It dawned on me as Bert Hurn sat in my office last week that being a member of the graduating class of 1942 came with far more than just a diploma.

And for many who graduated from high school that year, the walk across the stage, the handshake, the exchange of paper was all a blur compared to the call of duty during World War II. It was like that for many of Hurn’s friends — some never returned, and others never were the same after they did return.

Hurn, 89, a member of the Neosho High School class of 1942, visited me just a few days after the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy, France.

The attorney and former judge came bearing a copy of our newspaper from June 6. He appeared to be a man on a mission.

I later realized he was a man still trying to say thank you.

Hurn, much to his dismay, was unable to get into active duty during World War II because of a medical condition. But he told me he never forgot the sacrifice of his friends. He brought the newspaper because he wanted to reference the day and what it cost his graduating class.

Then he told me his visit to the Globe had nothing to do with himself or his own story. He was following up on a project commissioned by the surviving alumni of the class of ’42. His class had plaques made to pay tribute to the “Greatest Generation.” He pointed out that the class members, in addition to the soldiers of World War II, also wanted to pay tribute to those who had contributed to the Space Age.

He asked if perhaps our paper could shine a spotlight on this endeavor. At a recent class reunion, members of the class chose a poem that Hurn had written and had it mounted on plaques that have now been placed at the Newton County Courthouse, Neosho High School and Neosho City Hall. Another plaque was made and recently presented to the Neosho Center for Seniors.

I respectfully pass along the words engraved on these plaques:

The Best Bequest

Here’s to those generations;

All those of World War Two,

Who sought the best,

Who did not rest,

And to that quest were true.

Who rose from the depression,

And — battle flags unfurled —

Our foes o’erthrew,

And built our new

And better, brighter world.

Who brought the whole world closer

To that day when it can

Hear freedom ring

And time can bring

The parliament of man.

Who split and tamed the atom,

Who put man on the moon,

Who won the race

In outer space,

While whistling happy tunes.

Who taught us with their courage:

Things man can’t do are few.

Man may traverse

This universe!

No less a quest will do.

Who thus called out the challenge,

Full-measured and sublime:

“See you, with zest,

The very best,

Throughout all life and time.”

This awesome admonition,

This best bequest of all,

This torch is there,

For all who care,

For all who heed the call.

To give to life their finest;

To keep the torch held high;

To pass life’s test

And join that best

Reunion in the sky!

The clarion call we’ve heeded:

The torch we shall hold high,

Through joy and tears,

Through all the years,

And join them in the sky,

And never say goodbye ...

And never say goodbye ...

And never say goodbye ...

 

—Presented by Neosho High School Alumni, Class of ‘42 Shirl D. Davidson, president Bert C. Hurn, author

 Members of Hurn’s generation — those who still remain with us — continue to live up to their title of “greatest.” It’s part of the responsibility they accepted many years ago.

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email cstark@joplinglobe.com.

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