Still Serving: Edward J. Kanze, Jr.
A column I submitted to the Westchester Journal News for Veterans Day
Seventy years ago, the 10th Armored Division captured the City of Metz in France and moved toward Bastogne in Belgium. On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched the last major counter offensive, known as the Battle of Bulge. A nineteen-year old infantry soldier, Edward J. Kanze Jr. was an infantryman in the 10th Armored Division. It wasn’t until about twenty years ago that I heard Ed describe his experiences in the snow, mud, shelling, and close combat that transpired late 1944.
His story is both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time. He literally came face-to-face with the enemy under extremely trying conditions. He was brave and scared. And what he did was ordinary, because thousands of other soldiers endured the same conditions and horrors. Ed survived, returning to United States during the summer of 1945 in order to prepare for combat in the Pacific theater. Fortunately, the war came to an end before he had to ship out for another tour.
Ed’s spirit of service did not end with his discharge from the Army. In the ensuing decades, he was a beloved and respected elementary school teacher in the Valhalla, New York School District. A couple of generations of students learned math from Mr. Kanze and ran around the playground under his watchful eye. Not long ago, Ed had to be taken to the hospital due to attack of appendicitis. As the EMT brought Ed into the emergency room in the early hours of the morning, he told the nurse, “Make sure to take care of Mr. Kanze, he was one of my best teachers.”
Every afternoon, Ed sits on the couch in his living room and puts his arm around his wife. Joyce is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease. While they can no longer converse, Ed sits with her day after day, holds her hand, and serenades her. In his ninth decade, Ed is still serving.
I am honored to know Ed, to be his son-in-law, and his friend. Every now and again, after the dishes are washed and Joyce is in bed, I’ll get Ed to tell me about his service in World War II. Inside this 89 year-old man, there’s a 19-year old kid who began a life of service under the most dire of circumstances.