Carl F. Windhorst exhibited many of the characteristics of “the Greatest Generation.” “Mr. W” as he was commonly known was relentlessly stoic, a tireless worker, fearless in almost all aspects of his life.
Born in 1925, he grew up under the crucible that characterized our nation’s Great Depression. It was not an era where people could afford to be weak or frivolous, and it left an indelible mark on his entire life; his entire character.
As a young teenager, he lost his own father due to illness. He always said that after the age of fourteen, he never felt like a child.
At the age of 18, he was trained as an army air corps pilot and served honorably in both World War II and the Korean War. He was selected as a pilot in part because of his perfect vision. Up until the day he passed, he never wore glasses. His eyes were a sharp, clear, gimlet blue that missed nothing. He maintained his pilot’s license for many years, after leaving the service. He loved all things aeronautical. Mr. W was a volunteer fireman as a very young man.
After his air corps service, he opened a business in Summit, operating a local store for 50 years, often working 7 days a week and 10 hour days. He rarely took a vacation.
He loved chatting with people. He loved to read and garden. He had a way with plants and could often revive dead ones. He loved animals especially a local red fox, sometimes seen skulking about the neighborhood. He loved to give neighborhood dogs bones and watch birds and bunny rabbits at play. He rescued birds nests and never begrudged the occasional deer foraging in his vegetable garden or the squirrels digging acorn holes in his yard. There was a gentle side to him that not everyone saw, but which encompassed the essence of his soul and character.
He was the first to offer help to any one in the neighborhood. He lent money to people when they needed it, often never being repaid.
He was a tireless worker and never gave into the idea of growing old. He did not as Dylan Thomas once wrote, “Go gently into that goodnight.” He mowed grass at 93, cleaned his own gutters, shoveled his walks and those of his neighbors on snowy days. He raked leaves and trimmed bushes. He was relentlessly curious. He was one of those rare souls who at the end of the day always put others before himself. His word was his bond.
Up until his last day, he exuded tremendous energy and vitality. He never gave into self pity. He did not brood. He truly exemplified all of the characteristics of “The Greatest Generation”.
As Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “he filled the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance run.”
He will be missed.
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