David Knell was born on Nov. 23, 1916, in Youngstown, Ohio, the second son of immigrant families from Russia. Back then, Albert Einstein had just formulated his theory of relativity, the 40-hour workweek had just been created, and the hamburger had recently been invented.
"I went back to look in time, just to put in perspective for my dad's grandkids and great-grandkids what life was like when he was born," Gary Knell says about his father, who died in October at the age of 95.
David Knell graduated from UCLA in 1939, the first in his family to finish college. Who knows what career he might have chosen had the world not gone to war? Gary suspects his father would have been right at home decades later as an engineer in Silicon Valley.
But instead, David decided to join the Army in 1941, and went to North Carolina for officer training school. Gary says his father eventually became a second lieutenant and ended up serving in a POW camp in Texas. He oversaw the payroll of fellow members of the Army as part of a team overseeing a camp that housed 3,000 German prisoners.
Ultimately, David's sweetheart, Gertrude, followed him to Texas, where they were married. Soon after, they had a baby girl. David and Gertrude were married for more than 50 years, and she remained the love of his life.
"When my mom passed away in 1996," Gary says, "I think my dad was really never the same. There was a huge part of his life that was missing, and now we can say that they're back together."
Now that his father is gone, Gary says he's grateful that he took the time to listen to his dad's stories, and even arranged for his daughter to videotape an interview with her grandfather.
"I think connecting generations is something that maybe has gotten a little bit lost," he says. "It's important that we don't just assume away older generations of people."
In December, StoryCorps will launch the Military Voices Initiative, highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty military and their families.
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