Decorated WWII veteran Jerry Dunham of Maine about to commemorate

SANFORD, Maine (Tribune News Service)– Pvt. 1st Class Gerald Dunham crawls toward the large pillbox from which the opponent is firing and avoiding his rifle company’s advance towards a German-held town.

This is near Zula, Italy. It’s April 18, 1945. World War II raves, its end still months away.

Dunham and two other soldiers, who are now crawling together with him, have actually volunteered to attempt and “knock out the pillbox,” as it will one day state in the letter that will accompany the Silver Star he will be awarded for this moment.

Dunham notices that the pillbox– a little, partially underground fort, used as an outpost– has three entryways. He selects one and assigns the other 2 to the men crawling with him.

Dunham throws a grenade into the pillbox, charges up to his entryway and barrels down a flight of stairs. Inside, he takes a handful of Germans by surprise. He and the 2 other soldiers take the 5 Germans detainee and seize two gatling gun and a “great quantity of ammo and grenades,” that Silver Star letter would state.

Which letter, now framed and hanging on Dunham’s living-room wall, also says: “Personal Very first Class Dunham’s fearlessness, battle ability and will to damage the enemy show fantastic credit on himself and the Infantry of the United States Army.”

Dunham is able to remember the occasions of April 18, 1945, rather well, and can share other stories, too.

Not bad for a guy who is from the oldest generation, a fantastic generation, one whose numbers are decreasing in America with each passing day.

Not bad for a male who turns 99 years old this Saturday, May 8.

You might understand Dunham, specifically if you matured in Sanford or have checked out from neighboring communities to do a few of your grocery shopping at a particular shop at the corner of Main and Avon streets.

Dunham is the initial owner and operator of Jerry’s Market, which today is among the last family-owned, mom-and-pop markets in Sanford. There are two others– Roger’s Supa Dolla on Home Street and Sleepers on Lebanon Street — however in the past, there used to be a lot more.

Dunham and his friend, Roland Porrell, began Jerry’s Market, from the ground up, at the corner of Main and Jackson streets in 1947. Porell, who one day would become his brother-in-law, died a boy, and Dunham briefly partnered with his sister, Geraldine, to run the store. Ultimately, he became its sole owner.

In the late 1950s, Dunham bought out Ernie’s Market on the corner of Main and Avon and moved his store there– and there it has actually stayed ever since. Dunham retired in 1987. His child, Peter, has owned and operated the store ever since.

Undoubtedly, Dunham is asked his trick behind making it all the way to one year shy of a century. He has an answer ready.

“I quit smoking,” he stated. “I was an extremely heavy cigarette smoker. I would not be around, the way I utilized to smoke, you know. I would smoke 2 packs a day … I offered it up in 1960. Among the much better things I’ve done.”

Peter has his own ideas about his dad’s longevity. Peter stated his father has a lot of pride in his family and strove for years to keep it going– to ensure it not just prospered however flourished and reached the “next level.”

“This really sustained his durability,” Peter said, during a fast time out while operating in the shop’s meat department on Tuesday. “That was necessary.”

Peter said he learned his work principles– that perseverance, that preference for quality– from his father.

“Never quit,” Peter said. “I keep in mind one day he was here– he should have been in his late 80s– he was here all the time, 7:30 in the morning to 7:30 during the night. He most likely took a lunch break. I was sort of dragging, however I stated, ‘Father, do not you ever get tired?’ Obviously, we’re discussing a World War II veteran. He goes, ‘Yeah. I get tired. However I never ever reveal it.’ That was his mentality. And you have to have that, particularly if you want to be successful.”

Dunham was born in Sanford in 1922 and raised on Pearl Street. Before he was prepared into the Army throughout World War II, he worked in the Goodall Mills downtown, putting in shifts in the weaving department. He worked long hours, just as he would at the marketplace he ‘d own after he got home from the war.

“I worked overtime,” he stated. “One week, I worked 70 hours. You understand what my pay was for 70 hours of work? Fourteen bucks. And then you needed to take insurance out of it.”

While Dunham understood heroism in World War II, he likewise understood difficulty. He remembered mail call the night before he and the others stormed the pillbox. A soldier opened a letter he got from his fiancée back home. In the letter, the man’s fiancée advised his fellow soldiers to “take good care of him.” Dunham and the other soldiers signed the letter.

“The next day, he was adding the hill with me, and he got shot, right in the head,” Dunham stated. “Pretty unfortunate.”

And the winter seasons in Italy were “frightening and dreadful,” Dunham added.

“We were freezing,” he said. “We ‘d have five pairs of socks on … which would be excellent. Three hours later on, they ‘d freeze with the sweat in your foot. It was agony, I inform you.”

And all they needed to consume was canned products.

“You ‘d open a can of corned beef hash, half frozen, and you ‘d need to slice it off for crackers and things like that,” Dunham stated.

If you were to look at Dunham’s right-hand man, you ‘d notice something missing: two fingers. The pointer of one finger is missing out on. Half of the other is gone, cut off at the knuckle.

However these are not war injuries, suffered by the young man who charged into that pillbox with a grenade in his hand.

“Those I sliced off with a cleaver,” Dunham stated, glancing down at his hands.

He remained in his 20s, behind the meat counter, cutting pork chops. Customers were all around him, talking, and, well, he got “very sidetracked.”

Dunham likewise referred to an event with a meat grinder, which declared part of another finger. Sure, that hurt, too, however he kept working, waiting on clients while he attempted to hold his fingers. The event perked up their trip to the marketplace.

“They wished to see my fingers,” Dunham stated.

That, and they appreciated his wellness.

Dunham stated the secret to his shop’s success over the decades has actually been a devoted base of customers, people who liked him and whom he liked, folks who had actually “cry for you.”

“We had customers like you would not believe,” Dunham stated.

They liked Dunham and his personnel– and the meat they offered.

“I was purchasing the very best meats around,” Dunham said. “The only competitors we ever had in meat was First National. They had good meat. Then I started purchasing from Oscar Meyer and places like that … In those days I had beef, lamb, veal and pork. I offered whatever … I constantly searched for items that were much better and meat that was much better quality. We got quite a great deal of knowledge about meats. We got truly popular.”

Proof of the market’s meat quality continues to this day. On Tuesday, a client from Newfield stated he has been patronizing Jerry’s for many years. The factor? The meats, he responded.

Times have actually changed, naturally. Take something as easy as soup bones, for example.

“In those days, if you charged someone 5 cents for a soup bone, I tell you, you ‘d never see them once again in your life,” Dunham stated.

Now soup bones all over are packaged and offered.

Peter Dunham began working at the marketplace when he got out of college in 1980. He continued his father’s commitment to the store once he took control of the reins. In February 1987, the restaurant next door to the marketplace ignited, and, with the method the wind was blowing that cold winter season night, Peter didn’t think his store stood an opportunity. However the place was spared.

“You never understand how great these firefighters are till you enjoy them in action,” Peter said.

Peter did not require to close the shop after the incident, but a lot of repair work were required and cost a lot of cash.

“The early ’90s was difficult sledding,” he stated.

Throughout his years at the helm, Peter has actually added seafood to the market’s repertoire and updated coolers and other devices at the shop. Likewise, he broadened the shop’s customer base, welcoming new generations of consumers. And Peter feels about them the method his dad felt about those from his own time at the shop.

“We have an exceptional customer base,” Peter stated. “Often it seems like a reunion of good friends in the store.”

Dunham applauded his child’s work and management at the marketplace.

“He does wonders,” he said. “He does really, really well.”

The shop not only gave the older Dunham a profession in his home town, it gave him his family, too: he fulfilled his partner, Amber, when she and her mom shopped at the store. Amber was the sibling of his friend and late company partner. Together, the Dunhams have two kids, Peter and Mark.

On Tuesday, Amber Dunham said she took pride in her hubby and was happy to see him being honored as his 99th birthday approached.

Visit the marketplace today, and you’ll see a framed image on the meat counter. In the picture, Jerry and Peter are seen smiling for the electronic camera together with longtime meat cutter Al Varney. On Tuesday, Peter explained something in the background of the picture: a large framed poster of the 3 Stooges. The store sold that poster to a client– much to the scary of the man’s spouse– today a new one hangs from the exact same spot on the wall.

Varney passed away in 2014. “He was a blessing,” Peter said. The hat he wore as he worked likewise is hanging on the meat counter’s wall.

In 2019, in honor of Dunham’s wartime heroics, Sen. Susan Collins provided Dunham with an American flag that had actually flown at the U.S. Capitol.

“With its stars on a field of blue to represent unity, its stripes of red for nerve, and of white for the worths we love, our flag continues to influence us,” Collins said on that event. “It is a beacon of liberty that patriots like you have held high for almost 2 and a half centuries.”

These worlds Dunham has actually understood in his life– the one he assisted in saving as a youth during World War II and the one he developed for himself and his family back here in your home– has him “feeling OK” as he nears double-nines this weekend.

“I can’t complain,” he stated, smiling from his chair in his living room, a birthday banner in view over the window. “I have actually been fortunate in my life.”

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