Today, Sept 10, 2010 would have been Unk’s 90th birthday. Unk, Carl Lundblom, was born in 1920 and was officially a member of what has been termed the “Greatest Generation.” He was named after his father, the Swede who opened the first boatyard in Miami in 1908. Though my grandfather died a decade before I was born I am also named after him. Unk survived the Great Depression and WWII, but he didn’t even live to see age 75. He died a few days after his birthday in 1994. At the time of his death I hadn’t see him for several years because his 4th wife and I didn’t get along. Thru her controlling and manipulating she had managed to drive a wedge between Unk and his older sis, my mother. They had always been quite close; it was her waitressing in a hash house at 17 that kept Unk in clothes so he could have something decent to wear to school. But Sherry, who was much younger than Unk, saw to it that no one had any influence over Unk besides herself.
Sept 10th is officially designated as the peak of the hurricane season and it seems appropriate that it is also Unk’s birthday. Like a hurricane, Unk was a force of nature to be reconed with. He was an exceptionally large man at 6-4 and 275 lbs and with a deep resonant voice he possessed more natural charisma than anyone I’ve ever known. Though somewhat overweight, he was still strikingly handsome. Pale, icy blue eyes were framed by a dark complexion. His swarthy complexion came from his mother’s French and Chippewa blood. He had a signature Clarke Gable style mustache all of his adult life and emulating him is largely the reason I’ve had one all of my adult life as well.
During WWII he was the fourth officer on a Liberty ship. He also served a stint in the Solomon Islands as the skipper of an air-sea PT-boat rescuing downed fliers. He told some interesting stories and I think they were mostly true. He made huge sums of money on the black market in 1945-46 when he was in charge of the cargo on the Liberty ship. He was not above a little larceny. After the War he worked in procurement and supply in federal civil service. He rose to a GS-14– impressive for a man who never finished high school. In his last job he was in charge of supplying the down range tracking stations for the Apollo program. Twice a year he literally flew around the world and when he returned to Patrick AFB his sox and shoes were stuffed with Kruggerands and diamonds that were not checked thru Customs. Ironically, after he retired, he spent a few weeks in jail for a crime he didn’t commit; perhaps karma caught up with him.
When I was a kid, his booming voice and surly, easily irritated persona terrified me. I thought he was the meanest man in the world. After I moved to Florida in my early-30s I was amazed that he treated me like an equal and I was gratified at how close we grew. Though he married four times he never had any children and so I suppose I was the closest thing to a son he ever had. We shared the bond of both being named after the same man. But in many ways Unk was larger than life and I’m not. I wrote a much longer version of Unk’s many exploits in my book: DiosPsyTrek: But God had a Better Idea. I have no idea if Sherry or his third wife Giesela are still alive. I know for certain that the first two, Eileen and Nancy, are dead. I’m likely the last person who would remember that today is his birthday.