Remembering My Father as a Man’s Man
On this Father’s Day, I recall things about my Dad that only a daughter would remember. He lived an amazing life, an unbelievably rich and full life, a life that’s worthy of a best-selling novel or Academy Award-winning movie. He had so much charisma that men wanted to be him and women, well, they just plain wanted him – a problem my mother dealt with in a very enlightened way.
“When you’re hot, you’re hot,” my mother said after I asked how she didn’t get jealous when other women flirted with Dad. “I don’t blame them for being attracted to him, everyone is, but he always comes home to me,” Mom said.
My Dad was born John Ellsworth Glodfelter on May 14, 1929 in near Berwick, Pennsylvania. His sir name is a colonial misspelling of Glattfelder. This is something I corrected in 1982 when I legally changed the spelling.
My Dad, like many of his era, clamored to join the military and be a part of the World War II effort. He joined the Marine Corps in 1946 when he was 17 years old. Initially, he ran away from home and forged his mother’s signature so he could enlist, but a savvy Enlistment Sergeant got wise and sent him home. Finally, my grandmother, Elva Remley Glodfelter, signed his enlistment papers and off he went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where he survived Marine Corps boot camp while still a teenager.
In 1946-47, he did a tour in Beijing, China as a Marine Embassy Guard, which was long before the so-called “open door policy” with China became de rigeueur. My Dad got several tattoos on his arms and chest, and acquired and affection for everything Chinese, especially their tea – an affection he passed on to me.
After his tour in China, he was stationed in Panama as a Military Police (MP) Officer. He inspected cargo and fishing ships working on a team of U.S. security forces patrolling the Panama Canal Zone. Then, he fought in the Korean Conflict.
My Mom told me I almost wasn’t born because my Dad’s whole platoon got killed except for five guys. He was one of them. After Korea, he was reassigned duty in Paris, France in 1953 where he served as an MP and investigated Nazi war criminals. He told me about when his Air Force patrol recovered stolen Jewish artwork and furniture hidden in Moroccan storehouses.
I remember my Dad talking to one of his old Marine Corps buddies about an all-night poker game where he cleaned out everyone on board a ship traveling to Panama. He and his buddy laughed hard as they recalled Dad’s miraculous gambling feat while drinking only tea to keep him awake. They also recounted his boxing matches in the “Friday Night Smokers” on base where he took on all comers until he was the last man standing in the ring. That’s when I realized my Dad was a Man’s Man.
He pointed to me eavesdropping saying I should never forget our family stories, and ordered me to write them down. I’m glad I did.
After Mom passed away in 2003, I found a 150-page handwritten manuscript she wrote detailing my father’s escapades in the military. Most of those events happened before I was born, but I used her writings to start a novel in August 2006 entitled, “White Roots.”
That novel, a work-in-progress, details my father’s ancestry, his military life and my childhood filled with world travels and Hollywood movie stars. I remember when Dad managed the Malibu Pier in the 1960s and he became friends with a lot of movie stars.
I clearly remember when Actor Lee Marvin, a drinking and poker buddy, challenged Dad to a fist fight one day in Malibu. Two men finished their drinks, went outside in the parking lot, and the fight was over in seconds with Marvin on the ground wiping his bloody nose. Marvin and Dad laughed heartily as they walked back inside the bar for another drink.
I also remember when Dad hosted then-Actor Ronald Regan’s first fundraiser in our back yard in Simi Valley, when Regan ran for president of the Screen Actors Guild. Lots of movie stars came to that party. I got to clean the ashtrays and empty glasses around the yard during the party. I watched my Dad with everyone and realized then he was a Man’s Man.
Later in life, while writing “White Roots,” I did extensive research on our clan and discovered a story behind their journey from Glattfelden, Switzerland to the New World in 1743. They suffered an arduous sail across the Atlantic aboard the ship, “Francis and Elizabeth” from the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands to the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The early Glattfelders purchased land 110 miles west and settled the area of York, PA. Today, the family homestead, a church, a cemetery and the old Glatfelder train station still stands. The website www.glattfelder.org is the Casper Glattfelder Association of America chronicles the family through historical and military records. Our family will host their 108th Family Reunion on July 27 – 28, 2013 outside York, PA and this year’s theme is “Glattfelders in the Civil War.”
My Dad, who was called Jack by everyone, proudly recalled his family’s history numerous times. He said I should go to our family reunions whenever I could.
Jack died on Oct. 9, 1998 from complications due to colon cancer and is buried at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada outside Las Vegas. He was given a 21-gun salute with full military honors and my mother was presented a three-fold American flag. I held myself together pretty well until the 21-gun salute, then I cried hard. Jack was a very good man.