Ted Homdrom of St. Paul rode in Jan Meyer’s car for the neighborhood Fourth of July parade. PHOTO COURTESY OF REP. BETTY MCCULLOM’S OFFICE
Ted Homdrom of St. Paul rode in Jan Meyer’s car for the neighborhood Fourth of July parade. PHOTO COURTESY OF REP. BETTY MCCULLOM’S OFFICE
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The Fourth of July has come and gone again. It is my favorite of all holidays. A regular activity for me on the Fourth is to drive my little car in the short parade in my old St. Paul neighborhood.
First thing in the morning, I get the car out and wash it, so it will be shining and fresh for the big event. This time, I had accomplished that, and decided to go out front and see if I could get my parade unit number and also find out who would be my rider this time. This is easy to do because the parade lines up right in front of our St. Paul place.
I was obviously too early because other than the signs with numbers directing parade units where to park, the street was deserted. Well, almost. There were two adults and two kids with bikes, standing on the sidewalk outside the church next door. Of course I had to talk to them, and I found out they thought the parade started at 8 a.m., and that they must have missed the whole thing. This was their first year living in the neighborhood, having come here from Tanzania.
I asked the children if they were there to ride their bikes in the parade, but being new they didn’t know about it. Each year the kids decorate their bikes and the family dog, and gather in the driveways of the gas station. When the end of the parade passes by, they join in and become the last unit, of course to great applause from the crowds along the way.
I asked the children, Akiza and Devin Sospeter, if they wanted to join in, and if they did, I thought I could find a few patriotic bike decorations. Of course that sounded like great fun to them, so I ran back inside and found two small flags, some red flowers, and some red, white and blue “sprays” usually used for table decorations. There was a stars-and-stripes patterned bandana. I added a scissors and some tape to the bag for attaching things to the bikes.
Devin latched onto the two small flags, and really didn’t want to share them. I told Akiza that I thought I had another flag in my car and it was a little bigger. So, if she would like one bigger flag, Devin could keep the two smaller ones. That was fine with her, and I went to find it. Soon they were busy putting various items on their bikes so they could be ready for the parade.
While I was talking to their mother, Rael, our neighbor Ted Homdrom came outside and joined us. He was wearing his Honor Flight shirt; he had been on one this spring. I mentioned the shirt, and he said he was going to walk in the parade. I asked if he was walking with anyone and he said he was not.
About that time, the table giving out parade unit numbers opened up, so I walked across the street to get mine. To make the long story short, my name and car were not on the list! So, I asked if Ted could ride with me. After some discussion and the parade volunteers quickly making two signs for the car announcing “Ted Homdrom, World War II vet,” we were assigned the second spot in the parade, right behind the color guard.
Ted was a 1941 graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, and was drafted in early 1942. He transferred from an armored division into the Army Air Corps, was commissioned and became a B-17 navigator. He flew 30 bombing missions and achieved the rank of captain. After earning many medals and his discharge, he went to what he described as his “next missions in life: graduate school, marriage, seminary training and 35 years as a missionary in South America.”
After retiring in 1985 and moving back to Minnesota, Homdrom wrote his first book, “Mission Memories: World War II.” Reviewers described it as “an unadorned account of an 8th Air Force experience over Europe. It deserves wider attention….”
Not one to ever really retire, Homdrom compiled a second one, “Mission Memories: In Apartheid South Africa.” In that book, he describes his many experiences from 1950 to 1985, battling against apartheid and getting to know people like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Both books are available from Ted Homdrom at 2250 Luther Place #210, St. Paul MN 55108, for $15 (including tax and mailing).
Now, having just turned 96 years old, he was going to walk in the parade. I thought it would be more enjoyable for him — and for me — if he rode and had signs telling people who he was.
I needn’t have worried that people wouldn’t know him. All along the parade route, we heard people calling “Ted, Ted,” and, “Thanks for your service!”
Of course the signs on the car helped, but from his responses, I knew that he was already acquainted with many of them.
At the end of the parade, I pulled over to the curb at the park where the festivities would continue for the rest of the day. I turned around to Ted and said, “It certainly was a lot more fun having you ride in the car instead of the politicians I usually get! And it seems everybody knows Ted!”
His response: “Well, so many people were calling out my name and applauding. I think maybe I should run for office!”
So my Fourth of July was about as wonderful as it gets. When I saw Akiza and Devin Sospeter after the parade, they were pretty elated too. In fact, they told me something like they wished I could be their American grandmother. I said that maybe I could!
Ted, too, had a wonderful parade experience, maybe even a new career, and we’re hoping we can ride together again next year.
As Yaakov Polchis is fond of saying, “America! What a country!”