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Saying goodbye to my old best friend

Ger Wood was my best, and closest, friend for three years starting in 1976. We were assigned to the Warner Kaserne, a U.S. military community of 10,000 in Bamberg, Germany. I was in charge of the post’s newspaper and Ger was the coordinator for Kontakt, a German/American friendship club sponsored by the military to promote better relations between Americans and Germans. It was the perfect job for Ger. Besides being charismatic and gregarious, he was fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, German, French and Turkish. And I mean fluent: when he talked with people in their native tongue, they assumed he was from their native country. Beside those five, he was also partially fluent in several other languages. Everyone loved Ger because his personality and ability to speak their language made them feel at home. As the editor of the post’s newspaper, we worked together many times. At the time, video recording equipment was just coming online and we talked the post’s commander into authorizing us to make a welcome video to be shown to new personnel assigned to the post. Ger and I schlepped all over the place with a couple of hundred pounds of video equipment in the back of a sedan. We wanted to get some good footage of Bamberg’s impressive ancient city center. To get a good vantage point for filming, Ger talked the foreman of a construction crew, working on a thousand-year-old cathedral, into letting us climb a half dozen stories up the scaffolding set up beside the church. Another time, we were having a beer and we struck up a conversation with an elderly German man who was impressed with Ger’s German. He invited us to his club room which turned out to be a fraternity of German soldiers that dated back centuries. On the walls were souvenirs and medals from battles dating back into antiquity. There were maces, battle axes, Luger pistols, Iron Crosses and even Swastikas. We were also together after work. Ger and his spouse Rosa lived on the first floor of a three-level flat of apartments about a mile from post. Rosa was from Turkey. The third floor of the building Ger and Rosa lived in was rented by Memmet and Iten and their two sons. They were also Turk, part of the immigrant population in Germany at the time that performed the low-skill labor jobs, much like how Mexicans work in our country today. When the middle level apartment opened, Ger helped my spouse and I rent it. We all lived together, for the next two years, in a setting much like a commune. We shared child-rearing chores and ate many meals together. He had my back, more than a few times, and I his. At the end of Ramadan one year, the Turks brought home a lamb which they kept in the basement for the traditional feast held at the end of the holiday. The Turkish men butchered the lamb in the basement and used my Weber grill to cook it. At the end of the feast, they put the skull of the lamb on the grill for slow roasting, the cooking of a delicacy: lamb brains. An image I’ll take to my grave is the children, my 3-year-old daughter included, taking great delight in sticking their fingers through the eye sockets and scooping out brains for tasting. There was a small courtyard outside the building where we spent many a night staying up late, drinking beer and enjoying each other’s company. Ger and I also shared a love of beer and The Beatles. We’d often meet outside, after the wives and kids were asleep, and polish off a case of beer while listening to the radio. While this pastime was so much fun, I’m afraid it didn’t do either of us much good. Besides being a good friend and translator, Ger was an excellent storyteller and he could keep me, and company, enthralled for hours. Like all great story tellers, he managed to weave truth with fiction to come up with the most fantastic tales. His father was an intelligence agent with the British army, who was dropped behind German lines during WWII. His mother was in the French Resistance. Ger was born a multi-national with citizenship nowhere and everywhere. Once, he disappeared, after a late night bout of drinking, and reappeared a day later, hung over, and telling a tale of being kidnapped by Russian intelligence agents out to settle some old score with his parents. The story almost convinced me, but it didn’t fly with Rosa and he spent the next week in the dog house. It was hard to stay mad at Ger long, and Rosa, a good-hearted woman in love with a good timing man, eventually forgave him. I transferred from Bamber to Fort Knox in 1979. Ger stayed on in Germany for many more years, first as a soldier and later as a DA civilian. We met up again in the mid-1980s when the National Guard unit I was serving in was sent to Graffenwoehr for the annual war games called Reforger. I had only 72 hours, but we spent the three days pretty much without sleeping, visiting the friends and places we knew from earlier days. He visited me once in Solon during Beef Days. Sabra and I stopped and visited him in his home near Cincinnati once but all in all we sort of drifted apart. While my health stayed good (knock on wood), Ger’s declined as he suffered a stroke and heart ailments. On Oct. 6, he suffered one last massive and fatal heart attack. In the morning I’ll drive to Ohio to participate in a celebration of life. If you happen to be having a glass of beer sometime, please offer a toast to my old Army buddy, Ger.

Ger Wood was my best, and closest, friend for three years starting in 1976.
We were assigned to the Warner Kaserne, a U.S. military community of 10,000 in Bamberg, Germany.
I was in charge of the post’s newspaper and Ger was the coordinator for Kontakt, a German/American friendship club sponsored by the military to promote better relations between Americans and Germans.
It was the perfect job for Ger. Besides being charismatic and gregarious, he was fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, German, French and Turkish. And I mean fluent: when he talked with people in their native tongue, they assumed he was from their native country. Beside those five, he was also partially fluent in several other languages. Everyone loved Ger because his personality and ability to speak their language made them feel at home.
As the editor of the post’s newspaper, we worked together many times.
At the time, video recording equipment was just coming online and we talked the post’s commander into authorizing us to make a welcome video to be shown to new personnel assigned to the post. Ger and I schlepped all over the place with a couple of hundred pounds of video equipment in the back of a sedan. We wanted to get some good footage of Bamberg’s impressive ancient city center.
To get a good vantage point for filming, Ger talked the foreman of a construction crew, working on a thousand-year-old cathedral, into letting us climb a half dozen stories up the scaffolding set up beside the church.
Another time, we were having a beer and we struck up a conversation with an elderly German man who was impressed with Ger’s German. He invited us to his club room which turned out to be a fraternity of German soldiers that dated back centuries. On the walls were souvenirs and medals from battles dating back into antiquity. There were maces, battle axes, Luger pistols, Iron Crosses and even Swastikas.
We were also together after work. Ger and his spouse Rosa lived on the first floor of a three-level flat of apartments about a mile from post. Rosa was from Turkey.
The third floor of the building Ger and Rosa lived in was rented by Memmet and Iten and their two sons. They were also Turk, part of the immigrant population in Germany at the time that performed the low-skill labor jobs, much like how Mexicans work in our country today.
When the middle level apartment opened, Ger helped my spouse and I rent it. We all lived together, for the next two years, in a setting much like a commune. We shared child-rearing chores and ate many meals together.
He had my back, more than a few times, and I his.
At the end of Ramadan one year, the Turks brought home a lamb which they kept in the basement for the traditional feast held at the end of the holiday.
The Turkish men butchered the lamb in the basement and used my Weber grill to cook it. At the end of the feast, they put the skull of the lamb on the grill for slow roasting, the cooking of a delicacy: lamb brains.
An image I’ll take to my grave is the children, my 3-year-old daughter included, taking great delight in sticking their fingers through the eye sockets and scooping out brains for tasting.
There was a small courtyard outside the building where we spent many a night staying up late, drinking beer and enjoying each other’s company.
Ger and I also shared a love of beer and The Beatles. We’d often meet outside, after the wives and kids were asleep, and polish off a case of beer while listening to the radio. While this pastime was so much fun, I’m afraid it didn’t do either of us much good.
Besides being a good friend and translator, Ger was an excellent storyteller and he could keep me, and company, enthralled for hours. Like all great story tellers, he managed to weave truth with fiction to come up with the most fantastic tales. His father was an intelligence agent with the British army, who was dropped behind German lines during WWII. His mother was in the French Resistance. Ger was born a multi-national with citizenship nowhere and everywhere.
Once, he disappeared, after a late night bout of drinking, and reappeared a day later, hung over, and telling a tale of being kidnapped by Russian intelligence agents out to settle some old score with his parents. The story almost convinced me, but it didn’t fly with Rosa and he spent the next week in the dog house.
It was hard to stay mad at Ger long, and Rosa, a good-hearted woman in love with a good timing man, eventually forgave him.
I transferred from Bamber to Fort Knox in 1979.
Ger stayed on in Germany for many more years, first as a soldier and later as a DA civilian.
We met up again in the mid-1980s when the National Guard unit I was serving in was sent to Graffenwoehr for the annual war games called Reforger. I had only 72 hours, but we spent the three days pretty much without sleeping, visiting the friends and places we knew from earlier days. He visited me once in Solon during Beef Days. Sabra and I stopped and visited him in his home near Cincinnati once but all in all we sort of drifted apart.
While my health stayed good (knock on wood), Ger’s declined as he suffered a stroke and heart ailments. On Oct. 6, he suffered one last massive and fatal heart attack.
In the morning I’ll drive to Ohio to participate in a celebration of life. If you happen to be having a glass of beer sometime, please offer a toast to my old Army buddy, Ger.