The move of the Sayes family from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma was the second of two major transitions in my life that came only a few months apart.

In March of 1964, my Dad, who was a Navy chief at the time, was also transferred to Long Beach, CA, and my family moved from my childhood home in Lindenhurst to Garden Grove.

Despite the fact that Dad, like Col. Sayes, was career military, my Mom had a radically different life as a military wife than did Mimi Sayes.  Dad had split service, doing six years during and after World War II. 

Mom & Dad Wedding Portrait -- January 17, 1945

Mom & Dad Wedding Portrait — January 17, 1945

Mom & Dad married in January 1945 and while he was overseas during the remainder of the war, Mom lived with her parents in Ozone Park, NY.

After the war, Dad had relatively brief assignments in Bremerton, WA, and San Diego, CA, and Mom moved to each of those cities with him (and their first born).

Dad left the Navy in 1948, rejoined as a reservist in the mid-1950’s, and his ship was called to active duty during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.  He then decided to remain on active duty and once transferred to California in 1964, he was thereafter assigned to ships home ported in or Naval facilities located in California.  For the rest of his career, his overseas assignments were always sea duty, meaning that his family could not accompany him.

This, of course, meant that Mom continued living in the family home, which after a year in Garden Grove, was in Costa Mesa, CA, until Dad’s retirement.

All in all, Dad was away on sea duty or training assignments, cumulatively, for years … years during which Mom was essentially a single parent.  And, by 1962, that meant five of us kids for her to care for … and four still at home after the move to California.

And yet, for the most part, Mom was undaunted by the separation, the anxiety and the difficulties attendant to being a military wife and periodic single parent.  I never saw her feeling sorry for herself and while I know she worried about Dad when he was overseas (worry which was, as things turned out, all too justified), she rarely showed that, either.

Mom

Mom

In short, my Mom was a strong woman, capable of doing what had to be done, loving us kids unconditionally, disciplining us when necessary, and defending us fiercely if she felt we had been wronged by others (see Note 2 for an example of this).

She was also extremely proud of her children, grandchildren and great-children.  She liked to recite the numbers … 5 children, 12 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren … and, as she always concluded, “Not a loser in the bunch”.  (See Note 3 below.)

As her first born, I of course knew her longer than anyone in the family other than my Dad.  She was particularly proud of my appointment to and graduation from West Point and sometimes expressed her pride, to my embarrassment, by calling herself “Mother of Jim”. 

Mom & I in 1946

Mom & I in 1946

Dad even had a special California license issued for her car:

MTR MOJ California License Plate 080517 cropped

Which of course, stands for “Marion Thomas Reilly, Mother of Jim”!

The mental decline of her final years was heart-breaking as her memory failed and she lost the vitality which had always characterized the mother I knew.

Mom & I in 2010

Mom & I in 2010

Looking back now, Candy & I each love & miss our lost parent, but take pride ourselves in their lives well-led.

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Note 1:  The fact that two of our four parents shared a common birthday is a serendipitous coincidence, albeit one which has a precise mathematical probability, a probability which is actually the same as the likelihood that two people out of any group of four will share the same birthday.  That likelihood, taking into consideration leap day every four years, is 1.64% (I’ll spare you the mathematical calculation, which is straightforward, but involves a lot of division, addition and multiplication, topped off with one subtraction!)

Note 2:  https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/take-off-those-red-pants/

Note 3:  Sadly, she will not know that the number of great-grandchildren has continued … and is continuing … to grow … and that there’s still “not a loser in the bunch”.

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LTC Thomas Havard Sayes Jr.

LTC Thomas Havard Sayes Jr.

Marion Thomas Reilly

Marion Thomas Reilly

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December 7th … Army-Navy 1963


Besides being my wedding anniversary …

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https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/december-7th/

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… and the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor …

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https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/december-7th-a-date-which-will-live-in-infamy/

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… December 7th is a significant date to me for another reason …

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… the Army-Navy football game in 1963, about which I have blogged once before …

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https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/army-navy-football-1963-1966/

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Separate and apart from my personal interest in the game, the 1963 Army-Navy game had national significance, coming as it did on the heels of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

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… the game had been scheduled for November 30th, but was delayed because of the assassination … and there was some discussion of possibly cancelling it completely.

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The president, however, had been a big football fan, particularly of the interservice classic …

President John F. Kennedy Flips the Coin at the 10962 Army-Navy Game

President John F. Kennedy Flips the Coin at the 1962 Army-Navy Game

… and had planned to attend the game and flip the coin for the opening kickoff … his family, in particular First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wanted the game to be played, even as the country was in the midst of the official 30 day period of mourning for the slain president.

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JFK, of course, was a Naval officer and World War II hero … about whom the movie PT-109 was made … so, after a one week delay, the game was on …  with Navy, ranked #2 in the country, a big favorite to win its 5th Army-Navy game in a row.

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Instead of names across their shoulders, the Navy uniforms featured the slogan “Drive for Five” … and the Middies were led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach.

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Rumor had it that an upset win by Army would put the Black Knights, in place of Navy, into the Cotton Bowl against #1 ranked Texas … and Army had a secret weapon named Rollie Stichweh at quarterback …

Army Quarterback Rollie Stichweh

Army Quarterback Rollie Stichweh

… so we cadets were hopeful.

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The game was played at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium, which was later renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in honor of the president … and the nation looked on as the two service academy teams met in honor of their fallen commander-in-chief.

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Army scored first, but Navy ran off three unanswered touchdowns to lead 21-7 with ten minutes to play … which was when Army … and Stichweh in particular … took over and mounted one of the most thrilling comeback attempts in college football history.

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First, Army drove to a touchdown … which was scored by … Rollie Stichweh on a one yard run … after which Army made a daring 2 point conversion, to make the score 21-15.

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And then, with everyone in the stadium expecting it, Army attempted an onsides kick … and succeeded … with the ball recovered by none other than that man Stichweh … after which Army once again drove deliberately (too deliberately, as it turned out) toward the Navy goal line.

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On a 3rd down run, Army halfback Ken Waldrop dove to the Navy 2 yard line with 18 seconds to play …

Army Fullback Ken Waldrop

Army Halfback Ken Waldrop Dives to the Two Yard Line

… but with deafening noise in the stadium and no timeouts remaining … Army was not able to get off a 4th down attempt to pull out the win.

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Like all Army fans, I was crushed when the officials waived off the game as time expired … and the memory remains vivid even after 50 years … but there is no doubt that the game helped to heal the grievous wound which the nation had suffered two weeks before.

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Oddly, the game is known in football history for another reason … it featured the first ever use of instant replay … showing Stichweh’s 4th quarter touchdown run.

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As mentioned in my earlier blog, Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins wrote an excellent story about the game … which I have saved to this day … and which is reproduced below.

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One other personal note … my guest for the 1963 Army-Navy game was none other than my then girlfriend and now fiancee Candy Sayes (Davis)!

Candy Sayes & I During Plebe Christmas at West Point -- December 1963

Candy Sayes & I During Plebe Christmas at West Point — December 1963 — Shortly After the Army-Navy Game

Army-Navy Game Logo

This year’s Army-Navy game will be played at 3:00 pm EST next Saturday, December 14th, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia … the Middies are on an 11 game winning streak against Army … the longest such streak in the 113 year history of the game … and lead the series 57-49-7.

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I, of course, will be rooting for Army … as will Candy’s brother, my West Point classmate, Trey Sayes … but she, her son Jason Davis, a 1994 Annapolis graduate, and my Dad (Lawrence Reilly, Sr., a retired Navy master chief gunner’s mate) will all be cheering for the Middies.

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For other stories about the national significance of the 1963 Army-Navy game, see:

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http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/1963-army-navy-game-helped-national-heal-jfk-assassination-article-1.1525535

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http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/ncaaf-video/20131115/army-navy-football-game-1963-kennedy-assassination.sportsillustrated/#

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http://www.capitalgazette.com/sports/navy_sports/in-army-navy-game-helped-a-nation-in-mourning-move/article_3cebe1a8-bd43-54c2-9712-595ae201a4f1.html

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http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/12/07/fifty-years-ago-army-navy-healed-a-nation.html?comp=700001075741&rank=3

A documentary has also been produced about the game and its importance to the country …

Army-Navy 1963 Marching On

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… it is called “Marching On:  1963 Army-Navy Remembered” and is described here:

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http://www.cbssports.com/general/eye-on-sports/24233349/film-on-63-armynavy-game-shows-impact-of-rivalry-jfk-tragedy

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Army Black Knights Logo

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The Army football website is here:

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http://www.goarmysports.com/sports/m-footbl/army-m-footbl-body.html

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Navy Football Logo.

Navy’s is here:

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http://www.navysports.com/sports/m-footbl/

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Arm-Navy Game Logo Football

The Wikipedia article on the history of the Army-Navy game is here:

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army%E2%80%93Navy_Game

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And here is the Dan Jenkins Sports Illustrated article about the game:

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USMA 1967 Army Navy game 1963 Sports Illustrated article

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Army-Navy Game 1963 Sports Illustrated Photo