A Memorial Message to Paul E. Swigart, Jr.

“Oh my God,” I repeated silently to myself, “The longitude and latitude of his last known coordinates is all Ludora has left of her precious son.”

I had not seen Paul Swigart’s mother, Ludora, for several years when I ran into her at the supermarket one afternoon in Seal Beach, the city where Paul and I grew up.  Ludora was one of the sweetest ladies I ever met.  Always upbeat and friendly, she was one of those moms that made you feel special when you were a little kid.

LTJG Paul E. Swigart, Jr. Highly intelligent and confident, I wasn’t surprised to learn that he was creating an impressive career in the U.S. Navy.

With curly red hair that fell about her shoulders, Ludora had an engaging smile and was still beautiful, despite a cluster of wrinkles pinched around her gentle blue eyes.  We shared a big hug and our conversation quickly turned to Paul, her handsome son, my former classmate and a Navy pilot serving off the coast of Vietnam during the war.  Paul and I had been close since kindergarten.  We often chased each other in a game of “Tag” on the blacktop during recess and ate together at lunch.  Because both our last names started with “S” (Swigart and Strother, my maiden name) and seating was alphabetical, we almost always sat side-by-side in class.  All through junior high and high school, our lockers were close to each other, so our contact was constant.

Goofball that I was, it wasn’t until my wedding day, when Paul and I hugged at my reception, that I discovered Paul had once thought of me as a potential girlfriend.  During that hug, he whispered in my ear, “I always had a crush on you.”

I thought we were just buddies! Continue reading “A Memorial Message to Paul E. Swigart, Jr.”