We talked with him.
Jim Sullivan to be exact.
Hours after this column landed on front porches across the region last week, the red light started blinking on the office phone. Found was the 96-year-old World War II fighter pilot that Lima resident Buddy Bodell asked The Lima News to help locate.
That’s not all.
It also turns out there is another WWII fighter pilot living in Lima – Dr. John Zink — as well as a Delphos man – Ralph Hoehn — who piloted a B-24 Liberator on 35 bombing missions over Europe. Among the many of you who called to tell us about them was a Los Angeles man with a keen interest in military history.
But they won’t tell you that.
And they also don’t want the big splash in the newspaper that Buddy hoped we could give them. Like many from their generation, they refuse to wear a hero’s crown. In fact, Sullivan went as far as describing himself as “just an old goat who now tries to get through each day without falling down.”
The real heroes, Sullivan pointed out, are the guys who never made it back.
“I didn’t do anything differently then anyone else who served back then. I’m a smaller guy who fit in a cockpit of an airplane, so they taught me how to fly. That’s all,” said Sullivan.
Zink, 95, of Shawnee Township understood. “I’m not familiar with anyone who went through World War II and brags about those times.”
Zink and Sullivan each served in the South Pacific. Zink flew a Hellcat and earned the distinction of being an ace pilot, having shot down five Japanese Zeroes.
“I was fortunate … in the right place at the right time,” said Zink. “I also said a lot of prayers. If you did not know how to pray before going overseas, you learned quickly.”
Asked about combating his fears during the war, Hoehn, 95, told a military writer for Wright-Patterson Air Force base that he prayed a lot. He recalled, “There was a chaplain who would be at the end of the runway when we were leaving on a mission and he’d bless each plane as the pilot hit the throttle to take off.”
Sullivan grew up on Lima’s north side and those who talked to us about him also described him as being a deeply religious man. However, they all laughed about a stunt he once pulled — buzzing St. Gerard Church and school with his plane.
“I guess our priest didn’t see the humor in it,” Sullivan said of his low flight.
The three pilots never knew or met each other, even though they just live miles apart. That’s a shame. Because despite there denying it, they each have one thing in common — they are indeed heroes.
If he hasn’t already, Buddy Bodell says he plans to call Sullivan, now that he has the phone number of the man he had a chance meeting in a grocery store.
“I can appreciate his not wanting a big fuss made. But still, I want to thank him one more time for his service,” Buddy said.
ROSES AND THORNS: A Lima woman is grateful a state trooper pulled her over for speeding.
Rose: To Robert Gatchel, a trooper for the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Lima, who was honored for saving a woman’s life. On Nov. 16, Gatchel was on routine patrol near Piquad and Grubb roads. After stopping a speeding vehicle, he noticed the driver was in distress and having trouble breathing. He pulled the woman from her car and successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging food from the woman’s airway.
Rose: To Nellie, a 3-year-old miniature goldendoodle. The dog’s constant barking and pacing awakened Shalyn Dotson and her three children, allowing them to escape their burning home. The $186,000 home in American Township was a total loss.
Thorn: Thieves stole a utility trailer used by the Lima Salvation Army to pick up donations and haul items to the food bank. The trailer was chained to a pole and the culprits cut the locks to essentially steal from the poor,
Thorn: Ohio’s proposed rules for obtaining one of the 12 state licenses to grow medical marijuana does not require a license-holder to be a resident of the state.
PARTING SHOT: “There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Some people hear what you say, but they don’t listen to it.” – Herm Edwards, former NFL football coach.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.