Today was my father’s birthday. He was born June 24, 1924 at Tunnel Hill, Illinois, and was taken to his heavenly home December 15, 1984 while residing in Chillicothe, Missouri. It sure doesn’t seem possible that it can be that long ago that he passed, because he is so ever present with me.

We weren’t very good friends, and I didn’t appreciate him as much as I should have, until it was too late. He had a difficult childhood in a family that seemed to him to favor his younger, musically talented, brother. The brother played piano, sang beautifully, and was much more of a social success than his older siblings. He was also smart, and was advanced a grade in school, so that he graduated from high school the same year as my father.

Right after high school, during World War II, Dad enlisted in the Marine Corps. His name appears on a downtown memorial marker in Central Park, Hannibal, Missouri. He was a modest man. I didn’t even know his name was on the marker until I had my own family and returned to Hannibal for a visit to Lea’s family. It hurt me when I first discovered it. I had played and lounged there in the park so many times as a child, attended concerts and watched dozens of parades from there, and apparently never stopped to read the markers.

By the way, dad was always “Father” to us children. I didn’t dare call him “dad” until after I left home to enter broadcasting school on the east coast. He was a military man, and a strict disciplinarian. In fact, the Admiral Coontz Armory, in Hannibal was a big part of my early years. Father was in the Missouri National Guard, and, it seems, had always been in military uniform, as least for as long as I could remember.

For several years he was the only full time employee at the armory, and would often take me with him when he had to be present for weekend events. The armory had a large drill floor, which had a full basketball court out of the middle. I spent many hours out on that floor, trying to throw the basketball high enough to make a basket. As I recall, I spent more time chasing the basketball, after a missed shot than anything else I did there!

The unit was a military police unit, and wore tan khaki uniforms with white pistol belts, white helmet liners, white gloves, white laces in their boots, with bloused trouser legs, and white gloves. It was all topped off with an empowering silver whistle attached to the right lapel or epaulet, and the whistle itself hung from a hook on the right pocket. This seemed like the perfect uniform to me! Father looked very striking in this uniform, and I was very proud of him when he dressed to perform some volunteer duty in the community such as directing traffic during parades.

Hannibal’s central business street is Broadway, which runs uphill to the west from the Mississippi River. One of my most vivid memories is being on the curb at Broadway and Third Streets, watching father direct traffic from the middle of the street. The National Guard unit was performing traffic duty that day, in support of a parade that was scheduled to begin later that morning.

Pedestrians were lining Broadway from our position, where the parade would turn, all the way to the top of the hill at Fifth Street. There wasn’t a lot of vehicular traffic at that point, but military policemen stood in the middle of Broadway at each alley and street intersection, in their khaki and white uniforms, whistles blowing as they directed traffic. And, at the top of the hill, at Fifth Street, sat the beautiful bright white Provost marshal’s jeep, with it’s red light flashing!

I suppose this event, and others like it, had a deep impact on me, since I can so clearly recall the images that so deeply impressed me, and forever affected my inner self. Uniforms and volunteer service were tightly woven throughout my life. From that first army uniform to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Civil Defense Police, Danville, Illinois Auxiliary Police, Danville City Police, Civil Air Patrol, Missouri Reserve Military Force, Indiana Guard Reserve, to Indiana Air guard reserve, it seems I always had at least one uniform hanging in my closet.

So, on this day, as I pause to remember my father, I jot down a few memories to share with friends and loved ones in praise of the man who is most responsible for who I am today, and who still walks the earth wherever I go. Thank you, dad! Because I live, you also will live. John 14:19.
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Lawrence Eugene Vaughn Jun 24, 1924-Dec 15, 1984

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