Off the Press
July 10, 2012
By Christina Lords
Remembering Mr. Bentz
There are few better aspects of this job than sitting down with the likes of William Bentz.
A 92-year-old World War II veteran who spent much of his Army service in the South Pacific, William constructed and supervised pump stations to ensure those fighting the enemy in the Air Force had ample fuel.
William, his wife Onadee and their daughter Judy welcomed me into their Issaquah home at Providence Point one May afternoon so I could tell William’s story of service for The Issaquah Press’ annual Lest We Forget Memorial Day section. The section highlights and honors every Issaquah veteran of which we’re aware.
On June 18, I received a call from William’s nephew, who informed me that William had passed away the day before — less than one month after I interviewed him.
The nephew said he had gone back to read my story about his uncle and wanted to thank me for taking the time to write William’s story before it got away from their family, and from history, forever.
He told me how much his uncle meant to him, recalled some brief childhood stories and impressed upon me what a good, kind-hearted man William was — things I knew even from my brief time with him.
“You’ll never know what your story meant to our family,” the nephew told me over the phone.
William — like most men his age — was modest about his service, downplaying the danger of his circumstance and the nature of his sacrifice.
I drove away from our interview with the windows rolled down, my radio off and thought of him.
I thought about how hard it must have been for Onadee to be away from her new husband during the war. They had been married just three of their eventual 72 years together when William enlisted.
I thought about Judy, their first child, who was born without her father nearby, as William was overseas. She was 2 years old before he was able to be home to hold her.
I thought about friends from high school and college who are thankfully home safe after their Marine Corps and Army service in Iraq. I thought about all the people who didn’t make it home to their loved ones in wars past and present, and those who are still trying to make peace through conflict in Afghanistan.
According to the U.S. Veterans Administration, William joins about 740 WWII veterans who die every day, some taking their untold stories of service with them. That means there are just 1.7 million WWII veterans left, a fragment of the 16 million people who served in the U.S. armed forces during the war.
Many of these veterans have had stories written or oral histories recorded to ensure they aren’t lost. Others will slip away from us before they get that chance.
I’m so grateful William’s story won’t fall into that category.
And while his nephew may think I don’t know what my story meant to him and his family, in some ways I think I do.
Because people like William Bentz are the reason I do what I do, and I can think of no greater honor than to be the one who gets to tell stories like his.
Christina Lords: 392-6434, ext. 239, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.