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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:24 pm 
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Attic find reveals WW II secret

When World War II Army nurse Lt. Anna Tesar became Mrs. Walter McGarry, she packed away her service life in a government-issued suitcase and stored it in the attic of their new home in Cranford.

That was shortly after they were married in 1945 and little was said about her Army life ever after.

"The only thing we knew was that they met in the service," said Eugene McGarry, one of the couple's children. "We didn't know much more than that. My dad talked a little about the war, but my mother never did. Not to me or my sisters."

The four McGarry children grew up in a house built by their dad in 1951 with the help of their mother's two brothers.

Carol was the oldest, followed by Eugene, Sharon (now deceased) and Pam.

Walter McGarry added an attic dormer to his hand-built Cape Cod after the two younger daughters were born. That's when Anna Tesar's military life became hidden away in a tomb of two-by-fours, Sheetrock and spackle.

"It was actually way back in an eave, but when we cleaned out the house, we missed it," said Eugene McGarry, 66, who lives in Califon.

Missing the suitcase was easy, because they didn't know it existed.
"The thing that struck me the most was how they didn't wait for tomorrow to live their lives." -- Eugene McGarry

"I never saw it," he said. "I never remember seeing it as a kid."

There were some things the McGarry children did know about the war, however. They saw the shrapnel scars on their father's abdomen, from a grenade explosion during the battle for Okinawa.

They knew their father's brother, a Navy pilot, died in the South Pacific.

"I was named after him," Eugene McGarry said.

MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns

But like many children of World War II veterans, they didn't know the extent of their parents' experiences. That generation simply came home and tried to pick up where they left off, or build a post-war life as quickly as possible.

Eugene McGarry understands this better now than he did growing up.

In February, McGarry got a call from a couple in Cranford who recently bought the house his father built.

"They left a message saying, 'We don't know if you're the right Eugene McGarry, but if your parents were Walter and Anna, please call us back. We have some information about them,' " McGarry said. "I couldn't imagine what in the world it was."

Jerry and Gaby Wilson, the new homeowners, discovered the suitcase when they began work in the dormer. They opened it up, finding everything just as former Lt. Anna (Tesar) McGarry had left it. The couple invited Eugene McGarry and his sister Carol Chiari, of Elizabeth, to the house to pick it up last weekend.

"I'm so glad they went through the trouble of tracking us down," Eugene McGarry said. His mother's suitcase opened a window into the past she never talked about.

Inside, Lt. Tesar's nursing uniforms were neatly stored in two compartments, along with her folded garrison caps. Her round cap with the full brim was in there, in a compartment with her service medals.

The suitcase also held a mixture of the mundane and the poignant.

Next to the wooden hangars and a handful of clothespins was the diary she kept for a short time. Next to the daily bulletins from the Georgia hospital where she was stationed were the love letters from the wounded officer she met there and would soon marry.

Army 1st Lt. Walter McGarry arrived at the hospital in late summer or early fall of 1945. While recovering from his shrapnel wounds, he was awarded a Silver Star and Bronze Star for gallantry during the battles on Leyte Island in the Philippines, the place where Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed in recapturing the area from the Japanese.

By December, he was married to his nurse.

"I think the thing that struck me the most was how they didn't wait for tomorrow to live their lives," Eugene McGarry said. "They were very conscious of how short life could be."

A poem in his mother's diary spoke of the generation's sense of urgency in the face of so much loss.

Now the time is all your own

Live and love with a will

Place no faith in tomorrow

For the clock may then be still

The clock of life is wound just once

And no man has the power

To tell just when the hands will stop

At late or early hour

Anna McGarry died in 1989, at age 68. Walter stayed in the house for the rest of his life, dying in 1995 at age 78.

The McGarry children sold the house and it changed hands several times until it was bought by the Wilsons.

Then came the call, then came the suitcase. The words penned by his mother and father have left McGarry wistful about things that were never said and personal histories never revealed.

This isn't just true for the McGarry family, but for most everybody. We see our parents as parents, not young lovers. We see grandparents as old people, not keepers of family history. We skip the details about the lives of the people closest to us.

"It made me realize we didn't know them as well as we could have," McGarry said. "I wish we had asked more questions. I wish they had been more forthcoming, too. But now, at least we have this."

Posted:
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2016/0 ... ionno.html


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 4:54 pm 
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Great story, thanks for posting this.


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