2019 Dialogue profile reaches across space, time

Posted on Sun, 11/01/2020 - 11:30am

By Tracy Poyser

Andre King RomeIn these trying times, we often find solace in reconnecting with faraway family and friends, looking through our memory books or sorting those old photos from neglected boxes at the bottoms of our closets. But, how my June 2019 Dialogue profile led a Cranston, Rhode Island, man to his late uncle’s Air Force friend is a heartwarming little miracle worth sharing with you.

Out of the blue in late August, I received an email from David Meyers sent via my photo website, hoping I could put him in touch with Malibu East resident André King, so he could find out more about his late uncle Aaron Fox’s time in the Air Force during the Korean War, when Aaron and André were both stationed in Erding, Germany. And, said David, “My uncle received cards from Mr. King faithfully, with pen and ink drawings of his children. I have a pen and ink drawing by Mr. King, Rome 1955, now proudly framed in our home.”

I forwarded David’s email to André and Sally King and, to my delight, André called David right away, sharing fond recollections about Aaron, who was, by all accounts, a very special, gentle and kindhearted man.

André’s 1950-1955 tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force had brought him to Erding Air Depot, about 28 miles northeast of Munich. “It was here that I met Sgt. Aaron M. Fox,” André recollects, “red hair, freckles and a big smile. That (smile) could be said for most of the personnel at AACS (Airways and Air Communications Service), but Aaron proved special. He was in the Operations Group, and one of my first friendly faces since I had to present my papers to him upon arrival at Erding Air Depot. He was an easy guy to be friends with.

“Fortunately, we were in a situation where travel was made available to U.S. military personnel, and I got to know Aaron better during a 10-day trip through Italy which he joined when we asked him to replace one of the guys who had dropped out. For Aaron and me, that was the start of a friendship that would span over 50 years.

“For the most part, Aaron was always calm, patient and even. One of my men commented after a particularly bad situation, ‘Doesn’t he ever lose his temper?’ My recall was, ‘Not even over a bottle of wine’ – as I experienced in Italy at our villa in Capri. We were having a party, and I simply told the steward what to order. Aaron didn’t object but simply said, ‘You might have asked,’ and added tongue-in-cheek, ‘You forgot the ice for the champagne.’ I had, indeed, ordered wine but no ice – which wasn’t available on the island.”

As his nephew David confirms, Aaron was rather shy and didn’t form friendships easily, which made his friendship with André over time and distance even more special. Here’s where David picks up the story via a couple of heartfelt emails:

“For many years, my Uncle Aaron would receive a holiday card, from a Mr. André King in Chicago, Illinois. These marvelous pen and ink sketches were of two beautiful children, and I watched them grow to teenage years. I had learned from a very young age never to bother my ‘Unc’ with too many questions. But, I did ask my mom (Wilma Fox, Aaron’s sister), ‘Who are these people?’ Her only response was that ‘this was a friend of your uncle’s during his time in Germany during the Korean War.’ So, I just let it be.

“But, as an omnipresent reminder of André King, my uncle had two exquisite, framed pen and ink drawings hanging in the homes he shared with his mother. I was intrigued and captivated by these works, and today I have one of them, ‘Rome 1955,’ signed by André King, in an honored place in our home. Sadly, the other work is missing.

“Why, at age 64, did I feel the urge to delve into the ‘André King mystery’? I think I wanted to be reassured that (my uncle’s) time in the service had brought him some enjoyment and fond memories throughout his life. Now it’s like a door that’s been opened, allowing me to discover more about the man my beloved uncle was.

“Unc never married and lived with his mom and later, for many happy years, with my mom and dad. He became ill in the late 1990s and was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and other complicating conditions. … My uncle finally succumbed, peacefully, to Parkinson’s disease on April 24, 2009.

“So, by scouring the internet, I found a 2019 profile by Tracy Poyser in an obscure condominium publication about André King, his wife Sally and their life in Chicago. That prompted me to at least try and contact Ms. Poyser via her photo website, and expecting nothing much to come from it.

“Just a few days later I received a response from Tracy, telling me that she had reached out to André and Sally and expected me to hear from them. I didn’t have my hopes up, but just prior to our daughter’s October wedding I received a phone call from a Chicago exchange with no caller ID. I almost didn’t answer it, but I’m sure glad I did. It was André King! At first, I was short of words, so shocked and surprised to hear André’s voice. But, the ensuing hour was a moving, emotional, satisfying meandering of memories about my beloved Uncle Aaron M. Fox, staff sergeant, USAF, Germany, 1951-1955.

“André was gracious and happy to reminisce with me about Unc. No doubt, the best story was about that junket to Capri, Italy, where they had very enjoyable times – or may I say escapades? André spoke of my uncle in such warm tones, telling me Aaron was a nice, quiet and unassuming guy, always offering help and assistance. …

“As André knew, my uncle was a very private man, content with being with his family and his closest friend, but did not expand his inner circle any greater than that. I was saddened to learn that, although he made an annual trip to Chicago for business for many years, he never connected with André and his family. André knew of an impending trip and invited Aaron to visit, but my Unc, in his own quiet, respectful demeanor, thanked André but politely declined. I believe it was because Unc was uncomfortable in new social situations. …

“I’m so glad André King talked my shy Unc to come to Italy for that long-ago adventure. It was only a small period of time in his life, but I cannot thank André enough for being such a good, devoted friend. It still means much to me today and, were he alive, to my uncle as well – and so we consider Mr. King to be a mensch!

“That’s why I wanted to reach out to my Unc’s Air Force compadre. I needed to know that Unc Aaron’s life had moments that he enjoyed, treasured and, from time to time, made him smile when reflecting on those long-past days. And now, this ‘virtual’ journey of discovery has brought me peace and comfort, and I’m so very grateful to André King for making this possible.”

Thanks to David and André for bringing this heartwarming story (with photos) to life for us, at a difficult time during this all-encompassing pandemic, when finding ways to connect with each other can be a true comfort. I hope you appreciate how our modest Malibu East Dialogue reached from the present into the past, from Rhode Island to Chicago, and even back to Capri, Italy.

Footnote from André King: In memory of Sgt. Lawrence, Sgt. Roberts, Capt. Llyons, Lt. Bailey, Pvt. Bickel, Sgt. Torer, Airman Kirpicka and the officers and men of the 1884th USAF Wing.