Celebrate this day as you remember the people of our nation who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. Celebrate the freedoms for which they fought and be thankful for their service.
For my family, this will be a day on which we will also celebrate a formidable influence in our lives. It is the 100th birthday of our patriarch, Charles William Bailey, aka “Billy.”
As he celebrates looking down from above with other “Greatest Generation” members, we rejoice here below with grateful hearts that we were blessed by the life of Billy Bailey. There could be no more perfect day for Billy’s 100th birthday because there could be no American more proud of his country than him. He epitomized the patriotism of the Greatest Generation and instilled such in his progeny.
Billy left his medical practice of two years to enlist in the United States Army as a medic during World War II. His path included service in a 1000‐bed hospital in Verdun, France, arriving during the Battle of the Bulge, treating casualties, both Americans and Germans. He then joined the 29th Infantry Division, which was in combat. He participated in the Rhine Crossing and proceeded to central Germany where his division surrounded and captured 1000 German troops. Next was the Elbe River where they awaited the arrival of the Russians. Finally he moved on to Steinhager for the Allies’ occupation of Germany. It was there that he learned of Germany’s unconditional surrender.
For his service, Billy was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, a Bronze Star, the European Campaign Medal (with three battle stars), and a Purple Heart.
At the end of the war he was stationed for nine months in Bederkesa, a village in north Germany. There he treated both Americans and Germans again.
Billy saved a German nurse, who had a fever of 106 degrees, with penicillin. He also saved a German soldier, who was dying of heart failure, with digitalis. The survivals of both were met with astonishment because the Germans had neither of these medications. They called Billy “The Miracle Man.”
The Miracle Man continued to serve others when he returned to the United States. He resumed his medical practice in Austin where caring patients was more a labor of love than a means to an end. He treated anyone who walked through his door, and was often paid with shelled pecans, a load of firewood or a dressed wild turkey – whatever the patient could offer. The joy in his heart far surpassed the money he could have earned.
The Miracle Man went on to earn a law degree and loved using it to help friends in need. He waged and won his own battle with alcoholism and helped many others do the same. He was even the doctor to a president of the United States.
Billy was married for 68 years to the angelic Mary Love Bailey, who is still with us at the age of 98. His partnership with her was the greatest treasure of his life.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that Billy Bailey’s 100th birthday falls on this Memorial Day. As Mary Love has always said, “There are no such things as coincidences.” But, I am ecstatically grateful that it does. Billy will be very proud and will have a wonderful, mischievous smile on his face.
Happy Memorial Day, Americans! Happy Birthday, Daddy!
Kay Head is a 40 year resident of University Park. Having both grown up in Austin, she and her husband, Steve, have made the Park Cities their home where they now enjoy their two children, and their families totaling eleven.