'My comrades': World War II veterans stand by friend in need
By CURT BROWN | The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass. | Published: June 13, 2018
FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — As young men, they put their lives on hold and bravely fought on foreign soil for their country in World War II.
Now, in their 90s, their hearts and minds willing, their bodies not always cooperating, they faithfully visit one of their own — former commander Oliver "Olly" Moreau, 94, of the Dr. C.E. Burt Chapter 7 of Disabled American Veterans of New Bedford in Our Lady's Haven Nursing Home, as he nears the end of life.
They visit their friend Moreau, also a World War II veteran, who retired from the post office, a few times a week. Not all drive. One uses a walker.
Tony Oliveira of New Bedford, a 96-year-old Army veteran, said they make these visits out of friendship. "I always tell him he's still my commander," Oliveira said.
Oliveira picks up either Jack Pacheco of Fairhaven, a 97-year-old Air Force veteran, or John Pires Jr. of New Bedford, a 92-year-old Navy veteran, when they visit Moreau. "I'm still driving and still bowling, so I play the chauffeur," he joked. "I don't mind Mother Nature. It's Father Time you have to worry about.
"I do it because I know it cheers him up. That's the main reason. He's still sharp as a tack, too," he said.
"You never know what is going to happen to either of us," said Pires, who no longer drives at night.
Jack Pacheco, who doesn't drive and uses a walker, said he relies on his niece. He and his wife of 70 years, Elise Pacheco, who died two years ago, were great friends with Olly and his wife, Natalie Moreau.
"These are my buddies. These are my comrades," said Moreau, a fleece with a stars and stripes pattern covering his legs, a smile on his face.
Natalie Moreau sat off to the side, allowing her husband of 51 years to enjoy his time with his friends. "They're good friends, and they all met at the DAV. That's where their friendship began," she said.
Olly has had a run of bad luck, she said. He was in St. Luke's Hospital with the flu for five days and then went to a nursing home for five weeks. No sooner had he come home than he fell and banged his head and went back to the hospital, where he developed pneumonia. He uses a feeding tube and an oxygen mask, too.
"There's nothing else they can do. He has a bad heart, bad lungs, cirrhosis of the liver, his muscles have deteriorated," she said.
But, she and Olly have enjoyed a great life. "I feel sad. We have had 51 years together. We had good years. We did a lot of traveling," she said. They have gone to Hawaii twice and also visited Brussels, France, Paris during a trip to Europe as well as Brazil and Portugal.
"He was a good provider and a great handyman. He loved to fish, loved to do woodworking. He loved to tell jokes," she said.
Moreau served aboard the USS DuPage APA 41, an attack transport, which was severely damaged in December 1944 by a kamikaze during the Invasion of the Philippines, killing 36 men and wounding 153. Like her husband, she does not want people to forget the sacrifices servicemen made in World War II.
"A lot of people don't know what these fellows have gone through," she said, her eye glancing at her husband with his friends. "It's history, and it's no longer taught in schools. The kids in school know nothing about World War II."
Natalie, who is with her husband every day, said the visits by his friends mean the world to him. "He loves when they come and see him. It perks him up, even when he can't talk to them because he has his oxygen mask on."
"Even if he can't communicate. They're there. He knows they're there. They squeeze his hand," she said. "They're great friends. They really are."