CHATSWORTH -– Few people fully understood Richard Jacob Tallman, but they knew he loved serving his country.
“He wasn’t all that sociable,” said his nephew, the Rev. Richard Brunskill of Piper City, “but he was a wonderful man and was proud that he was able to serve his country.”
Tallman, 89, who served in both World War II and the Korean War, died Feb. 24 with only $187 to his name. He spent his last years in public housing.
Few family members were left – a sister is in Florida — and many friends had already succumbed to age. Brunskill worried about providing a proper memorial service until Pontiac VFW 886 stepped up, offering to pay for cremation services.
Now Tallman, war veteran and tinkerer of jeeps, will be buried March 10 at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, with full military rites and his nephew as officiant.
VFW Commander Jim Franklin said a man who had served his country for so long deserves some help.
“That’s what the VFW is all about,” Franklin said. “When there is a need, we step up and we do what we can. This man served his country so well and now, it’s time to say ‘thank you’ for that service.”
His nephew is grateful.
“That was just a Godsend,” said Brunskill, a priest who was named for his uncle. “I live on a fixed income and couldn’t afford it and it really means a lot to me. I am sure it would have meant a lot to him that the VFW is helping out.”
Tallman served in the 82nd Airborne Division from 1942 to 1958, was awarded a Bronze Star medal, and carried the rank of second lieutenant.
“He brought back some great souvenirs,” Brunskill said. “He had a German helmet with a hole in it. He had a Nazi flag which we used as a tarp for camping. He also had a live hand grenade with the pin still in it. We had to be very careful and he kept reminding us never to ever pull that pin. We never did.”
A friend, Sam DePino of Chatsworth, said Tallman didn’t talk much about his military history and deferred talk of heroes.
“He said, ‘Only dead GIs are the heroes,” DePino recalled. “I was honored to be his friend. His mind was still sharp, though, and he was always thirsty to learn more. And, he still loved the ladies, even as he was approaching his 90th birthday. As he was dying, he asked the emergency room nurse for a date – in a gentlemanly fashion, of course.”
Brunskill said his uncle had little to his name except for a jeep. “It was a military jeep he had restored himself,” Brunskill said. “He didn’t drive it much, but occasionally he would drive it to Piper City or some place around the area. That was his pride and joy, though.”
Note: Though I did not know Mr. Tallman personally, living in the same town and seeing him almost daily, I admired his love for his jeep and his perseverance to continue a normal life.
I will be adding some pictures of Mr. Tallman soon.(My computer won't let me do it just yet.)