Harry Lintz was the kind of no-fuss guy who got the job done. So it is easy to walk past the half-dozen mementos his family has carefully arranged on a small table at his memorial service.
Harry Lintz was the kind of no-fuss guy who got the job done.
So it is easy to walk past the half-dozen mementos his family has carefully arranged on a small table at his memorial service. There are only six items — hardware, paperwork, a photograph — to summarize 92 years. Look again.
The first thing is a yellowing certificate that Harry kept on the wall near his television.
"By these presents be it known that Harry Lintz has been a die-hard Cub fan since 1927 …" it begins. And the certificate is signed by Dallas Green and Ernie Banks.
The next three tokens are displayed in small boxes: A Silver Star. A Bronze Star. A Purple Heart.
There is only one photograph, a picture of a frowzy-headed Harry sitting beside a woman on a couch. It looks like they’re having fun.
And finally, there is a crisp letter, well-preserved in a crystalline plastic frame. It says:
"To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful Nation. As one of the Nation’s finest, you undertook the most severe task one can be called upon to perform. Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace."
The letter is signed with a scrawled "Harry Truman," just across from tiny, almost nondescript type that simply says, "The White House."
That’s it. Baseball. Military service. Family. More service. But now that you’ve looked, listen. Harry Lintz was not just a baseball fan, but a player for the Cat Diesels who ended up working for Caterpillar Inc. for 42 years. Harry did not just go to World War II, he came home a U.S. Army captain and remained active with the American Legion. Harry did not just marry sweetheart Verna Mueller and make a home with her for 66 years. He built that home, with her help, right down to the cabinets.
And Harry did all these things after being left for dead in a ditch for three days in World War II. His injuries were so severe that his arm was amputated. He spent months recuperating in an Army hospital. He never forgot that Verna waited for him when it would have been easier to literally write him off.
"He was so grateful to her," says their daughter, now Diane Thompson of Elmwood. "So many of them got ‘Dear John’ letters in the hospital."
Despite his obvious losses, she says Harry could use one arm to do "just about anything" a fellow with two arms could do. He rarely talked about the war until the last few years. So his service didn’t really hit home, even to Diane, until she took him to see the movie "Saving Private Ryan" a few years ago. There were few people in the theater. Harry said little as they watched the first wave of soldiers die on the beach at Normandy. Both of them were struck by how real it seemed.
As the third day of the filmed fighting began, Harry murmured only, "That’s when the rain started." It did. And Diane thought, "He was there."
More to the point, he was always there. For the last five or six decades, "the one-armed carpenter," as The Rev. Terry England called him, made himself available to neighbors and friends for their projects. Even now, his granddaughter’s floors are all torn up because he was enmeshed in plans to replace them — payback for all the help she’d given. When his wife was sick, Harry had nursed her at home for three years, until Verna’s death last December.
"How many people get that?" says Katie Klumb, a family friend. "It was like she was an extended part of his body. It was amazing. They truly loved each other."
That spirit came through in the brief service, with songs as carefully chosen as the emblems of his life.
"If you could see me now: I’m walking streets of gold," crooned the singer. "If you could see me now: I’m standing strong and whole …"
Half the small crowd began sniffling. The next selection cured that. Even at a funeral, it’s hard not to smile when Harry Caray belts the first "ah-one, ah-two" of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Sometimes, even 92 years isn’t time enough. So here’s to the kind of guy who is the real reason for the fireworks Friday.
Terry Bibo is a columnist for the Journal Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 686-3189, or 1-800-225-5757, Ext 3189.