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Local Veterans' Stories Featured in Comic Book Project

A small group of veterans has been getting some extra attention lately.  Their stories have been made into a comic book.  WYSO’s Jerry Kenney reports on how it all started.

Charlie Bath enlisted in the Army in 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor.   For four years, he proudly served as a wire chief in the signal corps.  That job involved running telephone wire all over France and Germany.  Charlie was the guy who could climb, so that’s what he did – climbed poles, often checking for live wires by hitting them with a wrench.

Now, at 90 years old, Charlie’s days aren’t so dangerous.  It usually means meeting fellow some fellow WWII veterans, Earl Ellis, and Jack Newhouse, also in their nineties, at McDonald’s in Xenia.

"Earl's wife had died, and my wife had died in '04," says Bath.  "So we just started meeting down there, and we met down there and we'd stay 2 or 3 hours every morning except Sunday when we go to Lee's."

The group calls themselves the Liar’s Club because their creative score keeping in golf over the last 23 years, and their ability to mix some tall tales in with the truth.  

Sharing stories at McDonald’s is what got them noticed by Author/Illustrator Michael Fleishman, and his wife Joann.  Michael teaches Commercial Art at Edison Community College in Piqua.  He asked if he could interview the guys about their lives.

"I'm not sure they quite understood what I was getting at, but God love 'em, they agreed to do it," says Fleishman.  "And the idea came so let's create the book involving photography and then actual illustration to tie it all together.  The idea was always to do a comic book out of it - word balloons, text panels and all of it."

Fleishman brought the comic book to a recent Veterans' Day event in Xenia and says the reaction was positive.

"To see the way it really touched people, the veterans and their families, it was great.  A lot of the WWII vets are not going to be with us very long unfortunately, and they have incredible stories to tell," says Fleishman.  "I was thought that comic book accessible way to get those stories out there.  It would be a shame if the stories aren't heard.  There's just amazing things about life and love and society.  Their stories are really the snapshots of society and culture and history at that time."

As for Bath, he's not sure how to take the attention that he's getting from the comic book.

"It's alright.  I never bragged about the service or any of it, told small minor details, but that's about it," says Bath who was born in Xenia and has lived for nearly 91 years. 

"The thing about a comic book is that an every day guy turns out to be a super hero, and he saves the world.  And I thought that a comic book about these every days heroes was a super idea and it's been a pleasure and a privilege to know you all," says Fleishman of his collaborators in the Liar's Club.

With some funding from the Green County Council on Aging, and illustrations from Edison Student Mark Gibbs - Michael finished the comic book in time for Veteran’s day.  It’s on exhibit with more of Fleishman’s work, at the Yellow Springs Arts Council Gallery, through November 26th. 

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.