"He had a good voice, he sang in church. And I can still remember him singing solo The Bells of the Sea at a high school music contest in Madison." George, became the first of his family to graduate from high school. "He was smart," Helen Marie says. "He had a head on his shoulders."
George went to junior college working on the side as a busboy in a local cafe and tantalizing his mother with talk of becoming a priest. But after one semester, friends began plying him with stories of the Navy, George was intrigued. He decided to enlist.
Just shy of 18, he pleaded with his mother to sign the necessary paperwork for him. She reluctantly signed. I remember her saying, "If I hadn't signed for him, he never would have been killed," Helen Marie says. George joined the Oklahoma on Sept. 8 in San Francisco. Five weeks later, his ship sailed into Hawaii.
While his letters home painted picturesque images of the island paradise, the sailor apparently disapproved of the oppressive heat, the dirty streets of Honolulu and the endless rain.
He was lonely too.
In a letter to his mother, written Nov. 5, 1941, George says: "Gosh Mom, I was so lonesome that I about cried at times. If it wouldn't have been for Francis Lentz and the Grand Pre boys from Doland, I believe I would have. I was more homesick last week than I ever was before. But I guess I'll get over it."
News of the attack turned the household dinner to silence. Everyone was stunned.
When word came that the Oklahoma had been hit, the children saw something they had never witnessed before.
Their father wept.