When I asked Chaplain Edward Small how I should address him, he replied, "I prefer Ed," with a big smile on his face.
Ed is 70 years old and was born in Johnson City, Tenn. He is married to Claudia, who was born in Saginaw, Mich. She is 64 and they will celebrate two years of marriage in November.
"She was my next door neighbor in a little town called Saltville in Virginia," said Ed. "That was over 40 years ago."
Both went in different directions back then and didn't see each other for many years before they got reunited.
"I was married to Carol for 41 years until she died from health problems four years ago," said Ed. "Our two daughters are Virginia and Anne. Virginia lives in Knoxville (Tenn.) and Anne in Virginia. I have two grandchildren."
Claudia was married to Bill but they divorced "a long time ago" and Claudia has two daughters from that marriage.
"Her daughter Rhonda was just here in Carson City for a visit," said Ed happily. "Rhonda lives in Boise (Idaho) and Missy lives in Beaumont, Texas."
Claudia also was married to Darrell for 10 years before they were divorced in 1994 and she was mom to his sons Sean and Brian during that time.
"I helped raise them," said Claudia cheerfully. "Sean and his wife Valerie just left Carson City a few days ago after a 10-day visit. They live in St. Charles, Mo. Brian lives in Boise."
Claudia came to Carson City 25 years ago from Saltville, which is a small town of 2,500 people that Ed said was "a chemical company town" back then.
"Claudia is a schoolteacher at Dayton Intermediate School," continued Ed. "When she learned my wife had died - through her brother - she called me. The last person on Earth I thought would call me. One thing led to another and we got married the day after Thanksgiving in Carson City."
Ed came to Carson City in 1998 from Saltville, where he owned his own business and was a lay minister at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. He did that for 27 years as a volunteer and we'll tell you more about that right after we tell you Ed is now the chaplain for the Marine Corps League Silver State Detachment in Carson City.
"I served in the USMC for nine years (1948-57) in the 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment," said Ed proudly. "We were the first group to go into Korea. It was Aug. 1, 1950. I was an anti-tank gunner and truck driver. We fought the North Koreans and the Chinese."
Those were the days when the war was "not always going our way" and Ed remembers it well.
"It was rough going then," he recalled. "I lost a lot of buddies and friends. I was never wounded but I had buddies die right next to me and trucks blown up in front and behind me but I got off lucky compared to many. I did suffer from frozen feet and hands and I'm still bothered by it today. My feet and hands have never been the same since."
After he was discharged Ed went back to Saltville and in addition to his work with the church he owned and operated his own business.
"I was an independent contractor for General Electric and Whirlpool," he said. "I repaired appliances. I owned my own business but 95 percent of my work was for them."
Ed is now retired.
"I retired 12 days after Carol died," he said. "Then Claudia came into my life and after a few visits to Carson City, I moved here. We have one dog at home. He's a Beagle we call Killer Kris and he's 3 years old."
Ed and Claudia just returned from a month-long trip to Virginia that was a "fun trip" for the couple.
"We went to visit family and friends," said a smiling Ed. "It was a great trip."
A BIG AWARD
When Ed first came here, he joined the Marine Corp League and that led to his being named their chaplain.
"They didn't have a chaplain and Commandant Dave Wyble Sr. appointed me as chaplain," said Ed. "I like it very much. I open and close all meetings, visit with the sick and with shut-ins, give services and do things like that as chaplain. It's a good thing to do and I feel very good about it."
Ed said anyone interested in obtaining additional information regarding the Marine Corp League can call Dave Wyble at 882-7864.
"I'm just an old Marine who likes to tell stories and visit with other old Marines like me," said a laughing Ed. "Give us a call and join us . You'll have fun!"
And because of Dave nominating him, Ed just received a prestigious national award from "The Chapel of Four Chaplains" at Valley Forge, Penn. It's the Chapel of Four Chaplains Annual Legion of Honor Award that publicly recognizes "selfless service to humanity" without regard to race, religion or color.
"I was literally floored when I got it," said Ed as he showed the award to me. "I never expected it. I'm sure there are more deserving people who could have received it but I'm happy they chose me."
The award was dated Feb. 11, 2000, and Ed received it at the Carson City Marine Corp League meeting in March.
"I'm proud to have received it," he added. "It is special and I will always treasure it."
It was time for me to go so after I congratulated Ed on his award and after a quick pat-on-the-head for Killer Kris and after a look at some of Ed's old Marine photos and memorabilia, I was gone.
(ALAN ROGERS is a Nevada Appeal columnist. His message phone is 887-2430, ext. 402.)