By Layla Connelly
Leonard Schwartz is my grandfather, and in my eyes the best grandfather a girl can have. He was born September 27, 1919 in The Bronx, New York. He has lived through many decades and has accomplished so much in his life. He has a remarkable sense of humor and positive attitude, he always finds a way to make me laugh. He has maintained several careers over his lifetime, and is a very hard-working man. He is also a major part of our country's history. My grandfather was in the United States Coast Guard during World War II and fought the Japanese; he often reminiscences about his time in the service, and about Pearl Harbor. He is my very own hero.
My grandfather not only served in one of the most significant and historical wars our country has ever had. His time in the service was spent as a gunner’s mate on the Hunter Ligget ship; he served for 5 years. While he was enlisted, the Navy took the Coast Guard over, making him part of the Navy as well. Leonard Schwarz also held many jobs, aside from being a Veteran. One can say he’s done it all. He was a truck driver for a long period of time; he woke up at 4 am every morning and traveled for hours to make a living to provide for his family. He was also a cab driver and bartender. I think, above all, his most successful role was being a grandfather, because he is great at it.
Lenny, as everyone refers to him, was one of four children. He had two brothers and one sister. He was born and raised in The Bronx near The Bronx Zoo, on Elder Avenue. He was sitting in front of the zoo on a sunny day in the 1930’s with a few of his friends when he saw a pretty girl ride by on a bike. When the girl rode by, he turned to his friend and said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” That pretty girl was my grandmother, Lillian. Now, that’s what I call love at first sight. My grandparents' love story is what I would call a true love story. Love at first sight and true love seems so far-fetched to me, especially in our day and age, and seems as if it’s a thing of the past, but it makes me believe it really is possible.
Soon after being honorably discharged from the Navy, Lenny married Lilly. My grandparents were married for 45 years, and would still be married today if she was still alive. My grandmother lost her battle with cancer a year before I was born and my grandfather supported her and took care of her the best he could. My grandfather speaks of her daily and always says I remind him so much of her. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but from what I’ve heard she was elegant and classy, so if I am indeed anything like her I would be flattered.
They went on to have three children, my aunt, uncle, and mom. He was a great father to all three; even though they have all passed on, my grandpa keeps their memories alive today. It is hard to truly comprehend how strong a man he is. It is always hard to lose a loved one, especially a child, but to lose three may be unbearable for some. This is when he became my rock. My grandfather was always and still is a huge part of my life, but throughout the hard times I’ve endured over the past years, he’s really been the biggest supporter I have had. He is my shoulder to lean on whenever I may need one.
My grandfather is quite the remarkable man. He can tell stories for days and is an inspiration to me and to several other people. His dedication is respectable and significant. His strength is motivational to me each and every day. He is a hero and I wouldn’t be who I am without him.
Layla Connelly is a Psychology major at St. Thomas Aquinas College.