A Brush With History

A Brush With History

By Harry Puncec

There is a group of men that I meet with on a regular basis, called the ROMEO Club. In case you’re not familiar with the term, it’s “Retired Old Men Eating Out.” The purpose of the group is often described as exchanging “war stories,” and that term means anything that happened in the past and can be embellished with a little polish for a more agreeable perspective. We have found that, through this process, the older we get the better we were.

The other day over at the Valley Inn we had a brush with real history. We were joined by James Harvey III, one of the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen.  He’s the old guy in the photo, a Lakewood resident who at 98 years old is mentally sharp, surprisingly mobile (only used a cane), and has a sharp sense of humor. We ended up speaking a bit louder than usual for James’ sake and that had a surprising result: a couple firemen at a nearby table bought all our breakfasts.  They came over and we all chatted with one of them pulling up a chair next to me.

One of the young firefighters is at the head of the table in the photo above (the other one took the photo) and Lt Col Harvey is on the right. I am the one between them and was telling a joke. It’s a great group of guys.

On the other side of the table are “The Guys” from my old outfit: Bill Burrows, Ray Milhollin, and Jim Dillie obviously enjoying my brilliant joke!

Photo from interview published on YouTube, referenced below.

Back to the fireman who picked up the tab and who we were conversing with.  He was deeply impressed to meet Mr. Harvey.  Nice guy who had, of all things, worked for Mr. Harvey’s daughter 24 years ago.  Talk about coincidences.

Photo credit: American Veterans Center Oral Histories

I was deeply impressed in meeting Lt Col Harvey. Of course he is proud of his Tuskegee Airman affiliation, but justifiably he is even prouder of winning the Air Force’s very first “Top Gun” competition in 1949. That is a world-class accomplishment. You can read about James’ history in this article on Wikipedia: James H. Harvey. We didn’t talk about it at the ROMEO meeting, but I found out later that the Top Gun win was not officially recognized for many years. It has been recognized now, and having met the nation’s first “Top Gun” seems all the more special.

In his own words, on YouTube: The True and Untold Story of the First Top Gun Winner – Tuskegee Airman James H. Harvey III.



Newsletter Spring 2022

Newsletter Spring 2022

Our neighborhood newsletter was delivered this past weekend to the 1150 or so homes in the Southern Gables area. If you missed it or maybe it fell into the recycling bin, you can read a copy online here.

This issue of the newsletter includes a notice about the Southern Neighborhood Association’s

Annual Neighborhood Meeting
Tuesday May 3, 7:00 PM
at Green Gables Elementary School.

We hope to see you there.

The newsletter includes a farewell note from our longtime Southern Gables Neighborhood Association President Doug Whitten, an article about a threat to the neighborhood ash trees, and an educational article about environmental awareness in our suburban-style landscaping. There’s also a reminder about the Association dues, $20 per year. Dues can be paid by check, by PayPal on the Association website (click here), by Venmo @SGNA-Lakewood, or in person at the annual meeting. Dues are voluntary and paying them makes you a part of the ongoing work of the Association to benefit our community.

Distributing the newsletter was good exercise for a few of our neighbors, who fortunately like to get out and walk. We have over 9 miles of streets, and lots of driveways and porch steps in Southern Gables-Valley View. The task of covering it all is easier when lots of people pitch in and help. We had some great help! Leading the charge was Angelique Diaz and the Girl Scouts of Troop 65449, our neighborhood troop. Neighbors who pitched in and took the newsletters door-to-door were Kathy Bunzli, Frank Bontrager, Roger Hanlon, Christine Dove, Michelle Tovrea, Elizabeth Wilson, Dave Wood, Janet Zietz, and Doug Whitten. I walked some around too, and met some friendly people in the process.

Speaking of walking around, the Neighborhood Association has eight areas and ideally we would have a representative in each. You can see a map and a list of open positions here. The Area Representatives can serve as a point of contact for their part of the neighborhood, notice when new neighbors move in and greet them on behalf of the Association. It’s a nice little walk once in a while, and a chance to get to know people.

— Bruce McDonald