My grandparents, Ashton and Phillis Harvey, were caretakers of the "Detroit Hunt and Fish Club" in South Branch, MI. for over 30 yrs. This is a private club for some very wealthy and high profile members, who come from Detroit and the upper class suburbs.

It's also the place where I spent most of my summers as a kid. One of the members was an elderly man.. Cardinal John Francis Dearden from Detroit. He would come up to the club in the off season, when the children were in school....virtually guaranteeing peace and quiet during his stay. LOL

I was about 11 years old when I was visiting my grandparents and Cardinal Dearden was there on a mini vacation to do some fishing on the private lake that was located about 1000 feet in front of the lodge. My grandmother introduced me to him while he quietly ate his lunch before going down to the lake to fish. He was a gentle old man and very pleasent to talk to.

 After the Cardinal finished his lunch, my grandmother told me to go down to the lake and get a row boat ready for him. I prepared the boat like she asked.

John walked over to me and said, "Jim, do you fish?" I of course replied, "Yes Sir!" He said, "Would you like to go fishing with me?" Grandma warned me "NOT" to bother the Cardinal, but he was really nice, I said ...."OK".

So there I am sitting in a row boat fishing with Cardinal John Dearden not having a clue to who or what he was. I wasn't a Catholic so I didn't fully understand who he was. To me he was just a sweet old man I went fishing with when I was a kid.

About 6 years later...

At 17 I joined the Marine Corps and eventually went to Viet Nam (what was I thinking?)

I saw plenty of combat during my tour, as my job was to run Medivac missions. We had to go where the choppers could not or they would be shot down. I was a 19 yr. old Cpl. who just learned the meaning of the word, BULLSHIT.

As the crew chief on an amphibian tractor (Amtrac) we were always going in under fire to take out the wounded. We would bring them to the rear for transfer to a chopper for a ride back to a hospital. That was a scary time in my life for sure.

I joined the Marines believing in a just war only to realize...

I'd been had. We spent most of our time getting high on pot, to numb the fear we all felt inside, no matter how tough we thought we were. I never met anyone who was bullet proof. One afternoon, while there in the bush... living day to day, we finally got a long awaited "Mail Call". A letter from home was worth more than gold.

My grandmother sent me a St. Christopher's medal, scotch taped to a letter she wrote me. It said, "Sweetheart, I've enclosed a St. Christopher's medal that Cardinal Dearden has blessed". He said "Give this to my fishing buddy, Jim, and may God bring him home safe and sound".

Well, after my tour of duty ended, I came home..and not a scratch on me. I don't know if it was luck or the Cardinal's medal he blessed. Before I left Viet Nam, I told this same story to a buddy of mine who still had time to do in country. I took the medal off... and draped it around his neck. I said, "It worked for me, maybe it will work for you too. Promise me one thing, if you make it out of here alive.. please, pass it along to the next guy and so forth... keep the luck going until this damn war is over."

I never saw my Viet Nam buddy or Cardinal John Francis Dearden again... nor do I know what became of the St. Christopher's medal. But I will never forget that gentle old man ....and his fishing pole.....and I'm still here.

Jim :-)


Retro Kimmer said...

Thank you Jim for the guest post. What a story! So glad you made it out of there... Wonder where that medal ended up.


Betty said...

Nice story enjoyed it

Jim R said...

I just went to your site...really nice Kim.
Thanks for the kind words and posting my story.
That is NOT my grandfather..probably the current caretaker.

I was up to the club about 7 or 8 yrs. ago.

They painted the lodge with that hideous stain (paint?) which was done at least 10-15 yrs. after my grandfather's death.

The Amtrac you posted is the same type I was a crew chief on.

The gov. sold those old units to the Dutch Marines as the new models had just arrived in Nam (1969).

Those so called NEW Amtracs are the ones presently being used in Iraq today.

Do the math..those kids are driving equipment more than twice their age.

Here's another fact.
"C rations" have a date stamped on them. In 1969 I was eating "C Rats" dated in 1945.

They were still good too....except for the beans and franks..LOL.

Jim :-)

Gary Lillie said...

Hi Jim,

While doing a search for more information on the Detroit Hunt & Fish Club I found your post. My name is Gary Lillie and I am the real estate broker who has it listed for sale www.svnlillie.com That's me in the photo walking up to the lodge.
I would like to learn more of the history of the club, as you know it. Please email me at gary.lillie@svn.com
By the way: Welcome Home, brother.
Gary Lillie
Delta Co., MCB3
Chu Lai, RVN '66

Retro Kimmer said...

Thqanks for letting me know about the photo Gary and I forwarded your message on to Jim

Anonymous said...

Jim is now the Patriarch of our family. He is the eldest of the cousins and I'm one of the youngest. We're more like brothers though. It's a shame that exposure to Nam chemicals is making my best friend sick. I hope that this can be controlled and alleviated with modern medicine. Cardinal Deardon crossed paths with our family again. My sister Mary cleaned his teeth for years before she became a periodontist. I hope that metal was passed and is still passed today. The best of the best wore it. --Jim O'Hara. (Not Anonymous)

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