Editor’s note: Michael Pevsner of Massapequa Park recently earned first place in Anton Community Newspapers and Cockpit USA’s essay contest about military heroes. Pevsner submitted the following essay about his grandfather, Private First Class Harold Hibler, who served in WWII, in the Army’s 101st Infantry. Hibler was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart for his actions. Hibler was discharged in 1945. He passed away on Aug. 23, 2008.
My grandfather’s last thoughts could have been…of shrieking bullets overhead and seeing his young comrades so alive one moment, covered in blood the next during the Battle of the Bulge. It could have been leaving school at so early an age, taking any job to earn what wages he could to support his family during the Great Depression. It could have been of his private war with heart disease, finally succumbing after a valiant struggle. I hope, however, that my grandfather’s last thoughts were of the family he created and the loving legacy he left us all.
Harold Hibler, PFC, was a man of integrity, hard work, and thrift. A decorated war hero who survived the Battle of the Bulge, went on to work his entire life, and still found time for his family. A man whose biggest desire in the world was to see his children and grandchildren receive the education that he did not have the chance to get, and to see them benefit from his lifetime of dedicated work. One who is remembered as a role model, a man whom I am proud to call my grandfather.
One of my grandfather’s core values was hard work. As a child of the Depression, and a man who constantly worked from the age of 18, until he was 83, at jobs ranging from selling papers in the streets of Brooklyn, to owning a gas station supply shop in Queens. He held a serious work ethic in the highest regard, and that was not lost on me. He encouraged me to challenge myself and not waste a moment, goals I am reaching now by maintaining grades in four AP classes, working two jobs, and devoting countless hours of my time to my school’s Key Club; organizing events, collecting money for UNICEF, ringing the Salvation Army bell in December and running my school’s Key Club website.
All of these things gave my grandfather pride in me, and continue to give me pride in myself. My grandfather took me to work with him in Queens all of the time; more recently, he congratulated me on my first official job, at Massapequa News. Shortly after that, he called me from the hospital, while he had his own matters to deal with, to congratulate me on getting yet another job, at CVS.
The last material object I showed my grandfather was my first pay stub from CVS. Never have I seen anyone smile as brightly.
Another virtue my grandfather bestowed upon me was that of prudence. Again, as he was a child of the Depression-era, waste was not tolerable in his house. He firmly believed that one man’s refuse was another’s treasure, and on my own scavenger hunts through his basement, I have found vintage designer clothes, license plates, car parts, tools and even a portable record player, most of which he saved from the misfortune of spending eternity in a landfill. He was more resourceful than a Hollywood spy, and I inherited that sense. I have always followed after him in being careful not to throw away something that can be useful a second time, especially if that something can bring back memories or be resold as a collectible.
One of my hobbies is collecting sneakers; my grandfather always wanted to see me sell a pair of rare sneakers for more than what I paid. Looking now at the values of some sneakers that I have accumulated, if I had the heart to part with a pair, I could do just that, turn my sneaker collection into an investment. Beyond that, among my most treasured possessions are random little journals and notebooks that my grandfather got as souvenirs from stores, business contacts, and promotions, each signed “love always”, that now house both memories of him and my written words spanning from the moment I was able to write, to present day.
My grandfather was, and still is, a role model. The things I hold closest to my heart are the wealth of memories I have of him and the lessons and characteristics he passed on to me.