In 1918, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns in Europe went silent. The Great War, the war to end all wars, was over, taking with it almost an entire generation of young men. But some came home. My Uncle Jim was one.
This year, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, I remember him in particular.
James Aloysius Lynch, second son of Thomas and Hannah Lynch of Philadelphia, was born in October 1888.
A big, handsome Irishman, he was drafted into the United States Army in 1917.
Uncle Jim, a master electrician in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), soon found himself on the way to join Gen. Black Jack Pershing in France in a Repair Unit in St. Nazaire.
After the war, he came home, married our wonderful Aunt Irma, and built himself a small farmhouse across the river in New Jersey. Built it himself, with friends from the building trades and our relatives, all by hand.
It was his weekend retreat, where he grew grapes, pears, apples, and flowers–lilacs, roses, Lily of the valley. When he was old enough, my brother spent many a weekend tagging along with Uncle Jim on his adventures. It sure was different from the city.
Jim wasn’t one to talk much about his Army days. And when I was a little kid, there had been two more wars, World War II and Korea, that were the ones I remember hearing about.
One thing I will always remember, though, is Uncle Jim’s enormous generosity and his efforts to support the soldiers then fighting in Korea. Two little kids, my brother and I, loved climbing up to the dining room table to help Uncle Jim make boxes of treats to send to the “boys overseas.”
First, tape the box together with a lot of packing tape…those boxes had a long way to go. Then the fun part: stashing the loot inside. Bags of hard candies, razor blades, soaps, powder, toothpaste, tobacco and cigarettes…..all the reminders of home. Week after week, we packed those boxes and he mailed them off. Good memories.
Uncle Jim worked as an electrician in Local 98, IBEW, in Philadelphia until he was 74. We thought he would be antsy in retirement, and we were right! But he chugged along, making up his own routine and spoiling the kids in the family whenever he could. He and Aunt Irma never had children of their own.
Miss you, Uncle Jim. You, too, Aunt Irm. Thank you for all you did.
J. Kelly, standing beside Jim, is the father of Grace Kelly.
Postcards from training posts
The French government gave the doughboys this little book to familiarize them with the French language.