Richard Grubb felt something wet and warm soaking his undershirt and army field jacket. A few minutes before, Byron, his army buddy, had tripped on a tripwire that activated a landmine in a field in the Vosges Mountains of France on the cold day of December 5, 1944. Richard wanted to attend to the severely wounded soldier but the Germans were surrounding their location. He had to keep moving.
“I ripped open my shirt and blood was spurting out with each heartbeat”, said Richard, the now 88-year-old entrepreneur residing in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
“I laid down and called for a medic. He shouted to me ‘I’ll be right over, Grubb!’ Those were the last words out of his mouth. The poor guy got within five yards of me and he was killed instantly by another land mine. I will never forget those were his very last words.”
Another medic applied sulfur powder to stop the bleeding. Richard was transported by stretcher to a mobile army surgical hospital. A doctor in Birmingham England discovered a second piece of shrapnel, from the blast that wounded Byron, was missed in the first operation on Richard. He was told it would be best to leave the shrapnel right where it was and the portrait-artist still carries that remnant of that explosion with him 69 years later.
“The body is truly amazing. Cartilage formed around the foreign object to seal it away from the rest of the body. That sure sounds like the work of a Creator who designed wonderful bodies for us all.”
Richard volunteered for the army the day after his 18th birthday in November 1943 in Akron, OH. He signed up because everyone in America was of one united spirit – the evil that had taken place at Pearl Harbor and Europe had to be defeated. Truth and freedom, gifts Grubb believes were invented by God for all of us, must be victorious.
Richard, the second of three boys, was sent to Fort Benning, GA and Fort Bragg, NC before being sent to the European theater in October 1944. Richard experienced the heat and tragedy of war on multiple occasions. After his release from the hospital, he hitchhiked until he returned to the 100th infantry division company and resumed fighting for freedom from Nazi tyranny.
“I experienced house-to-house combat, running through showers of bullets that were zinging past my ear, watching fellow soldiers get shot between the eyes after foolishly stepping out from behind cover. It doesn’t matter what the battlefield commander’s goals are. You just want to stay alive!”
The absurdity of war has not been lost on the man who now makes hand drawn, one of a kind portraits of people using charcoal and paper. The very men he was there to kill would join him and his fellow soldiers in songs as both armies sat in defensive positions across a field a half mile apart.
“We would sing songs like ‘Shine on harvest moon’ and ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’ and the Germans would sing lullabies. The fact that we would try to kill each other the very next day shows the stupidity of war! Quite often we were penned down by German fire. It was especially difficult in an open field where you don’t have many options other than to call in air support. Within 20 minutes, tree top level mustangs and thunderbolts would drop bombs on the German positions, softening them up, to enable us to move out.”
Immediately after the war, Richard was on a detail of soldiers who had the responsibility to transport displaced persons by train back to Leipzig. Many German refugees in the Leipzig area were eager to move to the American zone where they knew they would be treated well. Against orders to return the train to Manheim empty, Richard and the other soldiers on the detail loaded the train with the refugees and ordered the conductor to stop in the suburbs to allow the refugees to get off the train. The train then arrived in Manheim as ordered – empty.
Richard had an encounter with Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe and soon-to-be 34th President of the United States. Richard and a fellow soldier were on guard duty in a Polish settlement when Eisenhower’s vehicle, along with many support vehicles, stopped in front of the house. Richard, who was 5 points short of the 50 required for release from the war and a return to the US, was jokingly promised 5 points by the highest ranking US officer in Europe. Richard stayed another six months, functioning as an MP in Stuttgart and Manheim, Germany.
One day, a chaplain asked if there were any soldiers who could play an organ. Richard, a talent pianist to this day, raised his hand and ended up as the personal assistant and chauffeur for the chaplain, playing organ in many of the cathedrals in Europe. Richard developed a reputation for his safe but fast driving skills and was soon asked to be one of the drivers in General Patton’s funeral. It was Richard’s vehicle that stalled, temporarily delaying the progress of the procession.
Richard finally returned to the US with a desire to complete his education. He had taken some classes at Akron University before volunteering to serve his country. However, he had enjoyed the pool hall more than his academics and his grades reflected it. The college in Illinois he really wanted to attend refused to admit him.
However, Richard is not a quitter. There is a determination in his spirit to accomplish what he sets out to accomplish. He returned to Akron University, made straight A’s, and was subsequently admitted to Wheaton College where he met Miriam Jeffries, his wife.
The couple moved to Gladwynne, PA and attended Bala Cynwyd Presbyterian Church. One New Year’s Eve, an offering plate was passed around and each worshiper was asked to take a verse from the plate. Richard put the verse into his wallet, not giving it much attention.
He worked for a small but successful electronics firm owned by his father-in-law. An executive of one of their customers, a firm in Attleboro, MA, liked what he saw in Richard and invited him to move to Rhode Island and join the sales and marketing team. Richard, however, was faithful to his father-in-law’s business and initially declined the offer.
The firm from New England continued to press Richard to make a career change. One day, while waiting for his car to be serviced at a gas station, the verse from the New Year’s Eve offering plate fell out of his wallet.
“You will call and I will answer you; you will have the desire to work with your hands.” Job 14:15
The man, who could easily feel invincible after surviving near death so many times in WW II, placed his faith that God is in control and he can trust God with the direction of his life. The verse was confirmation for Richard it was his calling to move, with his wife and three children (a fourth child would be born in New England) to Rhode Island.
Richard had a very successful career in the electronics industry, rising to the position of Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing and being a member of a trade delegation in the 70s when the US reopened trade with China. His success enabled Richard and his family to enjoy a comfortable life with many of the trappings of success.
However, the company was sold and the pension he had worked so hard to build for so many years was lost. Richard attempted to maintain his level of wealth by venturing into the network marketing industry, working on 12 different MLM “schemes” before coming to the conclusion the industry is not for him. He had to file for bankruptcy and he and his wife, so used to the advantages of wealth, understood financial crisis in a deeply painful and personal way.
For Richard, this was just another “direct encounter with god”.
“He saved me in Europe, He guided me in my career, and He walked my wife and I through some hard times late in life. Now, I know my mission. My mission is to love God by loving people, using the talents He has given me. I find complete joy bringing smiles to the faces of my clients as I capture the image God gave them onto canvas. It is our job to reflect God’s love at all times.”
CONCLUSION………CHRISTIAN LOVE SURPASSES ALL…(even truth and freedom) 1 Corinthians 13:13……Faith….hope….and love….but the greatest is LOVE