We were on one of our weekly adventures to the livestock auction. During the drive there my gramp’s squeaky old panel van barely allowed us to hear the ‘Paul Harvey’ radio show on WPOR. While he parked the van but before Mr. Harvey told us to have a “Good day,” my gramp sternly repeated his always broken rule that: “You’re not bidding on anything!”
Upon arrival at the auction barn, we made our way through a moving maze of red suspenders, rubber boots and ‘Cat Diesel Power’ hats, and headed directly to the food concession stand. At this stage of our matured routine, words were not necessary for clear and concise communication between us; gramp wanted red-skinned hotdogs and a bottle of Moxie “tonic”, and he would momentarily produce a five dollar bill from his over-sized wallet, then hand it to me. He always grunted a feigned disapproval as the money passed from his hand to mine. He would then demand change, which we both knew he would never accept when I tried to give it to him later.
After we staked claim to our favored bleacher seats that had a clear view of the center of the dirt floor arena, I slipped off to explore the livestock pens, and to see which of the other farm boys had made it to the auction that day. Upon return to our seats I saw a familiar old dairy farmer sitting beside my gramp, and beside the old farmer wa as young man clad from head to toe in military camouflage and shiny black boots. The farmer and the young soldier – judging from their identically bulbous noses, sleepy eyes and jutting chins – were unmistakably father and son. I took my seat beside my gramp, wasting no time gawking to size up the soldier two seats down. Paralyzed by awe and reverence, my wide-eyed, slack-jawed behavior caught the attention of the old farmer. He bent down to my level, hooked his thumb toward his son and said: “He’s crazy! He jumps out of perfectly good airplanes!”
At ten years old, I had a vague knowledge that my grandfather was a paratrooper in World War II. Above the mantle in the living room at my grandparents’ house was a wooden case with a glass front that displayed a dozen or more medals, pins and other decorations. In later years I would learn that the case contained three Purple Hearts, an Oak Leaf Cluster, two Bronze Stars, and various decorations for battles in France, Holland, Belgium, and the Rhineland. More specifically I learned that my grandfather parachuted into France on D-Day and fought for several days with a significant shrapnel wound to his face; he parachuted into Holland months later in “Operation Market Garden,” and was again wounded; he fought through the brutal cold of the Ardennes Forest, then raced to the front to fight in the “Battle of the Bulge.” After the war my grandfather was part of General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s security detail.
When the old farmer jabbed at his son about jumping out of airplanes that were not in danger of crashing, my excitement exploded verbally: “MY GRAMP USED TO DO THAT!!!…DIDN’T YA GRAMP!?” My clearest memory is of silence at this point. I stared expectantly at my grandfather’s expressionless face. “DIDN’T YA GRAMP!?” Still he said nothing, staring at his hands while appearing to rock back and forth in acknowledgement that he did in fact jump out of airplanes that were mechanically sound. The awkward silence was finally broken when the young paratrooper asked the old paratrooper: “Airborne, sir?” My gramp merely said: “Long, long time ago.”
The young paratrooper clicked off a litany of his military accomplishments, He’d been here, he’d been there. He’d done this, he’d done that Then he asked my gramp: “How many jumps you get in?” This was the moment I’d been waiting for. Certainly my gramp had a million jumps out of airplanes; maybe more than a million? Why was he still staring at and wringing his hands, not answering? Was he counting all of his jumps in his head? I had a bad case of child’s Christmas-Eve like anxiety, and it was about to get worse. I considered answering for him; it had been an agonizingly-long 5 seconds or so. But before I could blurtthat my gramp had a a million jumps, he looked at the old farmer, chuckled aloud and said: “Two, Normandy and Holland.”
Edwin F. Schoff, construction worker and welder
ARUNDEL – Edwin F. Schoff, 77, of Old Post Road died Tuesday at his home after a long illness. He was the husband of Anna R. Ronnie Schoff.
Mr. Schoff was born in Pittsburg, N.H., son of Ray E. and Winifred Bumsford Schoff, and attended Spaulding High School in Barre, Vt. During World War II, he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and was in the Normandy invasion and th eBattle of Bulge. He received three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and numerous other decorations for action in Holland, Belgium and the Rhineland.
Mr. Schoff was a lifelong construction worker and welder for Griffin Construction Co.
He was a life member of the DAV and a member of the York Lodge of Masons of West Kennebunk.
Surviving are his wife of 54 years; there sons, Steven R. Sr. of Lyman, Wayne E. of Arundel and Allen L. Of Arundel; four daughters, Barbara MacCormack of Sanford, Laura Atkinson of Winnabow, N.C., Sandra Merril of Westbrook and Sara Merando of Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; six sisters, Marilyn Marshall of Venice, Fla., Jennie Rennie of Saco, Betty Bradbury of East Hartford, Conn., Barbara Jones of North Stonnington, Conn,. Joan Waterhouse of Dayton and Norma Wentworth of Saco; 18 grandchildrenn and 11 great-grandchildren.