When the phrase “Captain Random” was coined a few years ago to describe somebody who would drop a completely irrelevant comment during a conversation, the kids and I immediately thought of W. Please understand that I write this lovingly and not as a criticism. I’ll give you an example that happened just the other night and, yes, I’m going somewhere with this so just be patient.
We were going into the gate of our community and my husband rolled down the window to just explain that we were in my son’s car which doesn’t have a gate sticker. The gentlemen recognized us, of course, and greeted us while allowing us access to the gate. Now you would think the conversation would end there, right? Then you don’t know my husband very well…he started telling the gate attendant that Nick (also in the front seat) had just returned from Italy. The response? “Oh, wow. Italy! That’s great.” and here is where it gets good. W went on to say something about how Nick had missed ice cubes while in Europe. I don’t really know what the gate attendants response was because Nick and I were remarking to each other about how random W can be…to say the least.
He will literally talk to anyone. Anyone. About anything.
Since I am far more introverted, I generally don’t strike up conversations with people I may never see again. W’s over-the-top extrovert personality was one of the things that undoubtedly drew me to him, though. And, on occasion, he meets some really interesting people ~ simply by being who he is. Yesterday was one of those days. I’m sure he won’t mind my sharing an email that he sent me (and a few others) yesterday about his latest random conversation with a stranger… I am inspired and I am grateful to be married to a man who would acknowledge the importance of just chatting to someone. Anyone.
So I’m in this German Restaurant that our instructor takes us to lunch in Ft Lauderdale. We’re at a big table and all 10 of us have ordered lunch. Across the room I see this old man…..pretty tall and has to be in his 80s. The reason I notice him is that he has a really old, navy blue military ball hat sitting on the table. It has faded, gold lettering…..the hat said “P-51 WWII”. He was alone eating lunch so I went up to him and introduced myself. I asked him if he flew P-51s in WWII. That one question began a 30 minute conversation, a lesson in history, and I got to meet a living legend. His name was Leonard Loffler and he was an AMERICAN-GERMAN fighting against Hitler and his home country, along with his friend, Capt Amos Bomberger. Leonard asked me if I’d like see a picture of his plane because it was hanging on the wall around the corner in the restaurant. So I walk with him over to the picture and I see a color photo of his FIRST P-51D, which was numbered QI-B. He said his buddy, Bomberger, begged him for is plane because it had his initial “B” on it. So Leonard gave him that aircraft and was assigned the next P-51D, numbered QI-C. Bomberger than painted “VERGELTUNGSWAFFE” on the nose, which translates to “VEHICLE OF REVENGE”. They flew in this unit from ’42-’46 and after the war, Bomberger bought a P-51 from the US Government for $750. They are now worth about $3M. Leonard continued flying until last year, when he was 80 and couldn’t pass his flight physical due to a heart problem. He logged over 10K hours during his life. He said after the war, he bought his first restaurant…..it was the one we were standing in and it’s called the OLD HEIDELBERG Restaurant. He ended up owning 5 other restaurants and becoming a real estate tycoon in the Ft Lauderdale area. He sold the OLD HEIDELBERG Restaurant years ago but every afternoon you can find him eating lunch there so if you’re ever in the area and you want to speak to a living legend, I recommend this place. By the way, the hat he was wearing…..it was given to him by CHUCK YEAGER, who served in the 361st with Leonard. All of this because I noticed an old man’s hat…….you never know sometimes. Take time to talk to these heroes because we’re losing them at an extraordinary rate.
THANKS FOR THE CONVERSATION, Lt LOFFLER !!!