From a humble beginning on his grandfather’s farm in Schleisingerville, Wisconsin, He learned the value of hard work and tenacity to see the job through as a young man. He jokingly says, “We worked hard all day because there was nothing else to do.” It was more than having nothing to do it was, taking pride in a job well done is at the core of his beliefs and success. Through dedication to work, Mr. Monroe formed a foundation for future success in life.
With ambitions, he began working in Wisconsin at Bear Brand Hosier as a machine mechanic. After working there for quite a while, the company later moved to Gary, IN, he decided to make the move with them.
It was at the new factory in Gary, that Francis and the future Mrs. Monroe were to briefly notice each other while passing in a stairwell. Francis did not give this brief interaction any thought till later in life. During this time fraternizing at work was frowned upon in those days so he didn’t give the encounter a second thought.
Well, Uncle Sam noticed him as well and requested his services for the Costal Guard. From a small-town farmer in Wisconsin, he was on his way to Virginia for training to ultimately be stationed in Washington State to defend an attack from the Japanese on the west coast.
While training in Virginia, he received a letter from a woman named Catherine Karlicts from New Chicago, IN. Never knowing the young woman’s name back at the factory, he didn’t have a clue who had written this letter.
At the advice of one of his peers, he requested a 10 day leave which he was luckily granted. He decided to come back to Indiana to find out who was this woman that took the time to write to him.
They met, and she invited him to come listen to the orchestra playing in Hammond. Just a week later they came to Crown Point to obtain a marriage license. They were married at the Assumption Church in 1943. He recalls everyone joking and saying that it wouldn’t last. He was blessed with that joke for 74 years.
Well as we all know; the best laid plans can change in a heartbeat. The government decided that Japan would not be a threat from the coast and they needed him in Europe. Soon after the wedding, he shipped off to basic training in Texas. His wife made the trip with him.
During basic training, Mrs. Monroe came down with something, so she went to visit the doctor to see why she was not feeling well. There was a good reason why she felt ill. She was pregnant and headed back home to Indiana to get out of the Texas heat.
Francis was now on his way to Europe to fight the war. Missing his beautiful bride back home, Mr. Monroe traveled with 768th artillery unit moving from England to France and then into Germany. There they worked from town to town liberating Europe. It was here that he received his “V-Mail” letter announcing the birth of his son, Frank. Which made the journey home in 1946 even sweeter. Mr. Monroe carried the “V-Mail” card with his sons footprints in his pocket during the war and still has the original V-Mail that he received in 1946
After the war, Mr. Monroe went back to the hosiery factory in Gary for the next 23 years. When the company decided to move to Alabama, Francis decided not to leave Indiana, but to find employment elsewhere. After receiving a 5-Star recommendation from his previous employer, he was hired immediately by Inland Steel Company doing what he loved, mechanics. Through hard work and dedication to the job, he continued to work at Inland Steel until he reached the age of retirement.
As an avid baseball fan, he enjoyed watching River Forest games as well as other games in the area. It was Francis’s explanation to the game’s umpire of a bad call at first base that made the umpire encourage him to get his license and start working the games. After receiving his license, he worked for the next 20 years umpiring high school and regional baseball games.
So, at 95 years old has he finally decided to stop working? Sit around and let the days go by in front of a television?
No, he still enjoys working on his morning crossword puzzles, visiting with family and most of all, jumping on the tractor to get the yard mowed. But he doesn’t stop there. When his yard is finished, he continues to take care of some very luck neighbors.
Lets all take some time to salute and honor this true American Hero as we see him go down the parade route this 4th of July. And remember, this day that we celebrate, is in honor of all the men and women throughout our country’s history that have fought and sacrificed for the freedom that we cherish today.
This year’s Grand Marshal inspires all of us with his tenacity, love of God, country, and family.
With deep appreciation we honor you today and say –
Thank you, Francis Monroe.