Update on our four surviving 111th men

Posted: April 12, 2016 in Men of the 111th Ordnance Company, Uncategorized

Ed and I made a quick trip to Florida last week to visit  two of our four 111th survivors, John Raisler and Art Brooks. (You may recall that Art was one of five of the 111th’s officers beginning in 1942 and became company commander in January 1945, as they entered Germany.)

We are happy to report that both men are doing very well. John turned 96 in late March; Art will be 99 this October. Art’s wife of nearly 70 years, Judy, is also doing very well. It was great seeing everyone again and catching up.

Art, judy Louise april 2016

Art Brooks with wife Judy and daughter Louise

Raisler and Andrea

John Raisler with Andrea

Both men still live happily in their own homes, and both are very fortunate that their children are around to provide loving help and support. In John’s case, son Jim comes by often to take John to appointments and the grocery store, as well as cook meals for him and maintain the house and yard. In Art’s and Judy’s case, daughter Louise is with them most of the time, taking care of everything they need help with.

When we got home, I wondered how our other two survivors were doing. Incredibly, the very next morning I received a comment on this blog from Osborne Eastwood’s niece, Carolyn. Her timing was perfect! She said that she had been with Osborne on his 95th birthday last Wednesday: “I read to him [from “Only the Best”] for two hours yesterday and watched as he remembered a different time and place. Thank you so much for the information and for keeping it alive for others to have a visual!”

Osborne Eastwood with wife 2016

Eva and Osborne Eastwood

She later wrote to me and said, “In August 2015, he married Eva, his caregiver of fifteen years and sister-in-law to [his deceased wife] Vera. At that time, they moved to assisted living. They now live happily in Hot Springs, Arkansas, thanks in large part to the Center for Elder Veterans Rights. They enjoy their friends, family, and sitting on the patio in their favorite swing.  Eva says, “He is going to live to be 107.”  He says, “That is too long and just not natural.” People who know him contribute his long life: first to his love for God, second the care Eva has given him in the later years, and last clean living and his kind heart.”

And last but certainly not least, Ray Cross celebrated his 97th birthday last month in Michigan.Ray Cross DVD cover larger If you recall, Ray’s son Terry recorded several wonderful interviews with him a couple of years ago about his time in WWII with the 111th, which Ed posted on YouTube. We showed a video of one of the interviews at a reception in St. Dogmaels, Wales, in June 2014 at an event marking the 70th D-Day anniversary. That was where the men were billeted in the months before they left for Normandy. The local people loved hearing Ray remember the good times the men spent in their village.

We are all so blessed that these four men—friends and comrades of our fathers—are still with us today. To all four, we wish continued happiness and good health!

  1. Pat (Raymer) Macchiarolo says:

    What an absolutely WONDERFUL post, Andrea. I am so delighted that these gentlemen are still with us – thanks to the loving family of each of them. Their support and love are definitely the reason why John, Art, Osborne, & Ray still thrive. Thanks for this post and thanks for keeping all of us informed. We’d love to get together with you sometime when we’re in Alexandria.

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks, Pat! I agree with you about those good “kids” and wives.

    • Vickie Unangst Gratton says:

      Dear Pat,
      I agree so much with your comment. Our parent’s generation taught us how to care for our family elders by example. It’s a life lesson that has made me a better person.
      Vickie L, Unangst Gratton – Proud daughter of Roland C. and Betty Z. Unangst.

  2. Kay McAnally says:

    Hi Andy,
    I’m in tears reading this post – partially because I’m so happy that these men are doing so very well and partly because of the gratitude we all owe them and the others who protected our free world in WWll. Documenting the 111th’s contribution is such a gift that you and Ed have given us all. I can’t say it enough, “Thank you to Andy and Ed and especially the 111th!

  3. Linda Campbell says:

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us Andrea and Ed. Simply wonderful to see and how fortunate for all their families to have these wonderful men to love and hug.

    Wishing them all the best.
    Linda Campbell (daughter of Roland Unangst)

  4. StephieD says:

    It’s great these men and women are doing so well and I wish them the best in the years to come. I’m glad you got to Florida, I’m sure they loved seeing you two! All of this should be made into a TV documentary!

  5. Andrea says:

    Thanks, Steph! They are a great bunch of people, for sure.

  6. Tom Sedlacek says:

    Nice article!!

  7. Vickie Unangst Gratton says:

    Thank you Andrea. I always look forward to your updates and think of all the fun you would have had interviewing my Mom and Dad. Thanks again for including his memoirs in “Only The Best”.

  8. Allie D'Accurzio says:

    I agree with Steph – TV documentary next!

  9. Terry says:

    Andrea and Ed:
    I have lost your email address due to a computer crash, but I wanted to inform you that my Dad (Ray Cross) had emergency surgery on 01 May 2016 in order to remove old scar tissue causing a blockage. He survived the surgery, but the last three weeks have been difficult. There is only so much a 97-year old body can take. Dad died yesterday (31 May 2016) at 5:03 pm. He will be buried on Saturday (04 June) near Big Rapids, Michigan, with military honors. I’ll send you a copy of the obituary if you will email me.
    Dad was absolutely thrilled with the book, the website (which I showed him frequently by printing out the material) and especially the old pictures from the families. While he joined the 111th late in the game (Nov 1943) after being a part of the 66th, he was certainly well received by the men throughout his time with them. I wish I had more photos of him in Europe, but it appears his camera that was working before Wales somehow was not with him in the continent. This makes your families’ photos that they have shared all the more important for us now. Thanks, Terry Cross

    • Andrea says:

      Terry, we are so sad to get this news. Will write more to you later. All the very best to your family. Your dad was so special to us. Thank you for letting us know.

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