Friday, January 16, 2009

Clemie watching over us

For the past two decades, my travel schedule has included a sortie to Manhattan each winter to attend an international numismatic convention. As mentioned in First To Fall, it was on one of these trips that I was honored to meet Chris and Sheran Daniele in their home at Pelham Manor. Sherry is the daughter of Clementine Smith—a friend of Bill Cramsie's from the days when Marymount girls enriched the social life of West Point cadets. I was particularly interested in details about Clemie because of her dates with Bob Basnett while doubling with Bill Cramsie and Dee Rogers at New York City in January of 1944. The young aviators were temporarily at Camp Shanks, NY awaiting a transport to the war zone.

Last week, I returned to Manhattan and rejoined the Daniele family at Pelham for a most pleasant evening of remembrances. This historic and beautifully maintained hamlet lies on the western shore of Long Island Sound only a 28-minute train ride north of Grand Central Station. I had met Chris and Sherry's daughter Lia on my earlier visit and was happy to be able to see her again briefly on this trip as she was teaching a class of young ballerinas at her mother's dance studio in Pelham. Their younger daughter Teresa was home from college this time and I was able to meet her as well. During the research for and writing of First To Fall, I had become spiritually connected it seems with many of those who are no longer with us and Clemie Smith was one of those. As Sherry, Teresa and I conversed about things past and present I was drawn to the portrait of Clemie that rests above their fireplace mantel. It was a three-generational living snapshot with Clemie watching over us as we revisited some of her early days. The physical likeness was obvious to me and I could particularly envision her grandmother in Teresa's face and demeanor. I'm sure that Clemie is very proud.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my research has been the opportunity to meet many extraordinary people in a very personal way. The sense of attachment that accompanied these meetings was an unexpected and greatly appreciated bonus.