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World War II picture has special place in area veteran’s heart

February 21, 2013
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer (rprusi@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - The photo was taken nonchalantly one day in 1944, when four Marquette High School friends crossed paths in Florida after joining the military right after graduation during World War II.

In the photo, hands are being shaken as the four grin broadly, clearly enjoying their little reunion.

Joe Drobny gets a little misty when he looks at the photo now. He's one of the young men in the photo along with Bill Desormier, Jarl Kivela and Bill Hart.

Article Photos

These Marquette High School Class of 1944 members reunited later that year in Florida, after joining the military. From the left: Bill Desormier, Joe Drobny, Jarl Kivela and Bill Hart. (Photo courtesy of Joe Drobny)

"That picture means an awful lot to me," Drobny said. "I had one made up for each of the guys a few years back and they loved it."

Hart and Kivela have passed away and Desormier is a resident at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

"I'm the only one up and around now, though sometimes I feel like one foot is on a banana peel," said Drobny, now 86.

Fact Box

Drobny is an Honor Flight vet

By RENEE PRUSI

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Joe Drobny was one of the World War II veterans who took part in Mission III of Upper Peninsula Honor Flight back in September.

"I hope all the veterans get to make the trip," he said.

Another contingent will be on its way May 1 when Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Mission IV takes off.

Honor Flight takes WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial in their honor as well as a number of other landmarks. This edition will leave from Delta County Airport, Escanaba, at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 1. Approximately 75 veterans and their guardians will visit the memorials in Washington, D.C. and return home that evening at 8:30 p.m. If anyone is interested in going on the Honor Flight, or would like further information, call 906-280-1471.

Anyone wishing to make a donation may send it to: Upper Peninsula Honor Flight, c/o Community Foundation of the Upper Peninsula, 2420 1st Avenue, South, Suite 101, Escanaba, MI 49829.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.

The four were members of the Marquette High School class of 1944. Drobny and Hart joined the Navy while Kivela and Desormier became soldiers in the U.S. Army.

"I enlisted in the radio tech program and became an aviation electrician's mate," Drobny said. "I was in Jacksonville (Florida) and one day they were marching us back and forth in training when Bill (Hart) was standing there and said 'Hey Joe' to me. They let me step out of line to talk to him."

Soon, the duo was traveling into town together during time off. One day they met up with Kivela and Desormier at the boomtown near Camp Blanding, Fla.

"Bill (Desormier) and Jarl had joined the Army together. Bill Hart and I found out they were at Camp Blanding, so we took a bus down there and spent the day together," Drobny said. "That's when the photo was taken. It was the most homesick I ever was.

"That was a very special day. We didn't see each after that until the war was over."

But Hart and Drobny did get to spend time together.

"We were on liberty together a lot," Drobny said. "I remember one Saturday night going out and it was a sea of uniforms. There were guys from the Navy, from the Marines, from the Coast Guard out. The streets were awash with uniforms.

"Bill and I tried to pick up a couple of girls. They said they'd call the Shore Patrol if we didn't leave them alone. 'We hate sailors' they said to us," he chuckled. "Some other sailors must have given them a bad time."

Drobny made about $50 a month, but had much of that sent to his mother back in Marquette.

"I was broke most of the time. So was Bill," he said. "I remember one time we had gone into Jacksonville. Bill had nothing left and I had eight cents. I threw the eight cents away and said 'now we're both broke.' Problem was, we were still 16 miles from where we had to be."

Another sailor came along and offered the pair a ride back to base - on his motorcycle.

"The three of us got on. This was during blackout, mind you, so it was dark," he said. "I rode on the fender through a mangrove swamp.

"We had some adventures."

As he looks back on that era, Drobny is struck by something.

"When I was born in the 1920s, we were 60 years past the Civil War," he said. "Now we're 60 years past the time I served during World War II. That's amazing to me. Time goes by so quickly."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is MARQUETTE - The photo was taken nonchalantly one day in 1944, when four Marquette High School friends crossed paths in Florida after joining the military right after graduation during World War II.

In the photo, hands are being shaken as the four grin broadly, clearly enjoying their little reunion.

Joe Drobny gets a little misty when he looks at the photo now. He's one of the young men in the photo along with Bill Desormier, Jarl Kivela and Bill Hart.

"That picture means an awful lot to me," Drobny said. "I had one made up for each of the guys a few years back and they loved it."

Hart and Kivela have passed away and Desormier is a resident at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

"I'm the only one up and around now, though sometimes I feel like one foot is on a banana peel," said Drobny, now 86.

The four were members of the Marquette High School class of 1944. Drobny and Hart joined the Navy while Kivela and Desormier became soldiers in the U.S. Army.

"I enlisted in the radio tech program and became an aviation electrician's mate," Drobny said. "I was in Jacksonville (Florida) and one day they were marching us back and forth in training when Bill (Hart) was standing there and said 'Hey Joe' to me. They let me step out of line to talk to him."

Soon, the duo was traveling into town together during time off. One day they met up with Kivela and Desormier at the boomtown near Camp Blanding, Fla.

"Bill (Desormier) and Jarl had joined the Army together. Bill Hart and I found out they were at Camp Blanding, so we took a bus down there and spent the day together," Drobny said. "That's when the photo was taken. It was the most homesick I ever was.

"That was a very special day. We didn't see each after that until the war was over."

But Hart and Drobny did get to spend time together.

"We were on liberty together a lot," Drobny said. "I remember one Saturday night going out and it was a sea of uniforms. There were guys from the Navy, from the Marines, from the Coast Guard out. The streets were awash with uniforms.

"Bill and I tried to pick up a couple of girls. They said they'd call the Shore Patrol if we didn't leave them alone. 'We hate sailors' they said to us," he chuckled. "Some other sailors must have given them a bad time."

Drobny made about $50 a month, but had much of that sent to his mother back in Marquette.

"I was broke most of the time. So was Bill," he said. "I remember one time we had gone into Jacksonville. Bill had nothing left and I had eight cents. I threw the eight cents away and said 'now we're both broke.' Problem was, we were still 16 miles from where we had to be."

Another sailor came along and offered the pair a ride back to base - on his motorcycle.

"The three of us got on. This was during blackout, mind you, so it was dark," he said. "I rode on the fender through a mangrove swamp.

"We had some adventures."

As he looks back on that era, Drobny is struck by something.

"When I was born in the 1920s, we were 60 years past the Civil War," he said. "Now we're 60 years past the time I served during World War II. That's amazing to me. Time goes by so quickly."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal.net.MARQUETTE - The photo was taken nonchalantly one day in 1944, when four Marquette High School friends crossed paths in Florida after joining the military right after graduation during World War II.

In the photo, hands are being shaken as the four grin broadly, clearly enjoying their little reunion.

Joe Drobny gets a little misty when he looks at the photo now. He's one of the young men in the photo along with Bill Desormier, Jarl Kivela and Bill Hart.

"That picture means an awful lot to me," Drobny said. "I had one made up for each of the guys a few years back and they loved it."

Hart and Kivela have passed away and Desormier is a resident at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

"I'm the only one up and around now, though sometimes I feel like one foot is on a banana peel," said Drobny, now 86.

The four were members of the Marquette High School class of 1944. Drobny and Hart joined the Navy while Kivela and Desormier became soldiers in the U.S. Army.

"I enlisted in the radio tech program and became an aviation electrician's mate," Drobny said. "I was in Jacksonville (Florida) and one day they were marching us back and forth in training when Bill (Hart) was standing there and said 'Hey Joe' to me. They let me step out of line to talk to him."

Soon, the duo was traveling into town together during time off. One day they met up with Kivela and Desormier at the boomtown near Camp Blanding, Fla.

"Bill (Desormier) and Jarl had joined the Army together. Bill Hart and I found out they were at Camp Blanding, so we took a bus down there and spent the day together," Drobny said. "That's when the photo was taken. It was the most homesick I ever was.

"That was a very special day. We didn't see each after that until the war was over."

But Hart and Drobny did get to spend time together.

"We were on liberty together a lot," Drobny said. "I remember one Saturday night going out and it was a sea of uniforms. There were guys from the Navy, from the Marines, from the Coast Guard out. The streets were awash with uniforms.

"Bill and I tried to pick up a couple of girls. They said they'd call the Shore Patrol if we didn't leave them alone. 'We hate sailors' they said to us," he chuckled. "Some other sailors must have given them a bad time."

Drobny made about $50 a month, but had much of that sent to his mother back in Marquette.

"I was broke most of the time. So was Bill," he said. "I remember one time we had gone into Jacksonville. Bill had nothing left and I had eight cents. I threw the eight cents away and said 'now we're both broke.' Problem was, we were still 16 miles from where we had to be."

Another sailor came along and offered the pair a ride back to base - on his motorcycle.

"The three of us got on. This was during blackout, mind you, so it was dark," he said. "I rode on the fender through a mangrove swamp.

"We had some adventures."

As he looks back on that era, Drobny is struck by something.

"When I was born in the 1920s, we were 60 years past the Civil War," he said. "Now we're 60 years past the time I served during World War II. That's amazing to me. Time goes by so quickly."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.

 
 

 

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