A FRIENDSHIP NOW ENDED WITH DEATH.

THE HUMAN RACE (Written on August 15, 2014)

 

                  NO TEARS, BUT LOSING HOEF, WOW!

I just had a hunk of flesh bitten out of my soul. I

lost my old 10th Air Force buddy, Richard (Hoef)

Hoefferlin just a few hours ago. His wife Marilyn

called from Florissant, Missouri. Hoef died from

a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. Lung cancer was

the cause. We were both smoking when we became

bunkmates at our squadron’s barracks at Clark

Air Force Base in the Philippines. We’d flip a

spent smoke into the darkness and called the act

“Pulling a Bogie.” Humphrey Bogart used to do it

in movies. When I first met Hoef at the 6207th

AC&W Squadron, I had visited a brothel outside

the base at Angeles Pompanga. It was called the

Uno Bar. I was 19, had a few Manila Rums, went

upstairs with a gal who thought I was “adorable.”

During the heat of the night, a man hiding behind a

curtain, stole my wallet. The Air Police wouldn’t

let me back on base, but Hoef came to the rescue.

“You were rolled,” he told me the next morning. So

“Roll ‘Em!” for 60 consecutive years was (Besides

pulling a Boggie) one of our cherished code words we

used on the long-distant phone and ending letters

Knowing that Hoef was in deep trouble and the Hospice

was helping he and Marilyn, I called. But he was

in a hospital bed inside their home. Marilyn answered

the phone, whispered that his lungs just aren’t working

and he can’t get on the phone. So I told her, “Just

tell Hoef, Roll ‘Em!” She did just that. She told me

that when she delivered the brief message, Hoef smiled.

That smile was worth a thousand words. The memories

he took with him. Speaking on the phone a few months

ago, I asked, You know what’s doing you in?” “What

else… cigarettes,” he said. “But I’ve enjoyed every

smoke.” He knew that I had quit smoking over 40 years ago.

We talked long distance and wrote letters regularly,

usually signing off with “Roll ‘Em!” At Clark we shared

lower-bunk cots and weren’t the tidiest airmen. We kept

our dirty laundry in bags. We called our space, The

Cobra Den. We’d go to the non-com officers’ club and

get slightly stewed on 3.2 beer. Unlike a lot of airmen,

we never passed out. When that happened, guys would carry

the “cadavers” outside, line the bodies up on stretches of

grass and trucks and jeeps would transport then back to

their squadrons. Hoef talked me into trying out for the

Raiders, one of the base football teams that played at the

Clark AFB stadium. Clark was like a small town. When I

made the All Star team, he acted like a big brother. We

were supportive of each other. He was a clean liver. I

was experimenting with life. But we were anything but the

odd couple. Our friendship lasted more than 60 years.

Following our discharge, we both pursued life in different

ways. He lived in St. Louis; was a buyer for Emerison  

Electric. I was reporter, a publicist and a free-lance

writer. We communicated by phone several times a year.

Every Christmas, he’d send JoAnne and I letters about life

in St. Louis. Many times, I told him he should’a been a

comedy writer. I can’t find his letters. But he made us

laugh many times. I had sent him many stories I had written

about ordinary people and celebrities. “My big brother”

seemed to really enjoy them. Hoef died at 84. Truly,

I’ll miss my old pal. Let me end with this meaningful

message: “Roll ‘Em!”

                        — Boots LeBaron —

    • Anonymous
    • August 16th, 2014

    Roll Em ! Flick a cigarette. I hope that I will have some of the long lasting Friendships as well. Love you Dad

    Like

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    • Anonymous
    • August 17th, 2014

    I’ll miss Hoef, too, papa! Great piece. love, brooke

    Like

    • Thanks, Brooke. To both you and Rocco. Truly, I’ll miss my long-time relationship with Hoef. We overcame phones and letters to solidify our 60-some year friendship. Roll ‘Em. Dad

      Like

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