April 15, 2009
From Jonni: About Heroes
As the grief begins to abate and I am thinking more clearly, I find myself remembering something I wrote in response to Jack’s December 20 blog about “The Heroes Around Us.” Typical of him, he wouldn’t let me post it. So I will wreak my own small revenge and post it now. I just hope he doesn’t come back to haunt me for doing it . . .
What is a hero? Um, well, mostly it’s subjective. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it in part thus:
A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; one admired for achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage; an object of extreme admiration and devotion.
“Divine descent; warrior; achievements; noble qualities; great courage; object of extreme admiration and devotion . . .”
Perhaps “divine descent” is carrying things a bit too far, but, at the risk of sounding like a sweaty-handed groupie, what’s left is pretty much how I see Jack Hunter. He said it himself: “Unconventional heroes in unlikely places and facing the most dreadful peril of all: the struggle to do one’s duty, to hold to principle and self-respect, while alone in an uncaring world.”
Yeah, okay — he can be acerbic, he doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and when he swings his verbal 2x4 he can be lethal.
But, having been his administrative assistant, webmaster and sidekick for several years, I’ve seen the other side of him, too: the compassionate friend, devoted husband, decorated war veteran. Read The Expendable Spy. It’s a fictionalized account of his hair-raising adventures in post-world-war Germany. It changed him; it scarred him — but he came home, scars and all, to try to warn the next generation about the hidden dagger inside the velvet glove and behind the sophisticated smiles.
Back home after the war he didn’t rest on his laurels. He worked as a newspaper reporter; he was editor of the prestigious DuPont company magazine. With his wife, he raised four children. He worked for a while on Capitol Hill. And he wrote several bestselling novels. Then he redefined himself as an internationally-renowned aviation artist.
For me, as a wannabee writer, he showed how it was done, and that it could be done. He’s been there, done that, signed the autographs and squinted in the spotlight. There’s a photograph in his office I’d give my eyeteeth to steal: George Peppard, still in makeup and uniform as Bruno Stachel on the set of The Blue Max, chatting with Mr. & Mrs. Jack Hunter.
Hunter’s in his late eighties now. It should be a time to kick back and enjoy the vestiges of fame. A time to enjoy life.
But that’s not the hand he has been dealt. Instead, for two years he scrambled to find the funds to keep his beloved wife out of a nursing home as she daily faded farther into never-never land; for two years he watched in helpless agony as she died before his eyes. On top of that was his own ongoing and increasing physical pain which medical science doesn’t know how to alleviate. There were days when he could barely walk.
The stress took a hideous toll: he lost weight; he developed a heart murmur. Now he battles cancer.
Yet he has faced all these challenges (what a weak word!) with dignity and determination. Not long ago he told me, “I don’t like the hand I’ve been dealt, but these are the cards I’ve been given to play, and I’m going to play them.”
Hero? Oh, yeah.
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