George Douglas Gdovin [1924-1995]
Of the family members I’ve profiled thus far, this is the first person I’ve met. My maternal grandfather, George Douglas Gdovin was born at home on Van Everett Street in Akron, Ohio 92 years ago today.George was the father to my mother Constance Ellen Gdovin Gardner [b. 1952] and 5 other children (3 boys and 2 girls).
At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Navy at Wilkes Barre, PA and was promptly sent to the United States Naval Radio Training School in Moscow, Idaho. From there he was a Radioman 1st Class Specialist stationed on LST-931, a LST-542 Class Tank Landing Ship which was commissioned in August of 1944 and saw action at the Battle of Okinawa as well as the Battle of Iwo Jima.
In 1990 he would take a cruise as part of an LST-931 reunion, and he spoke of it fondly in handwritten notes he took at the time:
The tone was set – we were all one again – we were all together again in the womb of that LST931 where we would live 2-and-a-half years during the South Pacific’s bloodiest battles. We were one again…
This feeling — THIS FEELING — came to me during the final banquet- a going-home celebration for the crew of LST931. After the dinner and jokes and some more stories it was time for MC Capt Brennan to cap the reunion with acknowledgment of the entire crew.
And befitting as it were, Captain Brennan, standing tall at the podium, joshing verbally those fortunate enough to have been part of this collective memory that brought us here in Norfolk to be a part of.
Captain Brennan pushed his ‘half granny glasses’ to the top of his nose and with a solemn air drew close to the microphone. As if by signal, or by a pre-knowing, or some such collective, the room full of chattering crew, family and friends began quickly to become quiet — silenced — all eyes, all beats, all emotions focused on Captain Brennan. Adjusting, once again, the stubborn glasses, quietly he began. In a soft, well-modulated voice, breaking once or twice during the ‘roll call’ of those shipmates. Roll call for those who would never answer to the call of their name…
I recalled a poem that I had studied long ago in one of my high school classics; it seemed to fit. “I’d not give room for an Emperor – I’d hold my road for a King. To the Triple Crown I’d not bow down – But this is a different thing!”
Goodbye, my friends.
LST-931 in Okinawa, 1945. Photo by PhotoLibrarian on Flickr.
George (on the lower left) and what is likely the crew of LST-931
His expertise was in Morse Code and used a signal light to communicate to other ships. After a brief stint in the Korean Conflict (records are harder to come by), he began a life with Miriam Grace Tabor Gdovin [1927-1988].
In the 50’s he was employed by The Denver & Rio Grande Railway as a radio maintainer and decided to get his pilot’s license in 1961. According to daughter Constance Ellen Gdovin Gardner [b. 1952]:
Mom was his first passenger on his first solo flight. Men always wore white dress shirts when flying small planes and just before your first solo, they cut off one of the “tails” on the dress shirt and put them in a book that was in the lobby of Walker Field.
He became interested in the “radios” and electronics on small planes. He put himself thru rigorous training in Denver for weeks at a time and in GJ to get his electronics certificate to work on small plane electronics.
For several years, he worked full time at the railroad (until he got his 20 years in for retirement) and also worked at Walker Field part time working on the electronics, radios and transformers on small planes. He flew almost everyday, using the excuse that he had to test the radios etc to make sure they worked after he installed new ones or repaired old ones.
Almost every Sunday, he took Mom and Jay and Mark, Larry and me flying over Grand Junction and the mountains. It was great fun for all – except me. I puked almost the entire time.
He was a genius, a philosopher, photographer, poet. He is missed dearly.