I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
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Malta man a member of 'Greatest Generation'
By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................August 28, 2012
After I received an email from Shelly Gardner telling about
her grandfathers fulfilling life, I took the opportunity
to visit Bernard Parsley and his wife, Elizabeth, in their Malta
At 95, Parsley could be the oldest man in town, but one would
never believe his age when talking with him. We covered a lot
of history, from his World War II service, marriage, building
his own motor home, designing and building sleds for tractor
pulls, piloting his own plane, farming for 20 years, then becoming
a skilled dynamiter, among his other endeavors.
He joined the Army Air Corps as part of the 309th Fighter Squadron,
31st Fighter Group during the World War II as an aircraft radio
mechanic for the planes that were part of the North African campaign
and then the invasion of Italy. He was quick to point out that
people should never forget the foot soldier, who fought
and died to secure this real estate, as well as the bomber pilots
and flight crews who flew hundreds of missions.
Bernard and Elizabeth Parsley in their Malta home.
(Barry Schrader photo)
As the war was ending in 1945, he got to leave to come home
and marry his sweetheart, Elizabeth, and they have now been together
for 67 years. She has a story of her own to tell, serving as
postmaster for Malta for about 24 years. But that will have to
wait for another time.
They took up farming in the Rochelle and then Malta areas, and
Parsleys mechanical aptitude gave him the incentive to
build some of his own farming equipment, converting two tractors
to diesel power, as well as building a one-of-a-kind motor home.
For that he bought an Oldsmobile Toronado coupe, cut out the
back end to attach a 12-foot travel trailer, and they drove about
68,000 miles around the country in the years after retirement.
He then bought a GMC motor home, using it for another 12 years.
He decided to give up farming when he got an offer from Larsons
Quarry on Airport Road to come work there. He spent 10 years
as their dynamiter, setting charges and blasting loose tons of
Although he didnt get to fly during the war, his love of
planes caused him to partner with another farmer and buy a Piper
Cub Vagabond, getting his pilots license and building an
airstrip on the farm. He even went to the Rochelle Airport and
flew their planes for two seasons part time as a crop duster,
back when they flew so low they sometimes had corn leaves
on their landing gear.
He loved to build things, and designed a sled for tractor pulls,
the size they used for garden tractors and minirods. Over the
years he hauled his sleds to competitions around the Midwest.
He also drew up the plans for the house they built in Malta,
their home since 1968.
My last question: Whats your formula for a successful marriage?
Bernard quipped, I say Im the boss. I make darn sure
I do everything she tells me to.
Elizabeths response: Always talk things over.
Spending a Sunday afternoon with the Parselys just reminded me
once again why Tom Brokaw titled his book The Greatest
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DeKalb, Ill 60115