I’ve been a little remiss in getting this post together as Harold died two years ago today. I actually began writing it shortly after he died, but I knew that Teddy Bertone would feel heartsick to read about the death of yet another of his shipmates—he was already feeling blue at the time knowing that there were so few still alive. So I held off and held off and held off, thinking that the first anniversary of his death would be a good time to post. But then, the day before that anniversary, Teddy died. It was a bit much.
Because of Harold’s failing health in the last couple of years, I never got to talk to him, although I’d exchanged numerous texts with one of his daughters, Fawn, and spoke once with his wife, Jean. Fawn told me that she had begun to record conversations with him about his naval service, and because my dad said so little about his time in the Navy, I encouraged her to keep at it.
One interesting thing about Harold is that while he was born in Milltown, Delaware, he grew up in Wilmington, a little over three miles from where the Zircon was built—as a yacht for Frederick J. Fisher by Pusey & Jones—when Harold was three years old.
He enlisted just prior to turning 18, on 10 May 1944, the day before the YF-415 disaster, and coincidentally, sixteen years to the day before Fawn was born. In 1950, he married Jean, and they raised their four daughters—Fawn, Nancy, Kimberly, and Gail—not far from his childhood home.
After I contacted Fawn, and she and Nancy joined the Zircon Facebook group, and they shared how Harold treasured his time in the Navy, but particularly his time aboard the Zircon. The walls of their home are adorned with photos of the Zircon and a framed calligraphic version of the Zircon’s history. His love and pride of service was in such stark contrast to my dad’s tight-lipped attitude about his Navy days. Which is not to say that he neither loved nor was proud of his time in the Navy—I just wouldn’t have known one way or the other. (As I’ve mentioned previously, besides my parents’ wedding photos in which he wore his Navy Blues, there were very few reminders in the house of Dad’s Navy service.)
A Seaman, Second Class (S2c), Harold, was received aboard the Zircon on 1 August 1944 and was transferred to the PC-1087 on 25 January 1945, the same day my dad was transferred to the YMS-75. While it’s highly improbable, I like to think that they walked down the gang plank one last time together.
One of the texts I’d received from Fawn included a link to an interview she did just a few months before Harold died with retired Army veteran and author Paul Holbert, who regularly writes and video-blogs about veterans affairs. The first eight minutes of the interview is mostly pleasantries, with the discussion about Harold and his service essentially beginning at the 8:20 mark.
Of all the people I’ve spoken with since beginning this project, Teddy and Harold both seemed to have had a special affection for the USS Zircon.
Here’s a little more about Harold, taken from his obituary:
[Harold] apprenticed with T.T. Weldin & Sons in sheet metal and advanced his skills in the service. When he was discharged from the Navy, Harold finished his training and became a master sheet metal mechanic and contractor. In 1973 he opened Pencader Contractors, specializing in customized fabrication with his nephew, Harry A. Horn. Harold was a “Chevy” guy, loved NASCAR racing, and was a dedicated fan of Dale Earnhardt. In 2004, at the age of 78, he had the opportunity to drive around the Monster Mile track at Dover Downs.