World War II veteran Carl Weidling and his family joined in celebration for his 100th birthday in conjunction with the Rhinelander Ray Rousseau VFW Post 3143’s 85th anniversary celebration on March 14, 2020. Photo by Stephanie Kuski/River News.
3/26/2020 7:28:00 AM World War II Navy veteran Carl Weidling turns 100
Stephanie Kuski River News Feature Writer
U.S. Navy veteran Carl Weidling recently hit a milestone not many reach. He turned 100 years old on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
He celebrated this milestone with friends and family at the Rhinelander Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) Ray Rousseau Post 3143 on Saturday, March 14, in conjunction with the local post's 85th anniversary.
Weidling is a longtime member of the VFW and was well-known among those in attendance. His family and friends joined together in honoring Weidling's dedication to our country and the VFW's commitment to veterans in our community.
It was a privilege to hear and share Weidling's story.
Weidling was born on March 12, 1920. He grew up in Morton Grove, Ill., just north of Chicago. Life at that time was much different than our world today - his '32 Ford cost a small fraction of what a newer car would go for today, dime and penny stores were in popular demand and young men were compelled to join the service during and after the World Wars.
Weidling said he joined the Navy when he was 24, boarding the USS Sarasota.
"I went from five weeks of boot camp right to San Francisco, picked up a ship, took it on a shake-down cruise and went right out to the Pacific," Weidling said. "The first day there, we got introduced to war."
"We're out in the bay, and the ammunition ship caught fire," he recalled. "All of a sudden it exploded and there wasn't anything left of anybody. They were all gone. That was our introduction to war."
"It was an experience no young man should go through," Weidling continued soberly.
"I was on that ship 18 months in the Asiatic-Pacific. I made the invasion of the Philippine Islands, the invasion of Okinawa and the invasion of Iwo Jima," he continued. "Then we came back to the States, then went back to Okinawa to sit there waiting to go to Japan. Thank God that never happened."
"There were a lot of innocent people that were killed because of what Truman did, but he saved thousands of lives," he said. "The Japanese are trained and taught, 'you don't give up until you die,' and that's the way it was - where I was, anyway. So we went on from there."
"The thing that really upset me was the way we went to Okinawa," Weidling recalled. "There were young boys, 17, 18-years-old."
"April 1, 1945 was Easter Sunday morning, and that was the invasion of Okinawa. On Easter Sunday morning," he continued solemnly. "They were giving their lives and the people back in the States were dressed up for Easter Sunday to celebrate Easter."
Weidling said that experience in particular put life in perspective for him; while civilians were back home celebrating and living normal lives, he was experiencing war at sea as a young man.
But while he was at sea, his soon-to-be wife kept his spirits up.
When asked about his favorite memories during his young adulthood, Weidling answered "being married to my wife Gloria."
"She was a princess," he said lovingly. "She worked in downtown Chicago and I did too. We used to meet in the aisle in a corridor and we finally would walk to the bus station. She'd take her transportation home and I'd take mine, then finally things developed and I started seeing her."
"I said, 'you know anything about getting married?' she said, 'I would never marry you,'" he laughed. "But it finally came about because her father saw we were getting serious. [...] I had to convince him that I was OK, and we went on from there."
"I didn't realize just how good she was," Weidling continued. "She wrote me 70 letters while I was on that ship. I got the letters on the ship, I put them away and I didn't remember where I put them. And here, about a year ago or so, I found them."
"I found them, and I started reading them all," he continued. "The things she would say in there [...] were all constructive. We were going to get married and we finally did. She would talk about being married and of course I went along with it because I felt the same way. Finally on May 11, 1946, we got married. Then we had Patty and Mark as children."
His daughter Patricia (Patty) Stoler gave Weidling his only grandson, Tim, who has in turn blessed Weidling with five great-grandchildren.
"They're all smart little guys," Weidling said of his great-grandchildren. "They really learn fast and they're a joy when they're around. Of course we don't get together too often, but when we do we take advantage of it."
Weidling said he and Gloria were married for 47 years before her passing.
"My wife was very important to me. She was the best of the best," Weidling recalled. "She's been gone 27 years now... 27 years."
"After a year or a little longer, I met another woman (Roberta) and we hit it off pretty good. We got along good," Weidling said. "We started living together, which you know is not supposed to be, but we did. But she was a good woman too."
"I was lucky to get good women who were not self-centered, they were there to help any way they could," he said. "They were good companions, which was important, to have someone to talk to and do things with."
"In fact, I haven't seen her (Roberta) in two years now because of my condition," Weidling said. "I used to go up there all the time and especially on News Years Eve, I'd go there and we'd have a little toast together. We hit it off pretty good."
"She is a good woman," Weidling recalled nostalgically. "She calls me all the time, and I call her once in a while. But life goes on. [...] Some parts of it are pretty rough, but the road levels out and you have smooth riding."
"I thank the Lord, I have a good life. I had a good life," he continued proudly. "I was able to provide a good living and take care of my family, which was very important to me. And I did it. It's not easy, but you do what you have to do."
Life Goes On
After Weidling finished his 18-month stint in the Navy, he returned stateside to embark on various ventures throughout his middle and late adulthood.
"I first served as an apprentice at a jeweler," he explained. "After that, somehow I left the jewelry business and started remodeling for a lumberyard. After a year, I started thinking to myself [...] 'why don't I go into business for myself and I'll make boths ends of it.' Which I did. I was lucky." "I went into business for myself," Weidling continued. "I didn't have anything. I had money to put an ad in the paper and I got some responses. So I got one job and I did the job myself and then went on from there."
"After a year, I contacted this fella that worked for the same company I did and asked if he wanted to be a partner. We'd go 50/50," Weidling said. "He said 'I got a commission coming at Christmas from this company and I'll tell you then.' So he did and he became my partner, and we were together 25 years. Then he wanted to get out, he wanted to do something else. So I got this Italian partner for another 15 (years). So 40 years I was in the construction business."
He said he built "various things," including steel buildings, concrete tip-ups, home projects and industrial remodeling.
"We built small strip centers, which we held for a while then we'd sell them," Weidling explained. "So we were into things like that. Then (we went into) home remodeling of course."
This is where Weidling said he learned the ins and outs of home construction.
After his wife passed away, his daughter Patty (who lives in Sugar Camp) asked him to move to the area. He said he bought six acres of land and built a house, where he lived for 17 years before moving to Friendly Village in Rhinelander.
On his birthday, Weidling received a letter from the White House thanking him for his time in the service as part of the "Greatest Generation" and wishing him well on his special day.
Today, Weidling spends his time in the midst of friends and family, especially those at the Rhinelander VFW Post 3143 who joined in celebrating his 100th birthday and the local post's 85th anniversary on March 14. He was thanked and recognized for his years of service and dedication to the VFW.
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