MISSION – When Max Fabert was a kid, his uncle had a hay baler.

"When I got large enough to help out, I did," he said. "I was part of the crew."

It sounds like a nice thing to do - helping out your uncle - but for Max, it was a way of life. Max lost his mom to childbirth when he was only two and his father in a hunting accident when he was four. His little family - two sisters - would never be the same.

Max's grandmother and uncle became his new family and his sisters went to live with various aunts. But one thing about Max - nothing slowed him down.

One strong memory is of the trek to get drinking water about a block away where there was a city pump by a store.

"We carried our drinking water from there," he said. "We did have two wells on our place. One of them was the refrigerator where my grandmother put her perishables because we didn't have an icebox until I was in high school. We also had an outhouse and it's still standing!"

The school teacher next-door neighbor suggested Max start school at five years of age. Maybe it was the fact there were only 15 houses in that little town of Cadwell, Illinois, with about 75 residents at the time. Everybody knew everybody and they offered their opinions.

Nothing noteworthy came along in his school years until high school when he went out for football one year. Music came into his life at the time he started playing the bass drum during his four years of high school.

"Our band instructor was very good and we took a lot of "firsts" in our class at national competitions."

Discovering his woodworking talent, his first year out of high school found him working for Progress Manufacturing Company in the funeral department making caskets.

"I enjoyed carpentry work but then Uncle Sam got hold of me when I was just past 18."

Choosing to enlist, the Navy his branch of choice, he attended boot camp as a member of Great Lakes Co. 960. After various schools he shipped out on the Queen Elizabeth - then a transport ship - along with approximately 16,000 personnel.

Based out of Stranraer, Scotland, he was assigned to the amphibs.

"These were the small boats that took the men and supplies into shore," he said. "They were 52 feet by 106 feet long. Our first boat was a gun boat - L.C.F. 6. We gave support to the troops going in. I was assigned a 15 caliber machine gun, a tiny gun."

Max was there on D-Day in Normandy.

"I'm not too sure but what some of those film excerpts in "Saving Private Ryan" were taken at that time because you could almost walk across the ships getting on shore, there were so many there. We could see what was happening. As a matter of fact, our ship was credited for knocking out a bunker," he said. "But I tell you, I was scared spitless."

It was unimaginable to think of the fear and the courage it took to keep on keeping on.

"What else can you do? You're there. You have to do the best you can."

Later he was transporting supplies in the Pacific.

"We went from Hawaii to Okinawa. There's coral on the beaches and the water would bounce you up and down on it. Finally it ruptured the bottom of the ship - the L.S. M. 57. We stumbled to Saipan for repairs."

"My military time was an experience I wouldn't want to go through again. I was happy to have been in the Navy rather than to see some of the things the men in the Army had to put up with. We always had meals and a place to sleep. That was a plus. I'm sure there were a lot of the army men who were on rations," he said solemnly.

His time was over in just under three years. Back home he joined with an older carpenter building houses and barns, repairing outbuildings.

Max met his first wife, became good friends and married on the 6th of April, 1947.

"I tell the story that our first child came the first of May. I just don't say it was a year later," he said, laughing merrily. "That used to make her madder than the dickens!"

Four children, and over 50 years later, it was over. Laura Lou was gone. After she had retired she had told Max - "I cooked for 40 some odd years. You can do the rest of it."

"So I did," said Max. "Until she passed away 13 years ago."

The offshoot was he discovered he actually liked to cook and loved to bake cakes.

Having already found their way to the Valley, Max continued his yearly trips to Mission Mobile Park. One resident had moved over to Aladdin Villas but would return to the park for parties. Pairing up as golf partners was a subtle hint by her brother-in-law but Max and Pat took the idea and ran with it.

"We got the job done. If you'd ever been married and have to be single, you just don't want to be single," he said with a grin. "Pat talked to her son each week. First she said she had a date. ‘That's good, mom.' The next week she told him, ‘We're going steady.'

"What do you mean - Going steady?" he asked, concerned.

"We have a date every night," she said, a grin surely on her face.

"That was around Christmas time," Max said. "We decided if we wanted to get married we'd better do it so we could enjoy ourselves. Traveling over the years they spent their honeymoon riding the Orient Express as one of five trains they took across Europe. If we had 10 good years together, that's fine. We've made the first 10, we're both in good health so we'll go on to the next 10!"

Oh, yes, Max did have a career - all about wood.

"I managed a lumber yard for 20 years and still love being around wood. Then I had an offer to join in a construction crew which did home improvement and that's what I retired from."

Using the GI Bill, he had taken a course in architecture and still draws house plans when he's up north for the summer. But, when they come south to Aladdin Villas, they play.

Max has found another way into music as a choir member of the Senior Ambassadors, a choir of senior men who enjoy singing.

"The lady who was directing our park choir at the time said, ‘I know you won't stay because there are only 2 or 3 men,'" said Pat, telling the story. "The rest were all women. ‘Why don't you go talk to the Senior Ambassadors about being part of their choir?' the choir director said."

He did and found a match - still singing with them nine years later. Ballroom dancing with his lady love, playing cards and board games, golfing with his buddies and being a Shriner's clown are all part of keeping this Winter Texan active. Still working in wood when he's back home, he's made curio cabinets for his grandchildren and all manner of furniture. Max has even done some oil painting and they're pretty good!

This year in October, Max was honored to be a part of an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. with his granddaughter.

"That was an honor," he said with emotion. "When my granddaughter asked what a L.S.M. was and searched on the internet, the picture that came up was my ship!"

At this time of his life, fun and family are the key ingredients. Just ask Max.

"Absolutely, I like to have fun," he said, chuckling. "If you can't have fun, you might as well have people throw dirt in your face."

If you have an idea for a story, please contact Roda Grubb at mrgrubb@rgv.rr.com.