Otis Town honored in South Granville

O tis Town has lived in Granville for his entire life.

Many pass within a few feet of his South Granville residence possibly without knowing it. His house sits on the inside of the infamous sharp corner in Route 149 south of the village, just on the Granville side of the Haynes House of Hope.

At 96 years old, he says he’s seen a lot over those years.

He’s had a career, got married, raised a family and like so many of his generation, went off the fight in World War II.

As Veterans Day approaches, Town will be honored by the South Granville Congregational Church as its oldest member on Nov. 14.

During a recent interview, Town recalled his 38 months in the service as an Army engineer working in the Pacific Theater of Operations from Guam to Okinawa and Kwajalein Island clearing jungle to make way for the Allied war machine to press toward the heart of the Japanese Empire.

Although “the 52 club” meant extra money, he got out when he could and got back to Granville – the $20 a week just wasn’t worth it, he said.

Town said he spent that time as a heavy equipment operator following being drafted – he was 28 years old at the time.

He still remembers the date clearly: Nov. 20, 1942.

“It wasn’t my choice. I got a note from ‘my friends and neighbors’ –that’s what it said; it wasn’t really from them but they had this way of making it sound kind of good,” Town said.  

Many of the runways and buildings still used on a daily basis on some of those Pacific islands were built by Town and his crew. “We built an airbase for B-29s, a hospital, everything they needed,” he said.

Town said he was never shot at despite operating in a combat zone every place he went while in the Pacific.

“If they did, they missed,” he quipped.

Not all of his fellow veterans were so lucky, however.

The 2009 Memorial Lane ceremony at the high school prompted Town to reflect on a friend nicknamed “Bus” — Clarence Thomas, one of the men honored with a tree on Memorial Lane just south of the football field.

Town said he heard from his friend Clarence one last time after he wrote and said he was in England. “The next letter I wrote was returned to me,” he said.

Town said he stays in touch with one other veteran in particular, Dick Freed, the last boss he had. The two still get together to talk.

“I didn’t have any bad bosses, but he was one of the best,” Town said.

Returning to Granville, Town began the job where most would recognize him for nearly another five decades – driving a fuel truck delivering home heating oil. Town didn’t retire from delivering fuel until he was 78 years old.

“I drove a fuel truck after the war; in fact, that’s what I did for (most) of my life,” Town said.

Within months of returning stateside, Town found someone and got married. Lorraine Pond became Lorraine Town and the couple were married for 59 years and had three children, Linda, Lois and Blanche.

After Lorraine passed in 2005, Town said, he continues to live alone.

Despite living just a short walk from church, friends and family insist he gets a ride because of the dangerous road literally just outside the door. Over the years Town said the house has actually been struck twice by vehicles.

Town loved to drive, his daughter Linda said, and even days off meant getting into the car to go and discover some new place. As a child she recalled packing up the car and exploring vast expanses in New York and Vermont.

Eventually, he had to give up his driver’s license.

Town said his doctor advised him to stop driving as his eyesight failed. “The only thing that I don’t have is my eyesight,” he said.

Town prides himself on turning in a license without a blemish; in 71 years he had no tickets or accidents. “I guess I was ready to quit anyway,” Town said.

Now the man who drove for a living relies on others to get around.

“I get along well; I have a lot of friends. Sharon (Jenkins) takes me to church and out to eat,” Town said.

Church is something Town said he looks forward to very much each week. Those who know him say his hugs are popular with every member of the congregation who look forward to seeing Town each Sunday.

Church is something like what his job once was — a chance to get out and interact with the people of his home town. “I guess I just like meeting people,” Town said.

Town said despite the frequent calls in the middle of the night during heating season, the time he got to spend with his customers more than made up for it.

“They knew I was coming, so sometimes I got pie or a cup of coffee,” he said. “I always had time to visit if they wanted to.”

As the oldest member of the South Granville Congregational Church, the Rev. Robert Flower said, the congregation plans to recognize Town. Sunday, Nov. 14, will be Otis Town Day at the church, Flower said.

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