A Memorial Day Poem


Perhaps the old Marine,
who seldom seems to follow
our conversation this night,
is not lost at all.

Perhaps he prefers to remember islands
stormed when he was young,
and speak with friends
who did not return but visit him still.

His wife is more focused,
stealing glances at a vibrant woman nearby,
certain they would have been friends
in another world, a different time

but the warrior’s wife is tired, too,
for it takes a courage different than his –
but courage nonetheless –
to care for this Marine she loves.

Bill McNabb, 1925 – 2015, USMC, South Pacific, WWII
Catherine Verschoor Neely McNabb, 1925 – 2018, Home Front


Cassie and Bill’s story is a great one. They met at Central High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and fell in love. Bill was a year older than my mom. Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II and Bill graduated early so he could join the Marines. He fought through the Solomon Islands in combat as brutal as any during that war.

Bill and Cassie have different versions as to what happened to their love. Bill claimed my mom sent him a ‘Dear John’ letter, while Cassie insisted Bill had a girlfriend in every port. Whatever the truth – and it was probably somewhere in between – they both married other people after the war and had good lives. My dad, Ralph Neely, Jr., considered Bill a friend and asked him to serve as a groomsman when Ralph and Cassie were married. Bill and his wife established their lives in the Seattle area, while Cassie and Ralph stayed largely in Michigan. The two couples kept in touch and visited occasionally over the years.

Fast forward about 55 years. My father had died and my mother was recovering from a short-lived and unhappy second marriage. Bill’s wife had also died. Bill called to check on Cassie and one thing led to another; within a year they were married. I think Cassie was 74 when they married and I remember her telling me, “If we can just have 5 good years together, we’ll be happy.” Cassie moved to Seattle and they had 17 years together. Their final two or three years together were marred by health problems, but they were always glad to be in each other’s company. They were always in love, and we should all be so fortunate.

Cassie and Bill at a cafe in Europe
(Austria, as I recall).

And until next week . . .

I told my wife
a lot of recovering alcoholics 
smoke cigarettes like crazy,
or drink coffee all day long.

And some write poems, 
she observed.
And some write poems.

Subscribe to be notified of new posts by email; it’s free.
Leave a comment so I know you were here,
and please share this blog with a friend.

(Email may be delivered to a spam or social media folder.)

A New Poem Every Monday
(tho’ sometimes life gets in the way)

Joseph Neely, all rights reserved 2023.