Emily

Emily has had an amazing life of travel and has seen many things along her way. In her younger years, she and her husband decided they would travel to two countries every year. Because of this, she has traveled to every country in the world! She believes that the secret to living to her age (97) is to “participate in everything” therefore, she is an ambassador at the community where she lives and an encourager to everyone to get involved.

One of the collectibles from Emily’s travel collection
Emily asked me to take a photo of this grouping of collectibles hanging on her wall. She said, “Aren’t they just beautiful?” Why yes, Emily, they certainly are!
Emily shared with me that she wasn’t able to take all of her things to the Assisted Living community where she lives; however, she was able to bring her favorites…like this one.

Emily was born in Hawaii; she comes from a family of 6, and she is the youngest. When she was 19 years old, she witnessed a huge tragedy that would affect her and Hawaii for years to come. Her morning on December 7th, 1941, started off like any other day. She woke up and went to have breakfast with some friends who had just arrived in town. As they were eating, they heard some blasts that they brushed off as training at the Air Force Base nearby. The noises got louder and they climbed a mango tree to try and identify where the commotion was coming from. They were too far away and not in the right direction to see Pearl Harbor, but they could see the air attack going on above Hickman AFB. They turned on the radio and they were told, “This is the ‘real McCoy’, the ‘Japs’ are attacking Pearl Harbor; take cover!” They climbed the tree again so they could get another look at what was happening.

Emily describes the scene when they got up there as “Just at this moment we saw a plane nearby headed our direction and soon it was near enough for us to see the sun emblem; as we watched, we saw the Japanese pilot looking down, and it was that moment that he pulled a lever and we saw a bomb falling”. She describes thinking the bomb was going to fall close to where they were in the trees and they quickly scrambled down to get away. Turns out the bomb dropped a few blocks away. The teens ran to the scene and were astonished to find the damage and disarray. “We witnessed a holocaust” as Emily describes it. The town was ablaze and there were bodies everywhere. She recalls seeing that the owners of the local drug store had “perished in the rubble of their store”. There were four waves of attacks, and it lasted about an hour. The radio was all they had to get updates on the state of their homeland.

That night was almost worse, people hid in their homes, afraid that at any moment they would hear a bomb go off. The news was full of falsities and there were stories circulating of the Japanese parachuting to various locations around the island. They weren’t allowed to use phone service during this time and they were all worried about friends and family on the other islands. Finally, on December 9th, two days after the attack they were allowed to make calls (under strict censorship) to tell their loved ones they were okay. They were relieved to hear that no further attacks had been conducted.

Emily went to the University campus to help care for evacuees. There was a shortage of blood so the community came together to give blood. The lumber yards had turned into coffin makers and delivered truck load after truck load to Pearl Harbor. There were mass immunizations happening to guard against typhoid, diphtheria, and smallpox. Their currency was all stamped with “Hawaii” so that if attacked again, their money would be useless.

The Navy lost 1200 men, most of which happened in the first 10 minutes of the attack. The marines lost 109 men, and the army lost 218 men that day. Thousands more were injured. 68 civilians died and more were injured. 18 American ships were sunk or damaged and 200 planes were destroyed.

Hawaii was not the same for a long time there was a curfew of 6:00 pm that was enforced. Everyone who was able worked seven days a week for ten hours per day. People spent their free time with patients in the hospitals. Emily recalls writing letters to victims’ families and was a friend to burn victims who were suffering with pain. The beaches were barb wired and there was an influx of government workers and military personnel in Oahu. Mail was censored for a time as well. Emily’s worst memories were the temporary graves being exhumed and bodies washing up months later in the ocean around Pearl Harbor. On September 2, 1945 the war was over and they witnessed the V-J Day Parade!

Emily’s walker is decked out with the Red, White and Blue!

John

This cowboy aficionado hails from Gilbert, Arizona. His family is Irish, but John was born in May of 1946 in Jasper County, Indiana. You’ll have to look up his boyhood hometown on the map because you probably have not ever heard of it…Rensselaer, Indiana. Trust me; it’s on the map…I looked.

His birth father was an outlaw and John didn’t share the details. However, his stepfather is the person who raised him, and that’s whom he refers to as his “dad.” His mom, Christina, married Ronnie when John was about five, and he was his dad from that time on.

John has two sisters, Bonnie and Linda, and three brothers, David, Kenny and Jimmy. Having a big family isn’t foreign to John; growing up, he was the oldest among 60 grandchildren. Can you imagine those family reunions? What fun!

In 2020, John will have been married to his wife, Pat, for 50 years. They met on a blind date. It was at a country western bar in Indiana where they were set up by a childhood friend. There was dancing involved. She was a “city girl” and he was a “country boy.”

A piece of cowboy memorabilia

When they got married, Pat had three children from her first marriage and they had one child together. Now, all these many years later, they have twelve grandchildren and 9 great grand children. He also has three cats who claim him: Sebastian, Megan and Simone.

Indiana was their home, but Arizona was their “adopted” home after health issues and job opportunities brought them to Phoenix. John worked in the grocery business. Once, when he was working at a Circle K, John was robbed by 10 men. That was the day he decided to pursue another line of work. He actually became a security officer. It was a highly stressful job, but it was an avenue which introduced him to high profile folks such as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Senator Dennis DeConcini and Senator John McCain. He had a security detail at the Wrigley Mansion where he met Alice Cooper and the band, Nine Inch Nails.

A letter from Senator Dennis DeConcini
A story board John used in roadshows

The work also introduced him to the cowboy scene where he met many famous cowboys, such as his favorite, Gene Autry. He also came to know the son and daughter of another favorite, Roy Rogers. He was in Arizona for about 6 months when he met one of his best friends, Rodd Wolff, a movie stuntman. They became friends for life.

At one time, John owned a salon close to where they lived. They catered to many celebrities. He met Peter Graves, Marie Osmond, and many others. It was during this time that Rodd introduced John to a cowboy festival in Scottsdale. There, he met local celebrities, Wallace and Ladmo, and even ended up appearing on their tv show!

Because John became so connected to celebrities and famous cowboys, a hobby just kind of happened…he became a collector of cowboy memorabilia. Pat had been collecting movie star clippings for clients for years, so collecting was something fun they could do together. At one time, John had over 8,000 items he took to schools, libraries, and roadshows.

So John has many “claims to fame” and he has the scrapbooks to prove it. He was on the front page of the “Grit” newspaper in 1982. He came in third in a guitar contest at the Granada Hotel in Phoenix in 1983. He started the “Arizona Cowboys Club” in 2002 — Buck Taylor from Gunsmoke was a member. He’s written and published a couple books and has one on the way. He also writes and recites poetry…a man of many talents, for sure!

When spending time with John and Pat, you’ll find that you feel like you’ve known them forever. They are easy to talk to and their home has many conversation pieces: scrapbooks, collectibles, photos, etc. You can tell that John enjoys reminiscing about the “old days.”

Books are available by contacting John at jonpatcomley@outlook.com
John and Pat today — almost 50 years of marriage