Of heroism and valor
I grew up with the Denny Dunivan story; a story of heroism and valor. It’s a once-in-a-life experience to be able to meet a hero of one’s childhood. It can happen, as it did to me.
I was attending a bread and broth Lenten service in the basement of the little church on the corner chattering away with a local couple. I looked across the room and there sat a man that I remembered from my childhood. I either remember him or his picture from my oldest sister’s high school annual. He and my oldest sister were classmates.
My mind reeled back over time into that story. It is a storm story; and a story of survival.
A tornado ripped through Loring, a small farming community west of here — or south. I don’t do directions. It is one of the first tornados in my memory.
Denny, it seems, was home on leave from the service. When the storm roared across his farm, a post broke and drove through his left shoulder — breaking in two, but remaining lodged in his back. His right arm was twisted and broken.
In my memory, he was loaded into the back of pick-up, his shoulder packed with either blankets or pillows, and someone hauled him off to the emergency room — probably Bethany Hospital, where another of my sisters was a nurse. That’s where I, a grade-schooler, got the story.
It was an eye-popping story for me. And Denny was a hero. He survived the storm — arm broken and post lodged in his back. The Wizard of Oz was a minor tale to me, compared to the story of Denny and the tornado.
That night, I heard the entire story from Denny himself and from the man, Teddy Stolfus, who transported him from Loring to Bonner. Ward Harrington at the funeral home, where the town’s only ambulance was located, took over and transported him to Bethany. For a soldier home from Korea, this trip must have made the war overseas seem minor indeed. I was thrilled to hear the story from the survivor himself and to tell him what a hero he had been to the kids in my neighborhood. We grew up with epic tales of tragedies and the survivors who overcame them. Such stories became a part of our legacy.
Denny and I stood in the parking lot that night, and he noticed the brightness of the planets in the night sky. He would notice something like that — a farm boy in tune with nature — whether it was rocking him or soothing him.
Denny is facing another storm on the horizon; something growing in his chest. I told him I hoped it was just a piece of wood from that post in his back. Whatever it is, I trust him to give it his best shot, and whatever the outcome, he will always be a hero to me.