God bless Pete Motz

Dateline: Sat 09 Dec 2006

Maybe it's reading "Ordinary Heroes," Scott Turow's novel about World War II veterans, for the Putnam County Library book group. Turow has dedicated the work -- so unlike his usual fiction -- to the memory of his beloved dad, a WWII vet.

Maybe it's the excellent column Mitch Albom wrote recently for the Detroit Free Press, reprinted in the Indianapolis Business Journal Dec. 4 -- an emotional reminder of what we owe our soldiers and in particular a sentimental reflection on their impossible youth.

Maybe it's Pearl Harbor, Christmas, a recent holiday party at the Hiram I. Bearss Detachment of the Marine Corps League and just that time of year to say "thank you."

In that spirit, this one is for you, George "Pete" Motz, a Fort Wayne resident who was a radioman in the Navy in World War II. He may well be the state's oldest living WWII vet.

What's the occasion? Pete Motz celebrated his 90th birthday Oct. 20 and several fellow vets and sailors joined him for the party.

Pete's grandson, Kevin Gray, a reader of this blog, has this to say about his hero:

"Pete's in incredible mental and physical health and he's had a great time w/ this 90th birthday thing. He's gotten letters from politicians, including a very nice declaration from the guv. Both Ft. Wayne papers ran great p.1 stories on him too.

"I'd like to see if your readers would drop him note, wish him happy birthday, thank him for his service. He's survived a war, prostate cancer, an accident with a drunk driver in which he was the only survivor.

"They don't make 'em like him anymore."

A few other facts about Pete's life from a story in the Journal-Gazette and from Kevin's store of memories:

At age 27, Pete Motz was the oldest sailor at training and the second oldest in his ship -- most of the WWII vets were drafted as teenagers. Pete served five years in the Army National Guard before going to war.

He was overseas for almost two years. During that time, his wife Barbara worked threading machines at General Electric in Fort Wayne. The couple had a 15-month-old daughter when Motz went overseas.

"It was a different war," Barbara Motz told the Journal-Gazettte. "Everybody was so patriotic, you didn't mind having your life disrupted. You felt it was necessary."

Kevin also notes that his grandfather worked after the war for the Canfield Lumber Co., retiring in 1981. Before that, he worked at the Bun Candy Bar Factory in Fort Wayne. Fascinating aside: One day Pete lost his National Guard ring in a vat of candy. A young woman working at a concession stand during a basketball game sold the Bun bar to a customer, who discovered the ring inside. Sometime afterwards, Pete Motz happened to meet that young woman while he was doing odd jobs for his aunt. They began dating and he told her the story of losing his ring. She was able to contact the customer and Pete Motz got his ring back.

He also got the girl. Pete and Barbara Motz have been married 67 years.

Kevin notes his grandfather has one wish: He'd dearly love to see the Cubs win a World Series. "They haven't since 7 years before he was born," notes Kevin., speaking of his grandfather's Oct. 20, 1916, birthdate.

If you want to send Pete a note, wish him a Merry Christmas and belated happy birthday or help him root those Cubbies on, here is his address:

1521 W. State St. Fort Wayne, IN 46808.

Our card will go out Monday. For those partial to Marines, please note: Pete's younger brother Gus Motz, now 83, was a leatherneck in WWII. But don't hold that against Pete.

Thank you, Pete Motz. God bless you and yours. God bless all our military and veterans.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com


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