Tagged: Ill.

I just ‘did what I had to do’

This was one of the happiest days of my life,” Dean Lanphere recalled, looking at his self portrait taken 71 years ago.

The photograph was taken just a few minutes after Lanphere’s wife, Geneva, pinned his wings on his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform. It was May 15, 1943.

“I thought I was the hottest thing on earth on that day,” he said with a grin. “That was a long time ago. I was so young and a hot rod back then.”

Shortly after the picture was taken, Lanphere was deployed to Sydney, Australia.

The newly minted bomber pilot arrived with swagger.

“I remember a major telling me when I arrived there, ‘Hey, fly boy. You think you are the greatest on earth?’ ” he said.

Lanphere, who was then 23 years old then, walked quietly away from the Air Corps major and did not say a word. He would let his actions speak for him — 58 times over enemy territory.

A small town boy

As a child, Lanphere was raised by his grandparents in Lyndon, Ill., a small town about 80 miles north of Peoria.

He moved in with his grandparents after his parents got divorced. His dad was an alcoholic. His mom contracted tuberculosis when he was 4 1/2 years old and put into a Springfield, Ill., hospital.

Lanphere continued to live with his grandparents even after his mom was healed and remarried.

His grandfather was employed as a section foreman with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, he recalled. His grandmother stayed at home.

Lanphere graduated from Lyndon High School.

“There were eight girls and five boys in my graduating class,” he said.

While in high school, he met his future wife, Geneva, who lived in a nearby town along the Rock River.

“I guess you can say we were high school sweethearts,” he said and smiled.

After graduating from high school in 1940, Lanphere moved to Washington, D.C., and took a civil service job, which had a $1,440 annual salary. After he worked there six months, he received a $180 pay raise.

“That was good money back then,” he said.

He and Geneva got married in 1941 and moved to Chicago.

Pearl Harbor

On Dec. 7, 1941, he and Geneva were watching Andy Devine perform at the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago.

After Devine’s act, it was announced Pearl Harbor had been attacked, Lanphere recalled. It was a day he will never forget.

“I can still hardly believe it happened,” he said. “It was a very, very bad deal.”

Signing up

Lanphere enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps a day after reading a Jan. 20, 1942 article in theChicago Tribune. The article stated a married man with a high school education could now become a pilot. Up to that time, the Air Corps required all pilots to have a college degree.

Lanphere didn’t hesitate to sign up.

“Ever since I was a young kid, I wanted to become a pilot,” he said.

Shortly after earning his wings, Lanphere was sent to the South Pacific.

The War

Lanphere said he and his crewmates had to fight two enemies — the Japanese and the weather. The U.S. air base in New Guinea was located 2 degrees south of the equator, he said.

“During one mission I could not even see my wing tips for 3 1/2 hours,” Lanphere said.“And we had equatorial storms every damn day.”

Lanphere flew 58 missions before he was discharged from the service on Sept. 15, 1944.

Lanphere said his bombing unit was the only unit in U.S. World War II to fly B-26, B-25 and B-24 airplanes.

“It’s really amazing what happened (to me),” he said. “…But I was lucky. I was able to come home before (Japan) started the kamikaze stuff.”

Coming home

After serving 15 months in the South Pacific, Lanphere said he requested and was granted his discharge.

“I wanted to see my 1-year-old daughter really badly,” he said. “I still can hear my commanding officer grant my request. But he also informed me at the time, if I agreed to stay in, he would promote me to captain in three more weeks.”

Lanphere did not reconsider his decision. He boarded a ship and headed to San Francisco.

It took 21 days for the ship to make the journey. A week after arriving stateside, he took a train to Chicago. He then took a train to Sterling, Ill., where his wife and daughter, Denise, were waiting. Shortly after Lanphere got off the train, he recalled his wife asking him to hold their baby.

“I asked her how,” he said and laughed. “I never held a baby before.”

He and and Geneva, had another daughter, Jodeane, born a couple years later.

‘What I had to do’

Lanphere, who is now 95, often wonders what would have ever happened in his life if he didn’t enlist.

He also wonders what would have ever happened if World War II had a different ending.

In August 1945, Lanphere was living in Sterling, with his wife and daughter, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I’ve heard from a number of people over the years saying the U.S. should have not dropped those bombs,” he said. “But, I believe if we would have not done that, we would have lost a bunch of serviceman in Japan. They were a bunch of real fanatics.”

Lanphere said he does not consider himself a hero.

“Am I a hero, no… I just did what I had to do,” he said. “And the rest of my crew did the same thing. It was our job to save our country.”

A good life

Lanphere worked as an air traffic controller in Chicago for a number of years after he retired from the military.

After Geneva passed away, Lanphere would find love twice more.

He and his second wife, Kay, were married for about 20 years before she succumbed to breast cancer.

He later met Gladys Lampe of Highland. They were married in 2001. She died in June after battling pneumonia, he said.

“My days with Gladys were some of the happiest times of my life,” he said. “We shared a lot of things in common. We both loved to travel.”

Looking back at his life, Lanphere said he does not have any regrets. He said he has lived a good life.

He said he also enjoyed his time in the military. He said seeing the U.S. flag today means everything in the world to him.

“I’m proud of it,” he said and started to cry.

Lanphere is also proud to have served.

“…And I’d be happy to serve our country again, if I could,” he said and smiled.

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Tears from the Heart

After years of hard work, I’m proud to announce my book is officially on the market at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Tears from the Heart will undoubtedly make you look at your life differently.

The book features over 35 inspiring stories and just a few of the photos I have taken over the years.

The book is available in hardback, soft back and e-book formats.

Below you will find the back cover copy as well as the introduction.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Enjoy,

Mark

Introduction
As a newspaper reporter, Mark Hodapp wrote his share of sad stories. But unlike some who deal with death and heartbreak on a regular basis, Hodapp never could forget many of the stories or the people behind the stories.
After being away from the newspaper business for a few years, Mark decided to revisit some of those stories and add a few others.
The product of that effort is a book, “Tears from the Heart,” he recently self-published.
Mark said stories involving children provided the real impetus for the book.
“I think after seeing some of these kids, I had to do something,” he said.
With stories from grieving parents and photos accompanied by poetry, the book is especially meant to help those who have lost a loved one, Mark said.
“The book is mostly for people who are grieving or who have grieved,” he said.
The book is dedicated to his father, who died in 2003, and to “all the parents who have lost a child.”
Organized as a series of stories and poems, the book deals primarily with grief and loss. Much of it is inspirational in tone, such as the following from a woman whose son had died of sickle cell anemia:
“I have never felt this way before.
“I feel a sort of loneliness, but it’s a happy loneliness.
“It’s a weird feeling, but I know Andre is all right, and he’s out of pain.”
Some of the stories come from Mark’s experience as a reporter. He worked for the Suburban Journals in Illinois from 1994-1998 and for The Messenger, a Catholic newspaper in Belleville, for three years after that. He is currently the sports editor for The Republic-Times in Waterloo, Ill.
But others come from his personal experience and chance encounters, he said.
Much of the poetry is original, which Mark said he writes out of personal feelings.
“If something catches my fancy, I just go with it,” he said. “It’s just following what you feel.”
The death of his father and his wife’s miscarriage were part of the inspiration for the book. Writing about those incidents helped him cope with them, Mark  said.
But new experiences-including chance encounters with people who have experienced recent loss-also have provided new material for the book.
“I keep finding people I want to put in,” he said.
Harry Weiner
BACK COVER
There is a principle in grief counseling that states “In telling the story the healing
takes place.” The book entitled Tears from the Heart  provides a
springboard in which the healing can begin. Death brings grief which is a response
to loss. The whole person, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally reacts to
this loss. If the loss is not addressed appropriately, it often times goes underground
and can cause further pain. God created the human person to deal with loss, which
is a part of the human condition, by giving the human person the ability to share his
tears and his story. This work, which is a collage of stories that covers the whole
spectrum of ages from the child to the senior citizen, provides the reader an opportunity to tap into his or her own story which can lead to healing.
The season of grief, which each person experiences differently, can last for a year or more. The various seasonal photos selected in this work takes this grief reality into account. Important to the grief process is the healing role of faith which the author brings to the forefront by his use of photos and grief story selections.
No matter what stage of loss the individual may be in, Tears From The Heart could assist someone who is in the process and has faced it before. It allows them to go through the valley of tears and sadness and rise to the mountain top of hope and joy.
Reverend Monsignor Kenneth Steffen, DMin, JCL, PH, KHS
 

Cal Neeman reflects on his big league career

By Mark Hodapp

For years, Cal Neeman was the man behind a catcher’s mask.  

The long-time Cahokia, Ill. resident disappeared from major league baseball in 1963 and was gone, but not forgotten.

“I don’t do much now,” he says. “I am right now in Florida, enjoying the nice sunshine.”

At 83 years old, Neeman is as energetic as many men half his age.  

He still enjoys playing golf, and traveling with his wife of 58 years, Maryann. 

“I am not a scratch golfer,” he says and laughs. “I never was. I didn’t even have a handicap last year. The last time I had a handicap, it was a 14.”

Neeman now lives in Lake St. Louis, Mo. He recently had his right knee replaced.

“I’m down here (in Florida) trying to recoup,” he says.

Neeman was born in Valmeyer, Ill. on Feb. 18, 1929. He remembers moving to Waterloo, Ill. when he was in the first grade. His family later moved to East St. Louis, Ill. after his dad got a “good job” with Monsanto. They later  relocated to  Maplewood, Ill. (better known as Cahokia today), where he lived most of his teenage life and had a newspaper delivery route.

Neeman graduated from Dupo High School in 1947, and is still widely considered as one of the school’s most gifted athletes in baseball and basketball. 

He helped Dupo win the regional basketball title during his senior year.

Neeman was later signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Yankees out of Illinois Wesleyan University, where he also played basketball, before the 1949 season. 

The Yankees organization assigned  him to the Joplin Miners of the Class C Western Association, where he spent both the 1949 and ‘50 seasons.

Neeman hit .292 for the Miners in 95 games to win the pennant in 1950 with help from Mickey Mantle.

“Everyone who saw Mantle play knew he could run faster and hit the ball farther than anyone on the field,” Neeman recalls. 

Neeman was drafted by the U.S. military and  served during the Korean Conflict, returning in time for the 1953 season.

He served with the Army’s 105th Field Artillery Battalion, spending about a year in Korea.

After being discharged from the Army, he met his wife while playing with the Binghamton Triplets. The Triplets were a minor league baseball team in Binghamton, New York, affiliated with the New York Yankees.

Neeman spent four seasons in the minor leagues, with his best year coming in 1955 when he caught 122 games and hit .294 with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association.

In 1956,  he played  with the AAA Richmond Virginians and also the AAA Denver Bears.

On Dec. 3, 1956, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs from the  New York Yankees in the Rule V Draft. “That shocked me,” he says. “I could hardly believe it.”

It was the break Neeman needed as  the Yankees were well stocked at catcher with Yogi Berra and a number of young catchers in their system, including Elston Howard, Ralph Houk and Johnny Blanchard.

Neeman jumped right in and became the Cubs’ first string catcher as a rookie in 1957, hitting .257 with 10 home runs in 122 games.

He fondly recalls getting his first big league hit off Milwaukee Braves star Warren Spahn on April 16, 1957, at Wrigley Field.

He remembers getting his first home run  a week later off of Milwaukee hurler Lew Burdette in the 10th inning on April 23, 1957, at County Stadium in  Milwaukee.    

The game ended with Milwaukee Hall of Famer Hank Aaron hitting a line drive caught by Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, killing a Milwaukee scoring rally. 

He split the Cubs catching duties in 1958 with Sammy Taylor.

“In those days, if you didn’t hit close to .300, a second division team was looking for ways to improve their team,” he says. “On a pennant winner or contender, that was a different story.”

A solid receiver, Neeman would be with the Cubs until he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Tony Taylor for Ed Bouchee and Don Cardwell on May 13, 1960.

While with Philadelphia, he  became close friends with the late Robin Roberts. The former Phillies pitching great was born in Springfield, Ill., the son of an immigrant Welsh coal miner. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.

“He could throw the ball where the hitters could never hit it,” Neeman recalls.

He spent a day with Roberts last spring shortly before his death on May  6, 2010. He was 83.

“That was a sad day,” Neeman says.  “He was one of those good men we lost.”

Neeman’s game started to tail off  and the 33-year-old catcher was passed along to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1962 and he would finish off his big league career in the American League with the Cleveland Indians and Washington Senators in 1963.

Neeman finished with a .988 fielding percentage and a .224 batting average. He had 30 home runs while appearing in 376 games.

After baseball and during the offseason, Neeman worked as a railroad switchman. 

Neeman later worked as a salesman with the Nystrom Company, selling school supplies.

 

Labor of Love: Charlie’s minor league journey

 

By Mark Hodapp

It was a hard pill for Charlie Hopkins to swallow.

After spending nine seasons
in the St. Louis Browns organization,
Hopkins retired from
baseball in 1955 when he was
only 29.
“I wouldn’t take a million
dollars for the good time that I
had,” he says.
Hopkins, now 84, lives in
Columbia, Ill.
Charlie couldn’t help but
reminisce about his own playing
career after watching his
grandson, Gabe Hopkins, play
with the Waterloo High School
baseball team this spring.
A 2011 graduate, Gabe is
now playing with the Waterloo
Millers.
“The only advice I ever gave
to Gabe was just to swing the
bat,” Charlie says. “Don’t ever
get called out. That aggravates a
manager.”
For Charlie, baseball was a
labor of love.
He still loves the
game, and is sometimes its
“biggest critic.”
After graduating from Central
Catholic High School in
East Louis, Ill., in 1945, Charlie was
drafted and served in the U.S.
Navy.
Charlie was in basic training
when World War II ended, and
served 14 months.
After being discharged in
1946, he returned home and
worked as an apprentice with
the iron workers, following in
his dad’s footsteps.
He recalls his dad being un-
Browns for a $125 monthly salary
and $200 signing bonus in
1947.
Charlie was making $160 a
month as an iron worker.
“My dad didn’t think it was a
great deal,” he says.
Charlie was a catcher the
majority of his career.
However, he played in the
outfield with the Newark
Moundsmen of the Ohio State
League during his first professional
season.
Charlie, who was then 21,
had a career year. He hit .277
with 23 doubles, 17 triples, seven
home runs and 93 RBIs. He
also stole 15 bases.
He was promoted to Ada,
Okla. the following season. The
Herefords played in a rodeo
stadium, Charlie recalls.
“There wasn’t a blade of
grass,” he says. “And when the
rodeo would come to town, we
went on a road trip. When we
came home, the field was a
complete dust bowl. The guys
used to say a rabbit would have
to get its lunch across the
street.”
Charlie played with the
Springfield Barons in 1950. He
thought he had a chance to
make the big leagues that
spring.
Browns starting catcher Les
Moss underwent hemorrhoid
surgery in 1949.
But the Browns had other
ideas in mind, acquiring Sherman
Lollar from the Yankees in
a trade.
Instead of making it to the
big leagues, Charles Dewitt assigned
Hopkins to Wichita, the
Browns’ top minor league affiliate.
He played Class A ball for
two seasons.
Lollar was eventually traded
to the White Sox following the
1951 season.
In 1951, Bill Veeck purchased
the Browns.
To draw fans, Veeck gave
them “fun ‘n games.”
Veeck once asked Hopkins
to ride a white horse into a
game as part of a “Hopalong
Cassidy” promotion. Hopalong
Cassidy was a popular television
show that aired from 1952-
54.
But Charlie refused.
“I told Bill I have never rode
on a horse my life,” he says. “I
said kids would be throwing
rocks the rest of the season if
they saw me come in riding a
horse.”
Charlie never regretted his
decision.
Veeck moved the Browns to
Baltimore after the 1953 season.
Hopkins played three seasons
with the San Antonio Missions
finally before being released
after the 1954 season.
In 1955, Charlie was hired
to manage the Seminole Oilers.
“It was worse than high
school,” he says of his managing
experience.
“They didn’t have a clubhouse
or a shower. You had to
walk to a shower a block down
the street. The owner handed
out baseballs like they were
gold nuggets.”
Charlie also had many arguments
with the Seminoles owner,
who once asked Hopkins to
drive the team’s bus.
A defensive-minded catcher,
Charlie compares himself to
former St. Louis Cardinals
catcher Mike Matheny.
“I can’t say I had anybody’s
number (hitting),” he says. “But
I believe the best player I ever
played against was (former St.
Louis Cardinal third baseman)
Ken Boyer.”
Charlie once got in a fight
with Boyer during the 1954
season after a collision at home
plate.
“It seemed like we fought an
hour,” Charlie says. “But it lasted
only five minutes.”
He has no regrets about
hanging up the spikes.
Charlie says his family was
waiting for him.
“And I had to come home,
where I had a job waiting for
me,” he says.