On June 24, the Town of Gifford, Illinois and the Gifford Tornado Relief Fund dedicated a public park to Ernest A. Emord and Jeanette W. Emord, my father and mother. My parents were remarkable people from the Greatest Generation, who loved and served their country, their community, and their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends, and acquaintances. It is altogether fitting and proper therefore that they have been honored in this way by the small town that they loved and that loved them. You can learn more about the Emord Memorial Park and my parents by visiting emordmemorialpark.com. You can also learn more about them through my Christmas Stories columns posted in the archives of newswithviews.com.
Ernest A. Emord (a.k.a. Tommy Reardon) was a professional boxer and a member of the Armed Forces who served in the Navy, Army Air Corps, and United States Air Force for 32 years. He learned how to box along side his friend Goody Petronelli, who later became Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s boxing coach, and his older friend Rocky Marciano, who was a heavy weight when Tommy was a light weight. Ernie was a great combination puncher who quickly rose in the ranks from Brockton, Massachusetts to New York.
With the advent of World War II and attainment of an age to serve, he left his boxing career for the military, first serving in the Navy, then in the Army Air Corps, and then in the United States Air Force. He became the boxing coach for the Air Force in Europe. After three decades of service involving active duty in the Second World War and pilot training in the Korean War and the Cold War, he retired and moved to Gifford. There he lived for three decades, touching the lives of many, defending the underdog, and helping dozens of people who were down on their luck.
Jeanette W. Emord was a graduate of Westbrook Junior College in Maine where she studied drama and journalism. Possessed of a beautiful singing voice, natural acting talent, and ease with mastering and mimicking foreign languages and dialects, she sang on radio during World War II, served troops in the USO, and acted in dramas along the East Coast. She was the daughter of Dr. William Gordon Walker, a renowned Brockton, Massachusetts cardiologist, who treated many people for free during the Depression, treated outcasts at that time who suffered from venereal diseases (doing so by writing them prescriptions using pseudonyms to shield them from shame), and ultimately treated President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House. Throughout her over five decades of marriage to Ernie Emord, Jenny Emord cared for many kids and adults in need.
Most notably, when my father discovered that two teenage girls lived in a house with two chronically drunk and physically abusive alcoholic parents, he extricated them from that horror and my mother essentially raised them, clothed them, and fed them throughout their high school years. She became the mother they did not have, and she ensured that they always had the emotional and material support they needed.
Having touched the lives of so many with whom they came in contact all over the world, it did not surprise me in the least when after their deaths I received many calls and much correspondence from people who grieved for their loss and who recited to me stories of how greatly my parents had affected and improved their lives.
There are many examples of selflessness, of patriotic heroism, and of loyal devotion to God, family, and country among those who lived in the Greatest Generation. My parents would tell you that those others were more deserving than they of any public recognition. Their own humility was substantial and, so, if they were alive today they would have recommended that the town name the Park after others. But, indeed, when their stories are known, nearly all would conclude that Ernest A. Emord and Jeanette W. Emord were remarkable. The love that drove their actions in life still reverberates in the hearts and minds of those whom they loved. The logical reaction to my parents’ outpouring of love and service is a reciprocal expression, which love has produced the Emord Memorial Park. My parents would be delighted no doubt that in this park families and especially children will find joy for generations to come.
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