Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

An incredible friendship

 

Art Witkov (l) and Norm Bercoon at Camp Campbell Kentucky in 1943 or 1944.

They are two elderly gentlemen in their 90s who like to wear WWII veteran caps and go out for breakfast together on a regular basis. The two are Art Witkov, (my father), and Norm Bercoon. Their longtime friendship dates back to before the war.

Art and Norm were high school graduates when they met at the N. Shure Company, located on Adams Street in Chicago. The two of them were both new employees, hired at the not-very-robust-wage of 35 cents an hour. My dad and Norm were among many who filled and packaged customer orders for shipping. They hit it off right away. The year was 1941.

In December of that year, all the N. Shure employees were required to work seven days a week filling Christmas orders. Both Norm and my dad were together working side-by-side that "infamy" Sunday when news broke that the Japanese had attacked Pear Harbor.  

So Art and Norm, two members of what has been referred to as the "Greatest Generation," went to war. Norm served as an artillery forward observer. My dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

During the war, Art and Norm were in different units. But their paths did cross while stationed in Europe when the war was over. They ran into each other walking down a street in Salzburg! After that, they were able to get together a couple of times, even attending a makeshift Rosh Hashanah service in the Mozarteum (a well-known music hall in Salzburg).

When World War II ended, a multitude of ships transported millions of American armed forces back to the States. When it was my dad's time to go home, he departed from Marseille, France, on the Eufaula Victory ship. Once onboard, to my father's surprise, Norm was on the ship too! It was an amazing coincidence.

Yes, the war was over. The servicemen (and servicewomen) were coming home. They were attending college on the G.I. Bill and returning to the American workforce. They were moving on with their lives, marrying, buying homes, and starting families. My father met and fell in love with my mother, Beverly. They were married in 1947. Norm was the best man at their wedding. Norm fell in love with Lorraine and married her in 1953.  Over the years, the four of them enjoyed many good times together.

Norm and Lorraine also shared numerous family celebrations with my mom and dad, including weddings, bar mitzvahs, baby namings, and even my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party. Just like he did 50 years earlier, Norm toasted the bride and groom.

Today, Art Witkov and Norm Bercoon.

In April of 2015, my mother passed away. Since my mom's passing, my father and Norm have been going out for breakfast every week. Their longtime friendship has been incredible, and is still as strong as ever. Whenever I see Norm I enjoy telling him, "Norm, what can I say, you were my dad's best man at his wedding, and you are still his best man today!"

Art and Norm are two special people who grew up during the depression, fought in World War II, made productive lives for themselves, and made it into their 90s. They have wonderful loving families and, of course, the friendship of each other. Today, both my father and Norm are remarkably independent, and yes, they still drive too. They have been truly blessed and we are all so lucky to have them around.

 

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