by Richard Diem
It was 1940 and Frankie Lee was fifteen years old. He lived next door to my grandparents on Boston Post road in the Bronx. He was the only child of Peggy and Pat Lee who moved to Sunnyside at around the same time my grandparents did in the early 1940s. In 1942, Frankie enlisted in the U.S. Air force and became a pilot. In 1943, on his first mission out, he was shot down, and died along with his entire crew.
From 1949 until 1952 I was the Lees’ Star Journal newspaper delivery boy on 39th Place. One day Peggy gave me all Frank’s toys, games and the drawings he made, in addition to the usual milk and cookies the Lees set out whenever they heard me coming up the four flights to their apartment.
All these years have passed and I still see the sadness that remained forever in their eyes.
With tears in her eyes she gave me his games and told me how Frankie would play,
Forcing a smile, “Such an imaginative child,” I felt love in each word she would say
“Frankie loved sports, such a talented boy, my, how good he could draw.”
Then her thoughts drifted off to a picture she saw bringing back all the horrors of war.
In a sad voice she told me his plane was shot down on his very first combat flight.
Her voice choked with emotion then faded away like the silence of each lonely night.
At a real loss for words, I thanked her, then quietly bid her goodbye,
“Oh Frankie, my son,” were the last words I heard before she started to cry.